How to Talk so Kids will Listen

I’m guessing a lot of you are familiar with this book. Loved it and am reading it for the second time now.

However, as I go through this time, some concerns are starting to arise. It strikes me that this book came out in the 70’s. Now I don’t know how popular / influential it ever was, but am thinking, if it’s still around, it must’ve had at least some sway. It makes me wonder whether it or the thinking it espouses has anything to do with the “generation me” phenomenon we’re seeing of young people who can’t take criticism constructively, live in their own filter-bubble realities to the point where the education system actually has to leave dinosaurs or birthdays off tests for fear of offending some and so on.

I feel terribly unskeptical putting forth such a hypothesis with no evidence whatsoever, but I haven’t read much on the topic and perhaps some of you have.

As a concrete example from the book, take the suggestion to “give kids a choice” when they’re acting out of line (You can either take the ball outside or find something else to play with.) This advice is even softened further by pointing out that some parents object to “boxing their kids in” with the 2-pronged choice, and suggesting you let kids come up with their own choices!

What occurs to me is that, sure, this sounds like good advice in giving kids a sense of autonomy. But does it not also maybe imply that if one’s parents always give you paleatable (sp?) options, others ought to do so as well? What happens when they don’t? Similarly, if parents always use such careful language with their kids, what happens to a kid who has to deal with others far less careful in their wording? Same goes with the notion of getting rid of punishments: how do kids who don’t get punished at home react to being punished outside the home? And mightn’t shying away from punishment at home be why we see a situation like this:

Please understand, I’m not by any means a believer in John Rosemond-type parenting or looking back with nostalgia at the wisdom of our forebears. Just trying to get some input.

Vay…my input is from having experienced both ends of the spectrum.
Parenting is indeed a thorny issue…bit like Climate change :slight_smile: There are some “variables” with children,partly genetic and some external influences. Siblings add to the melting pot of complexity also !
I had a very strict upbringing,although non violent,i feared the consequences of my actions. My Father drew a line which I dare not cross. Strange,when one considers he never had to actually enforce the Rules,that a Child would actually obey them. This,from my perspective,was down to individual respect and a little fear maybe. However, I would sit,quietly,when asked and never question a request ,being perfectly happy to do so. Hence it was frustrating to ,realise my own children simply seemed not to want to comply with our wishes,without a fuss.
Tried the books,tried the nice approach,tried explainations, tried the reward route, tried the “naughty step”,tried the threat route. My two boys react in different ways to most things.Happy that with time they appear to be well balanced (except my elder son is studying Law :unamused: )
My honest advice is that children are SO individual in their feelings that you really have to “learn” the methods that work by yourself. A thousand books will give you options…but they may all be wrong for your little ones Vay !!.
You do have to draw a line …How you enforce that is the issue :ponder: There is no easy …or correct solution…you just have to experiment and hope you are blessed with Children who understand the difference between right and wrong and develop, with your input and help, a sense of decency.
Sometimes you realize how precious and rewarding the effort is…sometimes they can be a pain in the arse…worth it in the end…I think?
I wish you all the very best in your endeavors… as you love them so much, Children can give you the most joy in your life and also ,for that very reason,the most pain. Enjoy the ride :popcorn:

That’s fair input. I have methods that work (at the moment) for my kid, but give me a different child and it would probably take me a year to work out new ‘methods’.
I try and treat her as a small person, listen to her grievances, and sit or squat down to her level when there are issues - I don’t talk down at her.

I’m terrbile at giving her choices that are non-choices. That’s probably very bad for her :slight_smile: :
“No, there’s no TV tonight. It’s really easy, you can either: get a book for us to read and then go to bed after that, or you can go straight to bed now.
Your choice.”

Thanks for your input guys. Shiadoa, I’ve also found that making generalizations regarding a child is a constant temptation (as skepticism would’ve suggested, as it is our evolved tendency to do this!).

However what I was really interested in was what people agree with my hypothesis that “How to talk” and the methods it proposes contribute to the Generation Me / solipsistic children phenomenon we are seeing (if you even agree such a phenomenon exists - perhaps every older generation thinks the same thing about the newer generation!)

I agree, though.

Here in the US, we are raising a generation of kids who have never lost (because everyone “wins”, everyone must be included, and everyone must be praised for what they do, even if it is not particularly outstanding). They are constantly having their “sense of self-worth” boosted. Parents take care to say “please” to a two-year-old, which to me is insane. There is modeling courtesy, and there is also modeling hierarchical relationships and respect, which still exist (or should) in the world. When these little emperors of the US get out of school, many are unwilling to take “ordinary” entry-level jobs because their opinions are not being asked every five seconds, and they are not moving up the ladder quickly enough (or starting somewhere that is not the bottom). There is a huge sense of reality missing.

