How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk (1996) is a practical, clear guide that helps parents improve communication with their children. Faber and Mazlish present realistic scenarios that can have parents tearing their hair out in frustration, and then provide precise tactics for not just coping, but turning around the situation and creating more harmonious parent–child interactions.
Picture this: you’re shopping for groceries with your five-year-old and he suddenly starts shrieking “I’m hungry! I want food now!” What do you do? Many of us would succumb to shouting back at him or snap and tell him to shut up. But will he listen? No. He’ll keep on screaming!
Instead of blaming the child, what can you do to pacify the situation?
A lot of the time, kids don’t listen to their parents because their feelings aren’t being acknowledged. A child’s behavior is tied to how he or she feels, and often when we communicate with a child, we don’t address this.
Demanding that your child be quiet in the supermarket overlooks his feelings. After all, behind his tantrum lies hunger and probably frustration at being ignored. Your child cannot see why he should behave well when he feels so bad.
The only way to get through to him is to accept and address his feelings. You can start with an acknowledgement of how he feels – this shows you are listening. This can be as easy as “I realize you’re hungry, it has been a while since breakfast, huh?” or you can playfully grant him his wish in fantasy: “If I could do magic, I would click my fingers and pluck a burger out of the air!”
Remember to be honest, though. Don’t try to acknowledge his feelings if you don’t understand what they are, as he will pick up on this and think you aren’t listening to him, which will add more fuel to the fire.
But what if you try the tactics above and you can still feel yourself getting angry? What can you do about it?