old books

How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, Avon Books, New York, 1982

The authors first captured my attention with Liberated Parents, Liberated Children (1974, Avon Books, New York) in which they shared their experiences over five years in the parent workshops of the late Dr. Haim Ginott. Inspired readers of this book wrote to the authors and appealed for a "how to" book - a book with "lessons", "practical exercises" and even "tear-out reminder pages". While pondering the idea they carried on with their busy lecturing and workshop programs (used by over 15,000 people in and out of the USA). They used material from these workshops to produce this book which clearly and simply shows how. Their new book gives adults the theory, the skills and a practical guide on how to implement what they have learned, at their own pace. The book contains countless examples of dialogues which enable parents to adapt this “new language to suit their own style. The authors chose the most commonly asked questions and include stories, experiences and new insights that parents in their groups shared in the groups they ran. Underlying their method of communication are some basic principles and values:

The text is creative and alive. Examples are given in narrative style and explicit practice techniques and communication skills are presented in various formats. Cartoons illustrate dialogues indicating do's and don'ts, making it even more engaging for the reader. You will definitely find yourself on every page!

The contents of the chapters include:

Helping children deal with their feelings - in this chapter the "language of empathy" is described as not part of our mother tongue . Fluency in this language requires learning and practice.

Engaging co-operation - in this chapter readers are helped to create a climate of respect in their relationships in which the spirit of co-operation can grow.

Alternatives to punishment are dealt with in Chapter Three. Some of their suggestions include:

Problem-solving approaches are described, illustrated and explained in an alive atmosphere. Encouraging autonomy “how do we rear independent individuals who will one day be able to function without us“ - not as our clones but as unique individuals with their own tastes, styles and dreams?

The chapter on praise examines what parents can do to enhance a child's self esteem. Praise they say is a “tricky business and brings about unexpected reactions." The writers constantly engage the reader in self examination exercises to explore one's own reactions and responses. The dangers of praise are explained, and the differences between “descriptive praise" and “evaluative praise".

Freeing children from playing roles - the penultimate chapter. "The way parents see their children can influence not only the way children see themselves but also the way they behave." How often do we cast children into roles, give them labels which eventually become moulds, or worse, shackles which restrict change and growth? The authors help parents who wish to liberate their children from playing at roles.

The final chapter continues with this theme. The authors quote one parent's expression of what is involved: "To change a role you've really got to be able to put it all together - feelings, autonomy, praise, alternatives to punishment - the works."

Faber and Mazlish state at every opportunity that life's dramas do not always have us thinking on our feet. We say and do things we regret. "The process of living and working with children requires heart, intelligence and stamina. If our children deserve a thousand chances, and then one more, let's give ourselves a thousand chances and then two more - we are, after all, only human".

If you are looking for a hands-on, rolled-up sleeves book on communication skills and relationship skills, read this book - many times.

Marcelle Biderman-Pam writing in The Child Care Worker June 1990

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