How to Talk When Kids Won’t Listen

This podcast will focus on specific issues like divorce, apologies, responsibility, sibling rivalry and friendships and exactly what to say and do when kids won’t listen. Dr. Robyn Silverman interviews best-selling authors, Joanna Faber and Julie King, the authors of the new book, How to Talk When Kids Won’t Listen. This is the second podcast episode that Dr. Silverman has done with Faber and King.

 

Special guests: Joanna Faber & Julie King

Sometimes we get tongue-tied when faced with real-life, in-the-moment situations that leave us speechless or yelling in the stairwell. From kids who leave messes around the house and are perpetually late for their ride to school to kids who notoriously pick fights with their siblings, or don’t want to go along with the plan for the day. And then there are the tough circumstances that you know are rough for kids—but they still have to take place—like when they need to move from home to home in a divorce situation (and don’t want to do it), have to say they are sorry when they hurt someone’s feelings (and don’t want to do it) or when they struggle with friendships and want to leave before the playdate gets started. Sometimes we talk and talk and talk but the kids just don’t listen. What do we do? I have two of my favorites on today—who we have had on before and have come back today—because we had so much fun- to talk about their new book!

Bio

 

Joanna Faber and Julie King are the authors of the new book, How to Talk When Kids Won’t Listen: Whining, Fighting, Meltdowns, Defiance, & Other Challenges of Childhood, as well as the best-selling book, How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7, which has been translated into 22 languages world-wide. (You probably remember the worldwide best seller, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen from Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish—well, Joanna Faber and Julie King have taken the baton and run with it)! Not only do they have these two fabulous books but they created the app HOW TO TALK: Parenting Tips in Your Pocket, a companion to their book, as well as the app Parenting Hero. Together they speak to schools, businesses and parent groups nationally and internationally, they lead “How To Talk” workshops and support groups online and in person, and provide private consultations. Joanna, a former special education teacher, has also contributed heavily to books co-authored by her mother, Adele Faber, including How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk and How to Talk So Kids Will Learn. Julie has been leading workshops for over 25 years, and has also tailored the workshop for parents and professionals who live or work with neurodiverse children. Visit Joanna and Julie at How-To-Talk.com, on Facebook @faberandking or on Instagram @howtotalk.forparents.

Important Messages:

  • Doing for our children vs having your children do for themselves
  • What to do in the moment and what to do in the long run?
  • Scenario: Child is perpetually late for morning school pick up, making friend late for work.
  • In the moment: Take action without insulting the character of the child. Grab the shoes, backpack and lunch and your child’s hand; “You have to go now- we can’t make Ms. Jones late for work.” She may protest. But I’m not ready! You have to keep going in the right direction. Refrain from demoralizing your child. Don’t say; “you don’t care about anyone but yourself!” “If you hadn’t been fooling around all morning…if you had been paying attention when I gave you the 5 minute warning…you would have had plenty of time to get your stuff…this is what you get for dawdling!” Edit it out. Repeat; “We can’t make Ms. Jones’ late- we’ll figure out a better plan later on when you get home.” There’s no intent to make the kid suffer or angry- protecting friend, yourself, getting child to move without stirring the pot.
  • Later, when everyone is calm, you can address the issue. Talk about organizing time. Tool: Problem-solving.
  • Problem solving:
    • (1) Acknowledge child’s feelings. “You know, it can be hard to get out in the morning- I’ve been noticing it’s been rough in the morning. You have so many things to do in such a small amount a time. You have to get dressed, eat breakfast, choose toys, brush teeth, make bed, pack bag, remember mask- it’s a lot. It’s no fun being rushed and it’s no fun being yelled at. (Your child can have her say there. Good will is created. Don’t rush. So that she wants to help solve the problem).
    • (2) Describe the problem: Short and sweet. Kids tune out long lectures. “The problem is, Ms. Jones needs you to be ready to jump right in when she pulls up to the house so she’s not late for work.”
    • (3) Brainstorm ideas: Need ideas for how to get out of the house on time without all the yelling and fighting. Your child comes up with first idea. Might not be a great answer- like, “how about you drive me!” The important thing is for you to write it down without opinion or judgment. Don’t say “that won’t work because I’ll be late.” Don’t reject or she might not want to participate. (4) Go through the ideas and see which ones you both agree on. That’s the time to say, “that first idea of me driving won’t work because then I’ll be late for work.” You are putting your kid to work. They can work better for her! She’s generating them. Buy in.
  • Checklists can work. Pictures plus words. Then the last box was free play. They like to check off boxes- satisfying. Instead of nagging, go check the chart! The chart is doing the nagging. Thinking “why should I have to do this if routine is the same!” Children live in moment. Not always obvious. Not same sense of time and time passing.
  • What is 5 minutes? Visual timer- regular clock face- 15 min, twist knob. Time clicks down, red slice gets narrower. “Mom, we have to go, there is only a slice of red left!”
  • Power and control- be in the lead. Generate ideas. Set timer. Check the boxes. Be in control. They are in charge of themselves.
  • Punishment? Isn’t the simple solution having a consequence? Not motivating. Punishment for all infractions- keep track of all this? Spanking- does that work? No. When we have a push button moment and someone has a consequence like that- you think “when I was young, I was spanked, and I stopped right away.” But if you think about it, infractions kept happening. And research says, in the long run, this is not the answer. And can backfire.
  • Why is punishment not the answer even if it might work in the short run? Ultimately, punishment doesn’t solve the problem. (It doesn’t teach a kid how to get organized in the morning.) It’s actually a distraction to the problem because what punishment does is cause kids to think selfishly. Instead of focusing on the problem and how to fix it they are going to think about how unfair it is that you are taking away a privilege, stewing with resentment.
  • When we punish, we are teaching our kids a lesson. We are teaching them that when we have a conflict, we look for ways to make the other person suffer. This adds to negative feelings. Not helping them learn how to approach conflict in the future. Work together to satisfy everyone’s needs.
  • Morning rush. Ask questions. Is there something happening at school? Is this child exhausted? Poor executive function? Is she mad at you? This approach- what are the needs of the parents? What are the needs of the children? And how can everyone get their needs met?
  • We are not just focused on the behavior- but the needs of everyone involved.
  • It’s ok to admit that you get impacted when everyone is rushing around. Let’s work together so everyone can have a good morning.
  • You can keep practicing. The good news is that you are going to have another morning tomorrow to try again!
  • Friendship: As a parent, you are setting up lots of playdates for your child who has some trouble making friends. You connect with another parent from school and then set a playdate- but your child continually finds something wrong with every “friend” they play with- you are caught between a rock and a hard place now. You know that connection is really important but this is really tiring. Today your child wanted to leave early from a play date, once again, because this other child is annoying and won’t share all the good toys. What don’t you say? What do you say?
    • Adjust expectations! Shorten play date. Our expectation might be beyond what that child can do now.
    • Cut your losses. Model gracious leaving behavior. “Thank you for the snacks- we look forward to seeing you next time. Maybe you can come over to our house!”
    • Need more structure. Plan the play date. Assume that kids know how to play together- but sometimes need to learn. Developmental skill. First parallel play. Then together. Some kids figure it out on own. Others need help. Autism spectrum. Other kids as well- some delayed in social interactions. Trouble sharing. Plan activities- take kids to park. Splash in sprinkler. Flour and salt- play dough.
    • Sometimes we want to some “friend time” for us as adults. If you need to cut short, set up an adult play date! Curtail need for one on one during child playdate.
  • Siblings- fighting. Strategies? Don’t be dismissive of the gravity of the problem. Don’t say- “you shouldn’t be fighting like this! Your sibling is your best friend for life!”
    • For a kid, choosing which show they want to watch is important.
    • It’s like you sharing an officemate with someone who loves to play heavy metal which gives you a headache and you like blue grass- which puts your office mate into an inexplicable rage. Imagine boss comes in- why arguing which music to play? This is not important! You need to get perspective and get back to work!” Neither of you will appreciate this response. More helpful- treat problem with respect. “This is a tough problem- you both enjoy listening to music while you work but don’t like each other’s music. What can we do to solve this to have a pleasant work environment?”
    • Can do the same thing with kids. “This is a tough problem. Katie, you like scary movies. But scary movies give Kyle nightmares. Kyle, you like comedies. We have to see how we can make everyone happy. Will get paper to write them down.
    • At point physically fighting- we don’t want to send the message “might means right” as in, whoever muscles the remote gets to choose.
    • Who knows what they’ll come up with? Maybe they will find a slightly scary comedy they both enjoy! Or Katie chooses one day, Kyle chooses another. Maybe Katie watches with friends. Sometimes can’t be solved in an easy way.
    • Not permissive parenting. Put child in charge and giving control- not meaning putting them at the wheel and having them ram into an iceberg. We still have our parameters.
  • Divorce: Moving from house to house. Mentally stressful for everyone. Common issue. Hard for parent, who also might be suffering feelings of loss, might not be the most patient in those moments.
    • Key is to refrain from being dismissive of our child’s pain and loss.
    • Feelings need to be heard.
    • Best for child to accept the hard feelings.
    • Without acknowledging feelings: “Julie; Mommy and Daddy are going to live in separate houses from now on. We are going to take turns taking care of you.”
      • “I don’t want to!”
      • “This will be better! You don’t like it when Mommy and Daddy fight! Everyone will be so much happier this way, you’ll see!”
      • “No!”
      • “It’ll be fine- I’ll let you decorate your room any way you want!”
      • “No! I don’t want a new room! I want my old room!”
    • With acknowledging feelings.
      • “I don’t want to!”
      • “You really don’t like the idea of moving. You like this house!”
      • “Yeah.”
      • “It can make someone feel really sad to move.”
      • “Yeah. Why do we have to?”
      • “Awww, you wish we could all stay together in this house and never move. You don’t like us not living together. You wish it could go back to the way it was.”
    • Parent didn’t actually answer question of why we have to move because it was already explained. Question is an expression of feelings.
    • New scenario: Different rules in different households. Without acknowledging feelings:
      • “Daddy lets me eat candy before dinner!”
      • “Well, Daddy doesn’t seem to care if the teeth rot out of your head. And I bet he’s not willing to help with the dental bills either. You know what? I don’t want to hear what Daddy does or does not do- when you are in my house, you live by my rules. End of story!”
    • With acknowledging feelings:
      • “It’s hard to live in 2 separate houses with 2 separate sets of rules. It doesn’t seem fair to you!”
      • Give in fantasy what you can’t in reality. “It would be really good if candy was good for you and your mom always said; “don’t forget to eat your candy so your teeth stay strong!”
      • You don’t have to change your rules to fit your ex’s rules (might be why he’s your ex!), but you can make it easier for your child by acknowledging their feelings.
    • Saying you’re sorry.
      • Command “Say you’re sorry” doesn’t typically get the response you want. Sarcastic. Say it without remorse because they’ve learned that the get out of jail free card. Some refuse. Some laugh and run away- making us think we are raising a sociopath. (It’s not- it’s usually a sign of embarrassment or fear.)
      • The injured child- receiving the insincere apology doesn’t feel better. Leads to ongoing argument.
      • “Sorry!”
      • “You don’t mean it, say it like you mean it!”
      • “I did!”
      • “No you didn’t!”
      • Better way? “I’m sorry” for small infractions- like when you bump into someone at the grocery store. It’s a nice, polite, short hand way of saying that you didn’t mean any harm.
      • When you actually hurt someone- those words can be unsatisfying. We expect people to make amends. Or at very least- want to do better in the future. Otherwise insincere or a way of making the injured party feel that they no longer are supposed to be mad.
      • Not on the words- but on the feeling behind it. What to do when they hurt someone in the future. Give them a chance to redeem themselves. They step up. (1) Talk about the feelings of the injured party. (2) Age appropriate way to make amends.
      • Pushes kid: “Oh no! Your friend is crying. That rough play hurt his knee. Can you get him a Band aid?” Engage in helping to fix it.
      • Balloon popped: “Oh no! Camilla is upset because her balloon got popped. Can you find her something else to play with?”
      • “Bart’s lip got busted in the pile up! Can. You get him an ice pop to suck on?”
      • When they get used to it, you can ask your child to generate the answer. “Jack looks upset, what would help him feel better?”
      • Avoid the accusatory “you.” Helps kid apologizing when he doesn’t feel demonized or attacked.
      • Mikey jumped into the pool too close to Kyle and Kyle swallowed water. Acknowledging feelings “oh no! Kyle got hurt! That was not in the plan!” Mikey so relieved. “That was not in the plan!” “I’m sorry!”
      • Saying what happened- rather than whose fault it is. Removes it from them- puts it in the bubble. Then allows it to be solved.
    • Top Tip #1 JK: Mantra: When in doubt, acknowledge feelings. “Wow. You are so frustrated! You are so worried!” That can be enormously helpful.
    • Top Tip #2 JF: Methods matter. It’s not just the results in the moment. “If we raise children with insults, punishments and threats, then we can be sure we have also talk them to insult, punish and threaten (and to comply when threaten). If, on the other hand, we use methods that are respectful and kind then we have taught them much more than a series of isolated skills. We have taught them to treat others and themselves with respect and kindness.
    • You always get another chance!