When we were younger, some kids won and most kids lost. So you worked harder to win, if you cared, or you consoled yourself by looking for something else that you did well instead. Now, the organized two-year-old soccer leagues in their full uniforms clutch their “Winner!” ribbons as the parents shriek from the sidelines and otherwise reinforce the idea that winning is the only thing (but everyone is a winner). Back in the day, you played pick-up soccer on the vacant lot with a random set of kids and either you won or you lost.

[quote=“Vay”]Thanks for your input guys. Shiadoa, I’ve also found that making generalizations regarding a child is a constant temptation (as skepticism would’ve suggested, as it is our evolved tendency to do this!).

However what I was really interested in was what people agree with my hypothesis that “How to talk” and the methods it proposes contribute to the Generation Me / solipsistic children phenomenon we are seeing (if you even agree such a phenomenon exists - perhaps every older generation thinks the same thing about the newer generation!)[/quote]

I wouldn’t say that specific book alone, but a lot of the parenting changes which came about during and after the late 1960s have been unhealthy for kids. It’s important to note that the first 3 years of life pretty much dictate the personality. The behaviors we reinforce in our 2 year olds are the behaviors we and our neighbors live with in our 13 year olds, and the behaviors society is made up of in our collective 25 year olds. This tends to scare the hell out of parents (the part about their 13 year old acting like their 2 year old), as well it should. The kids on my caseload who are the hardest to treat are the ones with environmental reasons for their delays (these kids are birth - 36 months). This comes in four primary flavors:

  1. Neglect/lack of stimuli. These are the sad little kids who are plopped in front of a television 8+ hours per day and virtually never talked to. I can’t even call CPS because it’s technically not abuse to zombify your kid.

  2. Abusive caregivers. These cases wear me down because there’s only so much I can do aside from calling CPS, then I never get to see the kids again to see if their lives are any better. They’re the ones who keep me up at night.

While I think those two are important, they’re not the ones germane to this discussion.

  1. Demands beyond capacities. The parents who have such high expectation that kids just shut down because they just can’t do what they’re asked to do. Often skills years above age level are being “worked on” (emphasis on work) and the kids are already developing negative feelings and attitudes about themselves. These kids can turn into behavioral nightmares with comorbid psychological problems. This is one of the ones I think increased dramatically with the new parenting styles.

  2. Lack of adult direction. These are the kids who run the household, the ones who’s parents are using new age techniques and expect their child to “make positive choices” at early ages about things the child doesn’t even understand (note: using choices which are developmentally appropriate is different). These parents drive me batty because in the daycare their child is well behaved, communicative and engaged but it falls apart the moment the child sees mommy. Massive tantrums, crying jags, hitting, biting, screaming, refusal, etc. This is the other one I think increased dramatically with the new parenting styles.

Often these latter two go hand in hand, in which case you have a real tyrant on your hands.

What I always try to tell parents like this is that they can’t think of their kids as little adults, they don’t have little adult brains. The brain is not structurally or functionally the same as an adult brain and the child is not physically or psychologically capable of what the parent is asking them to do. If someone is constantly (telling you to do it over and over again 24/7) expecting you to fly, and gets angry and indignant when you don’t, how would you feel and react? Many of the books written back then had no real basis in developmental neurology, it’s akin to asking an infant to walk.

So what works? Reducing demands to age appropriate levels, lots of adult directed activities, rules (specific and age appropriate), planned ignoring of tantrums and other behaviors we want to suppress, absolute consistency at all times and between all caregivers, immediate consequences to actions, concrete reasoning.

What doesn’t work? Spanking/hitting (at this point the research is overwhelming, rates of drug addiction and incarceration go up and cognitive scores go down, it’s not worth the very temporary behavior improvement), pleading, arguing, abrupt and inconsistent changes in routines/rewards/consequences, abstract reasoning.

