How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Read: 23 April, 2012

I seem to have found my niche as far as parenting books go. Like Raising a Secure Child, How To Talk approached parenting from a much more gentle angle than the mainstream generally allows for.

I’m really enjoying this style of parenting. For one thing, it’s so great not to have to keep saying “no” and to be able to focus one having fun and cuddling with the little time my family gets to spend together now that I’m back at work. I also find that my son really responds to gentle reminders and redirection in a way that he doesn’t to yelling.

I do feel like I have this whole “gentle parenting” thing down pretty well, but I still felt that How To Talk gave me plenty of food for thought and added to my repertoire of ways to deal with situations. In fact, I feel like it went beyond parenting and has given me tools to use in my every day conversations with co-workers, friends, and even my gentleman friend.

I’ve complained before about parenting books offering awfully stilted example scenarios. How To Talk not only had more natural-seeming scenarios, it also had many more than I’ve seen in other books. Every point received multiple examples and covered the lesson from many diverse angles, so I felt like I understood the underlying principles in a deeper way.

I also liked that the focus of the book wasn’t just on the kids and how to wheedle kids into doing our bidding, but rather it asked parents to look at themselves, to acknowledge and deal with their own emotions and thereby set an example. That’s what attracts me the most to the whole “gentle parenting” movement – that it holds parents accountable as role models.

Beyond the philosophy, I liked how interactive the book is. The premise is about parents reflecting on their motives and emotions and understanding the motives and emotions of their children. True to this lesson, the book has several sections that present situations and ask the reader to write in their thoughts and feelings. Even though I rebelled and didn’t actually write anything in (it was a library book, after all), this forced me to personalize the lessons in a way that simply reading text doesn’t do. Plus, it was refreshing to see so much consistency between subject and form (oops, is my English degree showing?).

The last thing I want to mention is that many of the example situations are presented in comic form, rather than as scripts. My gentleman friend isn’t a very strong reader and sometimes struggles to absorb written information, so this visual format was a huge help in making the material accessible for him.

I’d say that How To Talk is by far the best parenting book I’ve read so far, and I highly recommend it. In fact, I recommend it for non-parents as well; the material is completely applicable to any relationship.

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Raising a Secure Child by Zeynep Biringen

Read: 13 September, 2011

Raising a Secure Child starts from the same Daniel Goleman research that informed Emotionally Intelligent Parenting. Since the two were so similar in many ways, I can’t help but to review the former in light of the latter.

I complained that Emotionally Intelligent Parenting provided sample dialogues to illustrate their points that were clearly idealized and read like something from the Stepford Wives. It was almost creepy. Raising a Secure Child, while making much greater use of dialogues and sample situations, did a much better job. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this was one of the book’s most positive features. Every major point was backed up with a short vignette of a family either doing it right or doing it wrong that helped me see what the point should (or shouldn’t) look like in practice. I found these to be a huge help in visualizing how I might out the advice into practice.

While Emotionally Intelligent Parenting focused on always saying the right thing, the focus in Raising a Secure Child was much more on the non-verbal interactions between parent and child. In other words, really meaning it is seen as more valuable than always having the right script handy. This made a good deal more intuitive sense to me.

Both books had the same emphasis on being emotionally present for kids (although, again, I felt that Raising a Secure Child made the point in a way that felt more practically applicable), and both talked about the importance of structure and limit-setting.

Raising a Secure Child spent a good deal of time on helping me to analyse my own upbringing to help me see how that might affect how I interact with my son. While it’s something I have thought about a lot, I still found it helpful to go through in a more methodical sort of way.

And while it isn’t applicable to my family, I do think the sections on children with special needs and getting through a divorce could be very useful.

Both books covered the full range from baby to young adult. I think that both are worth reading, but Raising a Secure Child is by far the better of the two.

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