How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk- Book Review

I just finished reading How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish.  I have mixed feelings about the book.  As I read it, I felt very validated in many of my personal parenting choices, and the ideas felt easy and comfortable.  However, when I finished and thought about the book as a whole, it felt lacking.  The quote on the front cover reads “The parenting bible. -Boston Globe”, which this book is certainly not.  It is about verbal communication style and the importance of verbal communication, not about general parenting skills or philosophies.

Book Summary:How to talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so kids will talk

  • Help Children Deal with Their Feelings- listen and be genuinely empathetic.
  • Engaging Cooperation- avoid domineering or negative ways to try to get children to comply, try demanding less and explaining more, with the hope that children choose to comply.
  • Alternative to Punishment- explains techniques to maintain parental control, while giving the child the chance to make better choices and engage the child in problem-solving.
  • Encouraging Autonomy- gives permission for parents to back off a bit, allowing a child chances for supported success and failure.
  • Praise- describes ways to effectively praise children.
  • Freeing Children from Playing Roles- avoid self-fulfilling prophecies from labeling your children.

Positives: I would label this book as a good intro parenting book. It has sound, common-sense advice that applies to most children and families. The examples and illustrations are engaging and easy to relate to.   This book would help parents to step back and assess how they speak to their children, which could lead to some positive changes in a parent-child relationship.

Neutral: This book focuses on more changing the parent and parenting style, rather than focusing on changing or teaching the child.

Negatives: The one size fits all approach that doesn’t account for differences in children’s abilities/disabilities.  There is not enough substance in the book.  For people who don’t buy into the main ideas initially, there is not enough developmental science to back-up the claims and explain the “why” to sell the ideas.

Who would I use this approach with:

  • Most children without any developmental concerns, ages 3-10.
  • Children who need to build self-awareness, emotional regulation, and executive functioning skills.
  • It would be very appropriate for children who have experienced trauma.
  • Families that would benefit from more positive interactions between parents and children.

Who would I not use this approach with:

  • Not as useful if you are parent of a child with attention problems, defiance issues, defiant behaviors, or development/language delays.
  • Any child with limited language skills, such as children with developmental delays or autism.
  • This book does not discuss how to take your child’s language and cognitive abilities into consideration in your communication, nor does it discuss some key concepts about eliminating distractions in life, eye contact and body language, or knowing your child’s developmental level when speaking.

Would I recommend this book?  As a general parenting book- sure, the ideas are sound.  As a book to help families with more challenging or complex parenting struggles, probably not.

Paige Hays is an occupational therapist who provides in-home, pediatric occupational therapy services in the south metro area of the Twin Cities, MN. She is a mother of 2 girls, avid DIYer, and a highly skilled and experienced OT. She specializes in working in pediatrics, with diverse expertise ranging from cognition and sensory issues to working with children with neuromuscular disabilities or complex medical needs.