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Friday Flips #75: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk

When I started this Friday Flips series, I intended to write about not just children’s books, but also books suitable for adults, since I enjoy reading too. Somehow, that hasn’t happened yet, but this post is sort of counted, since it’s a parenting book. I got this book in January, and although I’ve finished reading it already, I’m going through it again to make my own notes. Like studying for an exam, just that the exam happens without any warning, and can occur repeatedly. Best to be really well prepared, right?

I’m far from being the perfect parent, and I admit that I lose my temper very easily, especially when I’m sleep-deprived, and not in the mood to explain for the n-th time why for example, he has to wear shoes instead of sandals to school. C recently read How Toddlers Thrive, and had been trying to convince me to read it as well, as he says it gave him numerous insights as to why N was behaving like that. A Dayre friend however, said she preferred this book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, since it provides concrete examples on what to say, rather than just give you the theory behind why the child is behaving in a certain way.

I’ve been recording some of my experiences on Dayre, and figured I should collate them into a post, so here it is.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk

Some background information: N gets angry when he doesn’t get his own way, and tends to shout, scream, stomp his feet, pull my clothes/arm/leg, and/or even hit/kick/scratch me. Every time he does any of these things, I get really mad, and shout at him, before punishing him, usually by sending him to the corner. I’ve noticed that he responds with anger, and has been shouting more these days whenever he doesn’t get his way. I couldn’t imagine this going on forever, and needed a way to help him manage his emotions better, so I bought the book on my Kindle, despite being a little sceptical about its effectiveness. I’ve been trying to apply what I’ve read so far, and the main thing to note is that we shouldn’t get angry, but it’s really tough, especially when he’s screaming and hurting me.

Incident One

N usually gets to watch videos in the car, on the way to and from school. He knows that if he misbehaves, I won’t let him watch anything, so he’s usually quite good unless he’s tired, which he was that day. He got upset when we reached home, and screamed when I switched the video off. He scratched and hit me on the way to the lift, then when we got home, he kicked and hit me a few times.

I wanted to smack him and put him in timeout forever, but I decided to try what the book suggested.

He wanted me to give him the new Paw Patrol book, but I said he could have it after his bath, which he refused to accept.

Me: I see a dirty boy. (Describe what you see/the problem.) N: *silence* Me: Children who come home from school have germs. (Give information.) N: Just wash hands la. Me: Your clothes and feet are dirty. N: *silence* Me: I feel hurt when you hit me. I am so sad. (Talk about your feelings.) N: *silence* Me: Take off your socks. N: *takes off socks but throws them onto the floor*

Me: Take off your clothes. N: *takes off shorts and underwear* Me: Take off your shirt. N: *screaming* I can’t take it off by myself! Me: It’s hard to do it by yourself. N: *in a normal voice* Can you help me? Me: Sure!

After I helped him, he looked at me and said, “I’m so sorry I shouted at you and hit you just now.”


Me: I’m so glad you apologised. Thank you. N: I want to bathe now. Me: Okay. Let’s go.


Notes on Incident One This happened when I first started reading the book, so I used three of the five techniques which are supposed to engage cooperation. I’ve put those techniques in brackets the first time I used a new technique, so hopefully that gives you an idea of what the technique means.

PS. I ended up “describing the situation” a lot that day, because I couldn’t remember the other tips, and it almost drove C nuts. “Wah this is really irritating, it’s like having a newscaster around, describing every single thing. Can you do this when I’m not around?” Hahaha.


Incident Two

N was swinging his pillow around before taking his nap. Initially, he was doing it for fun, then when he almost hit me and I looked at him disapprovingly, he started trying to actually hit me with it. The old me would have snatched the pillow from him, and scolded him loudly. But I decided to stay calm, and tried talking about how I felt.

Me: I feel hurt that N hit me. N: *looks at me and hits me again* Me: I’m so sad that N wants to hurt me. N: *still silent, but stops swinging his pillow around* Me: I feel very hurt. It wasn’t a hard hit, but I cannot believe my son would want to hit me. N: *walks over and places the pillow gently in my arms* Me: I’m still sad. N: I’m sorry, mummy. I’m sorry for hitting you. Me: Are you going to do it again? N: No. Me: Thank you. *we hug* N: I love you, mummy.


Notes on Incident Two I basically used the “talking about my feelings” technique throughout this incident, and some may feel that it’s like emotional blackmail, but I beg to differ. As obvious as it may be to us adults, young children may not be as aware of how their actions affect others, and need to be told.