Technically, environmentally based delays should be the easiest to treat since one just changes the environment, but in reality most caregivers are far more resistant to change than kids. Changing a habit in a child takes approximately 72 hours of consistent application. The hard part is getting to the point when the caregiver is ready to truly spend those 72 hours. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t fault them. They don’t have the neural plasticity children do (which is one reason I love working with kids, they often improve quickly), and they have a lot more emotional investment in maintaining the techniques they’ve been using because changing means admitting to themselves that they were wrong and parents (especially mothers) are told by society that parenting is a purely natural and instinctual act and that only the aberrant don’t take to it like a duck to water (which is, in my opinion, a bunch of BS and a generally mean and awful thing to tell people who are already feeling pretty low about their kid having problems). We as a society tell people how to parent and then tell them they’re crappy parents when what we told them doesn’t work, should we blame them for feeling abused and resistant to change? On the other hand, kids are generally mercenary. If being nice gets them rewards they’ll be nice, if screaming and hitting gets them rewards…

NOTE: Sometimes there’s confusion about giving choices. It’s appropriate to say to a 2 year old “do you want apple or banana?” but it is totally inappropriate to say “you can make the choice to throw that at the wall but it might get broken and then you can’t have a new one.” The first choice is concrete and specific to the purpose of eliciting language and increasing receptive language, cognitive, and social-emotional skills, the second is ridiculous since the child has no idea about how the cause and effect of this situation works… The brain just isn’t capable of that level of abstraction yet. Toys magically appear because caregivers make them from thin air, mommies and daddies can fix anything or make new ones. Yes, a parent said the second sentence to a 22 month old child in front of me, the kid promptly threw the little toy airplane at the wall and it broke. In what world is this surprising?

[quote=“Nuit”]
That’s fair input. I have methods that work (at the moment) for my kid, but give me a different child and it would probably take me a year to work out new ‘methods’.
I try and treat her as a small person, listen to her grievances, and sit or squat down to her level when there are issues - I don’t talk down at her. [/quote]
I wholeheartedly agree. You’ve got to find a method that works for the kid. I have to employ vastly different methods for both my kids. I think it is important to listen to the them and let them work out the logic behind their grievance/anger but there still has to be the basic parental hierarchy of household. I only say please to my son when I want him to help me, not when it’s something he should do or something he needs help with.

[quote=“Nuit”]
I’m terrbile at giving her choices that are non-choices. That’s probably very bad for her :slight_smile: :
“No, there’s no TV tonight. It’s really easy, you can either: get a book for us to read and then go to bed after that, or you can go straight to bed now.
Your choice.”[/quote]
I do this all the time. My wife calls it the “Cake or Death” (ala Eddie Izzard) choice. “Either you clean up the toys like the good boy you are, or Daddy’s going to have to get out the garbage bag.” I think as long as you don’t threaten anything you’re not prepared to do and that you follow through, it is effective. Or at least it has been so far, but we’ll see what happens when they get bigger …

[quote=“dahsiung”]

[quote=“Nuit”]
I’m terrbile at giving her choices that are non-choices. That’s probably very bad for her :slight_smile: :
“No, there’s no TV tonight. It’s really easy, you can either: get a book for us to read and then go to bed after that, or you can go straight to bed now.
Your choice.”[/quote]
I do this all the time. My wife calls it the “Cake or Death” (ala Eddie Izzard) choice. “Either you clean up the toys like the good boy you are, or Daddy’s going to have to get out the garbage bag.” I think as long as you don’t threaten anything you’re not prepared to do and that you follow through, it is effective. Or at least it has been so far, but we’ll see what happens when they get bigger …[/quote]

I see that as a lesson in personal responsibility and accepting the consequences of your actions.

Action: Clean up toys. Consequence: nothing in particular.
Action: Leave mess alone. Consequence: have all toys thrown out.

The child’s allowed to make their own decision but they have to live with the consequences. My mum did something similar to me; she never actively stopped me from doing something but she made it very clear that I would face certain consequences for doing something.

Skoster:
:bravo: :notworthy:

[quote=“Vay”]Skoster:
:bravo: :notworthy:[/quote]

Ha! Thanks, I try not to post in the parenting forum because I’d hate to come off as preachy. I’m kind of a geek about the work I do, so sometimes my passion for it comes off as a bit overzealous.

One thing I’m actually kind of sad about concerning my upcoming move to Taiwan is that I won’t be able to work with the birth - 36 month population any longer and it’s such a fun age group to work with. :frowning: I’m really going to miss it.

[quote=“skoster”][quote=“Vay”]Skoster:
:bravo: :notworthy:[/quote]

Ha! Thanks, I try not to post in the parenting forum because I’d hate to come off as preachy. I’m kind of a geek about the work I do, so sometimes my passion for it comes off as a bit overzealous.

One thing I’m actually kind of sad about concerning my upcoming move to Taiwan is that I won’t be able to work with the birth - 36 month population any longer and it’s such a fun age group to work with. :frowning: I’m really going to miss it.[/quote]

Oooo… I know who I’M going to be hitting up for advice lol