Adam Hannon reviews How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

There are a lot of parenting books out there, and most of them have some pretty good ideas, but some books really stick with you. I actually read this book in a pedagogy class before I had any kids of my own, but now that I am a parent I have found its lessons to be very informative, useful, and even inspiring.

A few of the points that I always come back to are as follows:

It is always best to assume that people (including your own children) are coming from an honest place. They may be completely and absolutely wrong about something, but they had to follow their own logical steps to get there. Learn to understand those steps, rather than dismissing the final conclusion, and you will have a conversation instead of an argument.

Avoid placing blame when you start a discussion. It may seem passive aggressive at first, but doesn’t need to be that way- Simply stating the facts and your reaction to them can be enough.  Rather than “you didn’t do the dishes”, say “the dishes aren’t done, and I don’t like that because now I have to do them.”  If this is done well, it avoids putting kids on the defensive- nobody wants to feel attacked.

If a kid isn’t being communicative, don’t push. A great example that I use to this day: when your kid comes home from school, don’t ask them how the day went. Just let them know that you are glad to see them.  Chances are they will start talking about something they want to tell you about soon enough.

Encouraging autonomy- not only do we not want to constantly tell our kids everything they need to do, but they don’t want to be told! Give options- “would you rather do homework, or help me clean up the kitchen?”  Small steps like this can make  big difference.

Praise actions, not the person. Rather than saying “you are really smart/fast/talented”, let them know that they acted smart, that they ran fast, or that they practiced the piano really hard, and it shows. As soon as we think we are just good at something, we are less likely to try as hard.

You will have to read the book for all the great insight, including fun cartoon examples of  a lot of the scenarios that we face as parents. Don’t worry, it’s an easy read.