Incident Three

N takes forever to wake up in the mornings and to get ready for school. He’s super cranky, and I feel that it’s mainly because he doesn’t get enough sleep. He obviously doesn’t think so, even though when I try to wake him up, he says he’s still sleepy. Anyway, according to the book, we should brainstorm for ideas, and write them down together. Accept ALL ideas first, before working through the list again to delete solutions that both of us don’t think will work.

Our final list

Our initial list included suggestions from C, and had things like “Peepee on N”, “Kick N”, and “Tickle N”. N asked for those to be removed because they weren’t good suggestions. To be fair, he also removed some of his own suggestions, like “Shout loudly”, and “Clap loudly”, after I told him that that would disturb the babies. He also vetoed my suggestion to “drag N off the mattress” because, as he said, “that’s too painful”.

So we agreed to try some of the items on this list the next day, and see if they will help him get out of bed faster.

We couldn’t do “sleep earlier at night” that night because he had tennis till 10pm with C. I really don’t like them going for tennis so late, but it’s the only slot available every week, and a good way for both of them to bond while exercising. N will usually be tired enough to sleep quickly after they come back, so we don’t have to nag at him to go to bed. Before he left, he took out a set of pyjamas on his own, so that he would be able to bathe and get dressed faster after tennis. I was impressed by that, and praised him for it, which made him happy, I think.

Notes on Incident Three I don’t consider this a very successful incident, as until today, N still takes ages to get ready for school in the mornings. It’s obvious that he needs more sleep, so we are slowly working towards an earlier bedtime for him. It’s tough because I have to settle the babies first, and he likes to have some alone time with both C and I before he goes to bed.


Incident Four

C went on a long business trip, and N was upset that he couldn’t tag along. He loves going on holiday (who doesn’t?) and couldn’t understand why Daddy was going away without him. The night that C left, N started tearing immediately after C stepped out of the house, and told me that he wanted to go too. No amount of reasoning on my part worked, and I decided to try making a list with him.

Our list

Somehow, N was able to calm down while we were making the list, and when we were done, he reminded me to show it to Daddy, and was okay when I suggested reading a bedtime story. Crisis averted!

Notes on Incident Four The method used here is similar to the previous one, and I was amazed that something so simple as making a list could work. The book recommended writing it down on paper, to let him see how “important” his ideas were, but I made the list with him on my phone, and he was fine with it.


Incident Five

N has been attending Little Kickers sessions for a while now, and was thoroughly enjoying them when he fell and bumped his head during a match. He ran straight to me and cried loudly, then refused to continue playing after that. I thought it was a one-off incident, but when it was time for his next session the following week, he refused to go. I asked if it was because he was afraid of getting hurt again, but he was too proud to admit it, and insisted that it was because it was “boring”.

I quickly made a list with him while we were having our lunch, and this was what he came up with.

His List

I agreed to it, and he happily got changed to go for his soccer session.

Notes on Incident Five This sort of backfired on me, as he insisted on sitting out of the match for the next two classes as well. It didn’t help that the same boy who bumped into him the first time did it again before the session even started, and it took me ages to persuade N to stay for the class. In the end, what worked was that his classmate from school came for a trial class the following week, and N was much happier. C also threatened to stop all his Little Kickers, tennis, and swimming classes, and because N genuinely enjoys all of those, he plucked up the courage to play the match, although he started off as the goalie so that he could avoid being bumped. Yes I know we aren’t supposed to threaten, so I need to go through the book again to look for other techniques that can work. I still have lots to learn for sure!


Incident Six

One thing I learnt from the book is to focus on what N manages to do, rather than what he can’t. He still struggles to read many Chinese words, and has been struggling over the past few days to remember how to read “就”.

Just now, he remembered, although he forgot some of the other words. Instead of focusing on those he forgot, I praised him for remembering how to read “就”. He was so pleased that he voluntarily read the page again, and said, “I can read 就!”


Notes on Incident Six This one is pretty obvious: praise the child, but not excessively. Everyone likes to be praised, but be careful not to overdo it, so that your child doesn’t get an inflated ego, or worse still, expect to be praised all the time for every single thing.


Honestly, I couldn’t quite decide if I should share my experiences, because it’s like airing my dirty laundry in public, but I decided that if my sharing can help other parents realise that they’re not alone, and that they can try reading this book to learn about the techniques to improve their relationships with their children, then I should swallow my pride and admit that we have bad days. Good for you if your kids are angels, but I know that my N isn’t, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I also shared a list of 26 phrases to help calm an angry child on my blog’s Facebook page yesterday, but in case you missed it, you can read the article HERE.

The ‘How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk’ book has many other tips and examples that are useful, so do get your own copy and read it, so that you can try out whichever methods work best for you and your child(ren).

Happy reading and parenting!

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