Book Review: How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber & Julie King

How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen – Joanna Faber & Julia King (Scribner, 2017)

In the world of parenting books, one I had heard frequently recommended was How to Talk so Kids will Listen and How to Listen so Kids Will Talk Adele Faber. I figured I would wait until Pearl was older/ more verbal to read it but when I saw a new edition titled How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen out this year, I thought it might be the perfect time.

The book is written by Adele Faber’s daughter and her childhood friend, both experts in early development. (And obviously fans of how they were raised.) It is geared for children ages 2 to 7. With Pearl having just turned two, she is at the young end of this book’s range and there were definitely suggestions that just won’t work with her yet. (Though may be good to keep in mind for the future.)

That said, there is a lot of good information and great ideas in this book and things I have been working to implement in the weeks since I read it. The core of Faber and King’s advice is acknowledging your child’s emotions. Saying, “You are frustrated!” and naming what has frustrated them, or what has made them sad or mad, etc. The idea is that this teaches them how to name and understand their emotions, as well as validating what they’re feeling. For many parents (myself included) our first instinct is to try and apply logic. “You have to sit in your stroller because this will be a long walk.” Turns out, logic doesn’t work that well with two year olds! Faber and King suggest that sometimes the simple act of naming and acknowledging your child’s emotions can be enough to foster more co-operation.

While I haven’t had quite the quick and stunning results that some of the stories in the book portray, I have found it helpful to take a moment and accept that Pearl is feeling whatever she’s feeling, no matter how inappropriate the emotion may seem to me. Part of our job as parents is to help our children learn how to deal with their feelings in an appropriate manner. And I’m certainly getting better results by talking to Pearl and being patient than simply forcing her into a stroller!

The book is full of stories and anecdotes, many from Faber and King’s own parenting experiences and others gleaned from years of workshops run for parents. The stories are easy to read and make the book a quick one to digest.

The parenting style here is one you probably agree with or don’t and there isn’t much that is going to sway you in either direction. Many parents won’t like the lack of punishment (or even consequence) that Faber and King employ. Others, like myself, will realize this was a style of parenting they were already leaning toward. One of my big goals as a parent is to avoid yelling at my kid. This has been pretty easy so far but I sense that the older Pearl gets, the more challenging it may become. It’s helpful to identify and put into practice some techniques to avoid this now. Plus, my hope is that Pearl becomes an adult who feels frustration and anger and sadness and knows how to react and deal with those feelings. I want her to know her feelings are valid but that there are good and bad ways of expressing them.

I can’t speak to how similar or different this book is to Adele Faber’s original but if you have a toddler or pre-schooler, I would recommend spending an afternoon (or naptime) skimming through this book.

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