I love Faber and Mazlish's books, especially How To Talk So Kids Will Listen. My husband and I even took a workshop based on it. While I was in the workshop, I was able to apply the lessons learned. But as soon as it ended, I found myself going back to my old ways.
I just can't seem to stay conscious enough to do the right thing. My eight-year-old complains about a classmate or a teacher and it's only after the conversation is over that I say to myself, Oh, I should have just acknowledged his feelings! I can't ever seem to remember that in the moment. And I've been "trying" to do so (because I see the power in it) ever since I read the book which was at least 10 years ago. Pretty pathetic, no?
Do you have any advice for someone like me?
Here are some ideas that may help you put more of the How To Talk So Kids Will Listen communication skills into regular practice.
- Give yourself and your husband credit for participating in the How to Talk So Kids Will Listen workshop and for reading the book. It's not easy to find the time to make an additional commitment in your already busy schedule. It's also not easy to accept the fact that parenting skills do not come naturally. We have to unlearn some bad habits and then learn new ones!
- Appreciate your awareness of situations when you could have responded more effectively. That's at least half of the solution. When we hear ourselves talk, and make a mental note that we could have said something that could have opened the lines of communication, the way is paved for a more helpful response at the next opportunity. Fortunately, our children always give us another chance! When your eight-year-old shares his feelings with you and you wish you would have just acknowledged his feelings, you can tell yourself that this is a new opportunity to practice for next time. It is also helpful to write down the conversation, and then write a response that would have been more effective. This can help make you more aware for next time. Sometimes we have to fall into the same hole in the street many times before we learn to walk down another street
- You can always re-open a conversation either immediately or later on. For example, if you realize mid-way into a conversation that you denied your child's feelings, you can say something like, "Let's erase this conversation and start again. I just realized that you must be feeling..." Or, if the conversation is already over and hours or even days have passed, you can try going back to your child and saying, "You know, I've been thinking about the conversation we had this morning (or yesterday, or whenever the conversation took place) and I realize that..." Even if your child has forgotten the incident, you are conveying how much you care about him.
- Use the reminder cards that appear at the end of each chapter in the book and at the end of each workshop meeting. Some parents like to post them where they can see them, such as on or inside kitchen cabinet doors, or on the refrigerator. One parent told me she hung one on her refrigerator and each week she put up a new one. She kept rotating them, and this helped her become more aware of the small improvements she was making until she realized that the small changes added up to a big change in her family!
- Some parents are concerned about their children knowing that their parents have to "learn" to be good parents. They are afraid that their children will lose respect for them. Actually, the opposite is true. Children respect a parent's ability to say "I'm a good and loving parent, and because I love my family so much, I want to be even a better parent and learn more effective ways of showing how much I care about the well-being of my family." Children also enjoy reading How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, and it's fun to talk about the skills and the cartoons together. Parents and children can remind each other about the skills, and in tense moments it can even provide some humor which can ease the tension.
- As children grow older and go through different stages of their development, we need to find new ways to keep the lines of communication open. It helps to re-read the book every now and again. Discussing situations and responses together with your husband can reinforce the use of these skills.
As long as we have the blessing of being with our children, every day provides us with a new opportunity to make a tiny change.
Thank you for your question. I think many parents will be relieved to know that the situation you described is very common!
All the best,