Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Calmer communication & cooperation

In my post at the beginning of this year, New year, new parenting goal, I mentioned I was starting to read the book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. I have now finished reading it (pretty good going for my slow reading pace these days!) and wanted to share a few bits of the advice I found particularly helpful.

I will start by saying, it is a very useful book for any parent to read. It has simple little exercises throughout so that you are forced to look at your own situation and parenting methods and reflect on how you might change them (if they need changing). The exercises are helpful because you get a real idea of how the advice can relate to you specifically. There are also lots of examples of different situations other parents have struggled with, case studies if you like, that illustrate how the suggested methods can bring about positive results in 'real life'.

At the same time, it is a lot to take in and is the kind of book you can refer back to, rather than aiming to remember and practise every single point it presents. It does give real perspective to the challenges that come with parenting and reminds us that the easy option does not always lead to the best outcome. Parenting, and parenting well, is hard work after all. Like anything else we want to invest ourselves in, it takes time and effort.

It is hard to select just a few points raised in the book but if these I have listed below sound of interest, I recommend you pick up a copy of the book!

Good listening. We might think we listen to our children but many of us are probably also guilty of firing questions (How was your day? Who did you play with? What did you do?...). If we focus more on listening with our full attention, the child is more likely to open up in their own way.

Problem-solving with your child. This is one thing I tested out with my 5-year old and to good effect. I had been getting annoyed with toothpaste smeared on or next to the bathroom sink each day after he brushed his teeth in the mornings. Following the advice in the book, I sat down one day with my son and talked through his possible difficulties, my feelings about seeing the mess and with paper in hand, asked for his suggestions on how we could remedy the situation. He came up with two ideas, which I wrote down. He then wanted to draw a picture of the toothpaste on the paper and we stuck it up above the sink for a few days. Immediately, the mess stopped! After a few days, I praised him for his continued good efforts and suggested we didn't need the note on view any more. He chose to stick it inside a cupboard door where he could still see it if he wanted to (rather than discarding it) but the clean sink remained!

Describe what you see when giving praise. The book suggests that meaningful praise gives the child an awareness of their own merits. So rather than relying on broad compliments like, 'It's great/fantastic/amazing....', describing what you see then helps the child recognise their strengths. For example, to a child who has got dressed by themselves for the first time, you could say something like, 'You put every bit of clothing on in exactly the right place and didn't even need to ask for help - I'm so impressed!', instead of saying, 'You did a great job!'.

The hardest section of the book for me, in terms of relating it to my own self and my own children was the chapter on 'Freeing children from playing roles'. It talks about how parents can be prone to labelling their children, 'She's bossy / he's stubborn / she's a trouble-maker / he's a picky eater etc....' and that by doing so, reinforces that behaviour/trait in the child. It gives various ways to free your child from those 'roles', which all seem very doable and make sense. My struggle was in identifying any labels that may have been applied to my own children - is that because I have done a good job of not labelling them? (obviously what I'd like to think!!) or is it (more likely) because I am oblivious to the labelling I have inadvertently applied? For now, that remains something for me to think about further....

Do you have any thoughts on what I have mentioned above?  Have you discovered your own techniques for calmer communication and cooperation with your children? Have you read the book yourself and if so, what did you think?


  1. I haven't read the book but I've passed the link to this blog to my sister-in-law who has two little ones. I find that listening to my children helped a lot. Really listening. Never rush into a "no" (unless there's danger, of course). I still today try to be a "yes" parent and they know it. I listen to them, see their point of view, and if I don't approve or have to say no, I explain why. They respect that a lot. I'm not sure about labels. It's more about taking in who they are, and remaining flexible as their interest and behaviors change and evolve. Parenting is all about flow, isn't it? Not easy but fascinating.

    1. Thanks Maryse. I like your approach of trying to be a "yes" parent and you obviously have done a great job of listening and taking in your children's interests and opinions - no wonder they respect that!


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