An interview with the Joanna Faber, the daughter of the author of “How to Talk So Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk” who has written a book with Julie King for parents of children ages 2-7, titled “How to Talk so Little Kids will Listen”
What inspired you to write a book aimed at parents of young children?
Answer: We wrote the book because parents loved the original book, but parents were requesting more examples of how to handle situations, so this book provides those tools as well as a chapter on talking with kids with sensory issues or autism spectrum disorder.
What’s the most common question you hear from parents?
Answer: Parents often say their kids talk a great deal, but ask how to get them to listen and follow instruction.
The book is divided into two parts: Part 1 is the toolbox for parents and part two provides real-world examples of situations parents often face, i.e. How do I get out of the house? How do I get her to eat her broccoli?
What are some of the most common mistakes parents make?
Most common parental mistake: Not Accepting Negative Feelings
We have trouble accepting feelings especially negative feelings.
When kids say something negative. When kids are angry or sad we want to brush away those feelings. The more you deny the feeling the harder your child has to work to convince you they feel that way. If parents can accept the feeling it’s easier for the child to calm down.
A child is not able to attend a class trip because the child is sick. The child is upset and angry at her parent for keeping her home.
Steps for resolution:
- Acknowledge the negative feeling.
- Talk about what the child will miss, i.e. I know you are going to miss seeing the T. Rex.
- Let’s build a T. Rex out of playdough to keep you company until you see the real one.
Should we accept feelings even if we think they are not rational?
Answer: Yes. For example: You give children the exact same red balloon and one child is upset and wants the other child’s balloon. sister’s balloon.
- Validate. “I see you want the other balloon even though it looks just the same.”
- What can we do to make your red balloon better?
- Ask for solutions
Can you give us some examples of the tools you introduce in your book?
Telling them directly to do a chore is not always the easiest way to avoid conflict.
Nobody likes being told what to do all of the time and a threat can be an irresistible challenge.
This chapter of the book is entirely on ways to engage children and encourage cooperation.
1. Be playful.
- Make an inanimate object talk. For example, when it’s time to get a child’s sock on: “Mr. Sock is very lonely. He said: I feel so sad and empty, please put your foot in me...”
- Make something into a game. Instead of saying this place is a pigsty. Say, “Let’s set the timer, let’s see how many legos we can put away before it goes off.” Change the mood.
How does problem-solving work with a preschooler?
Answer: It is a skill that requires the child to have some verbal ability. Steps are:
- Accept feelings
- Describe the problem (Briefly)
- Ask child for ideas to engage child
Danny is riding a tricycle in kitchen on a miserable day. He is riding too close to baby on the floor. Danny is not listening to your requests to be careful. Problem solving steps:
- Dan, I can see you enjoy riding bike in kitchen and brother likes watching
- Problem. Mom is worried about the wheels coming too close
- We need an idea
Solution: Danny says: “Danny ride over here”, and he switches his bike to the other side of the kitchen.
You are not fans of rewards for behavior. Why?
Answer Rewards kill intrinsic motivation
1. Study after study shows that if you reward a child for doing an activity, they lose interest in the activity even if they were originally interested in that activity.
2. They don’t address the underlying problem. Why is this child not sitting still? Why is he not sleeping at night? Why is he pinching the baby?
3. The flipside of reward is that when a child is unable to achieve the desired result, and the reward is not forthcoming, the child is upset and feels like a failure.
We advocate rewarding with praise and noticing good behavior if your child does a great job cleaning or doesn’t wet the bed. Describe in detail what you see. The bed is dry, the toys are all off the floor, not just, “You are awesome!”
Joanna: “A lot of people criticize this culture for over praising children, what I would say is it’s the wrong kind of praise ‘It’s great! You’re fantastic’ ‘Wonderful’ It’s just not useful, but when you describe in detail what you see, that’s genuine and that’s useful and those words are much more meaningful to a kid.
What do you do when a child is misbehaving or has made a mistake?
Answer: We tend to demand children say, “I’m sorry”
If a child intentionally hurts another child, when we force the kid to say sorry, it may not be genuine. Not helpful.
The best way to develop a genuine show of remorse is to show a child how he can make amends. As soon as children are given a way to make amends, they often take that opportunity.
Example: A child is rough with sister.
The parent says: Jenna is crying. That rough play hurt her knee. Instead of accusing, give the child a positive action to take. You know what we need? We need a bandaid. Believe and see the best, and children offer the best.
How can we prevent unwanted behavior without just saying, “No”
1. Tell them what they can do instead of can’t.
2. Give them information
3. Offer a choice
Examples: Instead of no running, say, “walking feet.” Instead of “stop ball throwing,” say: “ball throwing is for outside.”
Do you have advice for parents who have siblings who fight?
Answer: The instinct is to minimize conflict, but it helps to remember that these conflicts are important to your children.
- Ask your children to problem solve with you. “Oh no! Two boys want to play with the same truck. What can we do?
- Narrate: Listen and restate each child’s point of view. “Oh you didn’t like how he grabbed the ball and he didn’t like that you didn’t want him to play the game, and sometimes that’s enough.”
M Dlott: Yes, I use the sportscaster method to add element of play and provide the narrative of what’s happening to diffuse the situation.
Additional Approaches and Tips
Example of Potty Training from author:
My 2 years 9 mos old and lost interest in toilet training. He would deny he had to go to bathroom. Pulled out paper and decided we would have a formal problem solving session.
1.Dan does not want to stop playing to go to bathroom
2.Mom does not like pee on the carpet
3. We need ideas
1. Mom’s idea: Mom will remind Dan in a friendly way to go to bathroom.
2. Dan’s idea: Dan will clean the floor with carpet cleaner
3.Mom’s idea: Dan can wear diapers if he doesn’t want to pee in the potty
4.Dan’s idea: The little green man will remind me to go to the bathroom.
So later, I pick up the green man at dinner when I notice Dan is squirming, and I whisper, “it’s time to pee-pee in the potty.” It worked, and that green man became my emissary to my son’s bladder. A strange solution, but he came up with it.
Aim for using these tools 70 percent or 50 percent or even 10 percent of the time It can make a difference in a relationship. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Remember we are not just getting through the day; we are giving our children skills to use during conflicts in their lives.