Saturday, August 31, 2013

...and Listen so Kids will Talk

The house is too quiet.  It's nearly 2pm and the kids have gone "golfing" with Jeff.  It's the final Saturday of summer and I am truly sad about that.  

You see, I have just recently finished 2 books, How to Talk to Kids so Kids Can Learn and its predecessor How to Talk to Kids So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.  These books were both written by the team of authors Faber and Mazlish some 30-odd years ago. They've been updated, re-edited, translated, dog-eared in every library across the globe and reprinted to the tune of well over 4 million copies.  Both books are quite simply: brilliant.

Why am I so sad?  Because I didn't read these at the beginning of the summer. 

As it was, we made it through a largely unstructured 8 weeks in tact and still madly in love with each other, me and my family.   That's way more than I can say about summers past.  Score one for the home team.

But the books...they are so kindhearted and humane.  The premise of the first book as laid out on page 1 of Chapter 1 is "Helping Children Deal with Their Feelings."  Feelings. Not thoughts, not plans, not futures, not skills, not brains, not brothers.  Feelings.  Hm. Sensing a theme here.   The authors state in the afterword that this book is often recommended by many psychologists for adults when they enter therapy. 

I can see why.

In all honesty, I did start to read How to Talk to Kids so Kids will Listen for the first time 4 years ago. But our pediatrician recommended Love and Logic instead.  LL is good. But these books are far better in the ways that I find important: They actually work. 

The bottom of page one and the top of page two are the following phrases originally jotted down by the author during the first parenting workshop she ever took: 

"There is a direct connection between how kids (grown-ups) feel and how they behave."

"When kids (people) feel right, they behave right."

"How do we help them (us) feel right?"

"By accepting their (our) feelings!!" 

(End citation) 

The parentheses are all mine, by the way. 

The reason that this is so hard for many of us parents is that feelings are really inconvenient and they take time to work out.  Many times kids (adults) have no idea how the hell they're feeling and they will resist any attempt by anybody to "fix" them.   Since we're all in such a damn hurry all the time and have so many outside issues to attend to this can get extremely irritating and maddening.  

No worries. The good authors address these very issues beautifully without even a hint of judgment.  They offer their expertise in the most loving environment with a fundamental belief that all involved are doing the very best they can with the tools they have.  Yes, sometimes it's just a God-awful train-wreck and you can't see how some of the vignettes they present could end any other way than the kids as convicted felons.  But those of us who live in the glassier houses, well, I for one, just really appreciate this tone of "we're-all-in-this-together."  

I wasn't going to mention it because it freaks the ever-loving crap out of me, but I'm going to say something about the Atlanta thing and Antoinette Tuff.  I'm just going to say that Antoinette knew everything above. She referred to all the kids in that school as her babies. She told the perp how much she loved him.  She asked how he was feeling. She told him how she was feeling. She did not ask what he was thinking because, as she said, he was thinking about doing a whole lot of bad stuff that morning and she knew it.   

I guess what I mean to say with this is the same thing I mean to say with every post: Feelings are really important; the feelings of children are the most important of all.  

I say this because children grow up to be adults.

I want my kids growing up to be more like Antoinette Tuff and less like Michael Brandon Hill.  

Special thanks to Antoinette Tuff, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.  By practicing the compassionate principles in these books, they have demonstrated that true empathy has fierce and godlike potency for resolving what ails us.

The entire interview is worth the look but this is a short excerpt.  May we all go forth this school year and beyond with this same love, grace and peace.  Thanks be to God.