Notable Quotables:

  • “Why is punishment not the answer even if it might work in the short run? Ultimately, punishment doesn’t solve the problem. (It doesn’t teach a kid how to get organized in the morning.) It’s actually a distraction to the problem because what punishment does is cause kids to think selfishly. Instead of focusing on the problem and how to fix it they are going to think about how unfair it is that you are taking away a privilege, stewing with resentment.- JF
  • When we punish, we are teaching our kids a lesson. We are teaching them that when we have a conflict, we look for ways to make the other person suffer.” -JF
  • “It behooves us to remember [when we are dealing with a problem with our kids], we are not just putting out a fire in the moment. We are modeling how we approach conflict in life. When we have a problem, we can work together to solve it in a way that satisfies everybody’s needs.” -JF
  • “The problem-solving approach asks, ‘what are the needs of the parents?’ and ‘what are the needs of the children?” and how can we address both people’s needs so that everyone gets their needs met?” ~JK
  • “It’s comforting to a kid to know that ‘my parent understands how badly I feel.’” ~JK
  • “It helps a kid to apologize when you don’t start off by demonizing them. You can assume good intentions even if you’re dubious.” JF
  • When you find yourself in a situation when everyone is mad or frustrated, if you don’t know what to do and you don’t know what to say, when in doubt, acknowledge feelings.” ~JK
  • “You don’t have to worry that your child will never misbehave again and you won’t get upset again so you’ll always get another chance!”

Resources:

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