Two months ago, a blogger over at Alpha Mom decided to start an online book club. Each month, the group picks a book, based around parenting, reads the book, then meets up at the end of the month to blog their ideas/reactions and discuss it in the comments section. October’s book was The Five Languages of Love for Children. I had been wanting to read this for awhile; Eric and I read the original right after getting married, and it was so helpful. But alas, I read the book, then forgot about the whole posting/discussion thing…long story short, I recommend reading it!
So, November. This month’s book was How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk.
Again, a book on my “to-read” list, so I was happy to pick it up. I was putting it off, since I figured I’d have some time to master this skill since Matthew is only 14 months old. BUT, the skills outlined in the book really, really do apply to children of all ages, not just older children. Actually, there were a few things I thought would even help with communication with my husband, or coworkers, or…anyone.
I think communication is something we all know how to do; however, positive communication skills seem to get lost as we grow up or they begin to feel unnatural. I think daily stress gets in the way, so it becomes “natural” to yell or nag. But when reading the steps and skills in How to Talk, I just kept thinking, Yeah, that makes sense. Obviously. Listen to your kids. Put a name to their feelings. Don’t undervalue their feelings. Ask them their opinion. Don’t be so quick to shell out advice. Give effective praise and limit language that forces your kid into a role they can’t escape (i.e. you’re so clumsy; you forgot your homework again?). The problem, though, comes from actually practicing these skills. It takes a lot of patience to look misbehavior in the face, and somehow try to pull something positive out of it.
I think this was the exact right time to read this book. We’re just starting to experience a few acts of defiance and a little whining (okay, some days a lot of whining). Earlier in the year, I read Happiest Toddler on the Block, and I am totally on-board with the techniques outlined in that book. I feel How to Talk mirrors that. When Matty is frustrated, and I say “Grr, grr. So frustrated. You’re so frustrated. You really wanted to stick that fork in the electrical outlet and it wouldn’t fit. You are soooo frustrated.” (TOTALLY KIDDING, BTW), it really does shorten or stop the whining/tantrum. As in How To Talk, I put a name to the feeling, and showed I understand. I think reading these two books together is a great idea for anyone with younger toddlers.
As I read, I highlighted a few excerpts that either made me think, or that I really wanted to remember. Here are three that I really think gives an idea of what the whole book is about: understanding and accepting your child’s feelings; giving your child some autonomy and choices to prevent misbehavior; and what to do when misbehavior still occurs.
- The more you try to push away a child’s unhappy feelings, the more he becomes stuck in them. The more comfortably you can accept the bad feelings, the easier it is for kids to let go of them. I guess you could say that if you want to have a happy family, you’d better be prepared to permit the expression of a lot of unhappiness. Takeaway: Expressing all feelings is necessary to move on to a solution. Keeping things bottled up only compounds the anger/frustration/disappointment and it will explode later. Saying “shh, shh, it’s okay” or “there’s no reason to be fussy” are two I find difficult to break a habit of.
- In reference to making a list of everything you insist your child do or not do in a day…Whether your list is long or short, whether your expectations are realistic or unrealistic, each item on that list represents your time and your energy and contains all the ingredients necessary for a battle of wills. Takeaway: Pick your battles. Are you forcing your kids to do something that really doesn’t matter? Can it be done in a different way so that you’re both happy?
- …the problem with punishment is that it didn’t work, it’s a distraction, that instead of the child feeling sorry for what they’ve done and thinking about how to make amends, he become preoccupied with revenge fantasies. In other words, by punishing a child, we actually deprive him of the very important inner process of facing his own misbehavior…what could I do instead? There’s an entire chapter on punishment, and I feel the authors do a thorough job of exploring what punishment is, AND alternative solutions. Definitely something to think about…
It looks like the next book, to be read in December and discussed in January, is going to be NurtureShock.