12 August, 2012

How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Reviewed by Radhakrishnan Chettour

Recently when I visited Crossword, Bangalore, I found the book How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. For last few months I was actually in search of a book on communicating with primary kids. Many times during my workshops I have come across lot many questions from educators on this topic. Most of the training professionals, including me, have to admit that we concentrate our learning and modules targeting middle and upwards. So when I found this book, without a second thought, I decided to pick. I have to admit that I opened it with very low expectations, as I think that our culture tends to emphasize talking to our kids way too much. In general, and especially for toddlers, actions speak far louder than words. However, I was happily surprised to discover that I really enjoyed this book, and agreed with almost everything it had to say. It was aimed primarily at primary kids, but many of the lessons can be applied to Kindergarten children too quite easily.

The book gives what I consider to be really practical advice on how to talk to kids in ways that recognize their feelings (without labeling too much), encourages their cooperation, and helps them to be competent.  I especially loved how it shows parents how to help/let kids come up with their own solutions to problems they present.  Some of these were too advanced for toddlers, but even at my school when a child comes to me with a complaint, I'll often start out with, "Oh no!  What will you do?"  Not jumping in to solve every problem helps children feel competent and proud of themselves. Even the chapter on Praise, which made me cringe just to open it, started out looking at the difference between authentic praise and over-excessive praise, and how undeserved praise can backfire in different ways.  Then it looked at ways to praise kids that feels good to them. It is very hands-on, with exercises for you to do, and lots of actual dialogue between parents and kids. Some of these activities I experimented with my son and found quiet good and effective. In our day-to-day school activities many times we educators praise the children often without reasons and that I have seen really make the students lethargic and proud. In today’s commercialized schooling setup, we advertise for marketing purpose even small victories/deeds of our students with much exaggeration and ultimately sometimes it backfires and creates lot of indiscipline and even sometimes de-motivates them from setting high goals. If you are going through such a trauma, this book will help you to tackle the issue.

While reading the book the topics that caught my attention very much are alternative to punishment and encouraging autonomy. The lesson on engaging cooperation too is filled with plenty of practical ideas and tips which can be easily applied in our day-to-day schooling and grooming process of the children. Illustrations, conversation boxes, practical exercises and quick reminder boxes really add value to the book. The afterword additions such as the letters, yes, but…what…if… how about…? and about the negative tongue too help us have more insight in the subject. Many good books listed at the end for further reading can also help us find new readings on this subject.

 The only complaint I can come up with is that the book is very rosy in its outlook, with children going from being recalcitrant and surly to being reasonable and responsive with just a few short sentences from mom or dad. In reality, if you have negative patterns going with your child, it will take consistent practice to change those patterns. However, if things are going relatively well with your child, this book is a great resource for nipping negative interactions in the bud and helping your relationship flourish. I would definitely recommend it to preprimary and primary educators and even to all parents of young kids.

Read, Learn and Flourish!

For your success and glory!