Author: Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
This book starts with a simple but radical idea–we should help children deal with their emotions instead of jumping in to fix them. Strong emotions, especially negative ones, cannot be brushed aside or “fixed” by someone else. Instead children need our help learning to deal with them. This can be painful to watch and so our natural inclination is to rush children through this process. But that doesn’t work. This basic philosophy is the starting point for parenting in a positive and respectful way. This is not about being a pushover. It’s about showing our kids that we understand where they are and we know where we want them to grow. The next chapters, entitled Engaging Cooperation, Alternatives to Punishment, Encouraging Autonomy, and Freeing Children from Playing Roles, all show some specific ways to lovingly guide in a respectful way. This book is extremely easy to read. They have a bajillion real-life examples, common scenarios, simple cartoons, and pages where they summarize the main ideas. There are also worksheet pages so you can practice coming up with the right phrase. It’s not easy to change the way we talk to our kids when emotions and tensions are running high, but this book will help you begin.
Parts I liked best:
I’ve read this book many times. Each time I read it, I find specific nuggets of practical wisdom that I can immediately incorporate into my parenting. It’s hard to pick just one. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about how I can take more time and honor my children’s struggle a little more. When my preschooler struggles to zip up his sweatshirt, I try to say, “Zippers can be tricky!” instead of saying, “Let me do it.” When my grade schooler talks about how she wishes that she could pass her times test, I say, “I remember times test as being pretty stressful. What do you think would help you learn them better?” Instead of saying, “You’re so smart. You’ll get them. Don’t worry.”
How this book made an impact in my life, especially as a mother (or why I just really liked it):
This book has completely changed the way I communicate with my children. Instead of jumping in to “fix” their feelings, by saying things like “Oh, you’re OK!” or “You need to calm down!” now I show them that I understand how they feel. And once they see I get it, we can all let it go.
Seriously, it’s that simple.
When my kids were toddlers, this was extremely helpful to diffuse tantrums. In fact, just yesterday, my youngest really wanted some gum. He was passionate about it in a two-year-old-passionate sort of way. I gave him his wish in “fantasy”—one of the ways suggested in the book. “I wish I could give you a piece of gum as big as your fist. No, no, no–as big as my fist. No-as big as your HEAD! No–as big as MY head!” We kept going and going, getting bigger and bigger. Finally, he was giggling so much he was OK with not getting gum, not because I had distracted him (although my jokes were pretty funny) but because he saw that I understood just how much he loved gum. He loved it as much as the WHOLE HOUSE.
Now, with my grade schooler, I found if I can follow the advice to be quiet and save the “mommy advice” until she has told me all about how she feels, sometimes I don’t even need to offer advice. Just listening is enough.
Another shift in my thinking that came from this book has been to use more descriptive language instead of constantly evaluating. Instead of saying, “You guys did a terrible job of cleaning up your room. Your dirty PJ’s are in the middle of the room!” I can say, “Hey, those PJ’s can’t be washed unless they’re in the laundry basket.” It helps create a “no-blame” atmosphere in our house where we aren’t constantly pointing fingers. That’s a better feeling for everyone.
By giving kids more information and less evaluation, I think I discipline more effectively. When my kids misbehave, I follow the advice of this book and show them how to make amends. Kids feel bad when they’ve done something wrong and it’s helpful to channel those shameful feelings into something positive and more active than just saying sorry. So instead of getting exasperated when my two-year-old dumps out water, I hand him a dish towel and say, “Hey, we don’t want water on the floor. Wipe it up, quick!”
This idea, not jumping in to fix emotions but rather encouraging a person to talk more about them and deal with them positively, has also made me a better friend, sister, wife, and daughter. I use it daily–no hourly!
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