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How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King

Sandor Dargo
Happy father. Principal Engineer. Author. Creator of dailycppinterview.com
Originally published at sandordargo.com Updated on ・5 min read

I just finished filling up my kindle with books enough probably for the whole year based on the recommendations of Naval Ravikant, when I ran into this book.

Often, I find it difficult at home with the kids. You know, eating with 2 little fellows, trying to grow them, manage tantrums, etc. I saw this book somewhere, and I thought this should pay off fast, if not, well, I don't lose much.

So what is my general feeling about the book?

I'm one of that person who she talks about the end. Some people are horrified by what certain parents can feel towards their children, or how they want to run away at certain moments. Indeed, I'm horrified by some of the stories about parents locking themselves into bathrooms just to get away and what certain parents let their children do, how people let their children behave.

I don't want to be judgemental. I was always told that I can be a bit smug. Yes, I am. But I know who I am, I know what I want and more importantly, I know that I don't only have rights, but I also have responsibilities. Having kids comes with some pretty serious ones and locking myself to the bathroom in order to get a break is not matching my values.

Just to be clear, the book is not promoting such behaviour. But in many cases, it's for parents for whom this is an option. Anyway, apart from that and some other examples, I think it's a good book. It's easy to read, it doesn't make you feel bad about your failures and it has some practical advice for parents.

Let's see a couple of examples!

How to approach angry and/or sad kids?

That's a common one right? We have to handle erupting emotions for things that might seem nonsense to an adult. I mean can it be that frustrating that you have to play with another train that looks even the same way as the other? Or that you cannot eat with THAT spoon?

For them, it can. And common sense, being rational is not going to help you much. When you are being outraged by something do you want your significant other or friends to convince you that it's not something you should be shocked about?

Of course, not.

First, you have to acknowledge their feelings, in word, in writing or with art or in any way. You might write a shopping list with them with the things they wish and sometimes they can get one thing. Or you can draw how angry they are.

The goal is twofold. They should feel that you understand them and at the same time, you teach them to name their feelings.

Apparently, it can also work if you just give them things in fantasy. If you have to go but they still want to play, you can say that "oh I know you'd like to play more and I wish we had a million more hour to play."

I've been trying to acknowledge more their feelings and I think it helps in two ways. They get a bit calmer and I also get calmer because I literally acknowledge that they are concerned by something.

Acknowledging their feelings is that the first step to making them cooperate.

How to make them cooperate?

They are kids! Only a few years old. Try to make things a game! If gamification is something that companies do to make us work more or to make us buy more things and they succeed on grown-ups, why can't we do it with kids to arrange the toys after themselves? Or to walk a little bit more?

It can also bring out the kids from you, make some funny noises or make inanimate objects talk. It will be useful also for your mental health.

What works often for me is offering a choice. When my daughter cannot choose any dress for the next day, I offer her two. If I really want to use the electric toothbrush with my son, I ask him to decide when should we use it. In the morning or in the evening? Simple choices, where they can decide and you can get what you want.

How to make them eat?

Something I really wanted to learn about. Making it a game helps often. No, it's not a good game to say eat it fast so you can get dessert. According to the authors, it only makes them think that what they eat is bad and the dessert is good.

Ok, on this one, I'm guilty, I do tell them that they cannot get dessert if they don't eat their eggs and sometimes I'm quite harsh.

But asking them to eat as Rubble would it from Paw Patrol often makes them eat with so much fun and life that I'm amazed.

Giving them a choice is definitely something that helps, they can usually choose their breakfast among a few options, and if they make a more difficult choice, if I can I prepare it. Then they are obviously more motivated to eat.

I also like it if they can help me prepare the meal, something that the book suggests. The authors even recommend involving them in the shopping, but nowadays it's a bit more difficult as I have to do it during lunch breaks while they are at school.

Anyway, I'm grateful for the idea of making it a game. That's something I recommend.

Conclusion

Considering all that I said in the beginning, I think this book is a good one. It gives some calmness. You understand that you are not alone with these problems. As such, it might even give you patience.

And... I'd cautiously say that this book is not only good for parents. I think that many of the techniques can be used with adults as well. I know, I know. But give it a try.

I could say that there are a lot of childish people out there. But that's unfair. We all need to feel acknowledged. We all need that others acknowledge feelings. We all need to be praised and appreciated - the book has a couple of good techniques on that too.

We all need some ways out of the madness.

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