Adele Faber co-authored, “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen When Kids Talk.” and “Siblings Without Rivalry.” Years ago, I read her books and tried the techniques, with some success. But then, you know, time passes, you forget, it’s 5:00 p.m. and you are tired and suddenly you are horrible all over again and unfairly criticize your child or met out punishments that aren’t fair.
For me, learning to parent well is like learning to cook well: If I have the chef in the kitchen with me, telling me what to do, somehow I get it. I can cook a beautiful dinner.
I really got it with Adele when I interviewed her recently for an article on discipline. She taught me a trick that helps me listen to myself, helps me correct my naggy, icky, mean self when I’m being naggy, icky, and mean.
All you have to do is pretend what you are saying to your child is something you’d say to your husband or co-worker. Basically, something you’d say to an adult. For most of us, when talking with other grown-ups, we are civil, polite, find the best way to say even an unpleasant thing.
I imagined saying to my husband: “Steve, you left your clothes on the floor again, so you can’t go out with your friend Eric tomorrow night.” Or if he said to me: “Leslie, you cooked a bad dinner. Until you can cook a good dinner, you can’t watch Mad Men.”
A grown-up’s reaction? Hurt. Rage. Resentment.
Oh, I know. Parents out there are going to argue that we need to treat our children like children. Lest they turn into hellions on Heeley’s, we need to give them consequences and punishments. But I would argue (and so would the fabulous Adele Faber), maybe not. Maybe you can treat your child with the same respect you’d give other, taller human beings, and expect respect in return.
So instead of the illogical consequences, the angry words, the unfair punishments? It takes more work, more thought, and means being self-disciplined about taking a breath before letting the angry synapses fire. It means teaching your children to find solutions to problems they created. (“You spilled grape juice on the carpet. How are you going to fix it?” “You hurt your sister when you hit her. What can you do to make her feel better?”)
So much more to say. Read Adele Faber’s books. Put them under your pillow and absorb them. Practice, over and over, how to do what she says. It takes time, thought, effort. But it’s worth it.