At the beginning of quarantine, my kids seemed so happy for the extra time to be together. My oldest, in particular, who was in first grade and typically in school full-time, was so happy to be home all day and able to play with his brother and sister. It seemed like they were getting along so well and really making strides in forming stronger relationships with one another.
But then, not so much.
We’re now 100+ days into quarantine and social distancing. I spend 93.7% of my daily word allotment on phrases like, “Use your words,” and “Be an includer,” and “Keep your hands to yourself.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve said, “Just ask if you can have a turn when he’s done.”
Don’t even get me started on “It’s not snack time yet,” and “Please put your shoes by the back door,” and “I think you can probably find it if you look.”
That’s why, a few weeks ago, in a moment of quarantine-induced desperation, I found a book on Amazon and hit that “Buy with One Click” button: How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen. I think it was a cry for help.
I had heard this book (and its companion, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk) recommended so many times, and they’ve been on my mental TBR list for a while. And now, I know why. This turned out to be exactly the parenting book I needed in this season.
This book is easy to read, relatable, and practical. You can read a paragraph or two, then turn around and implement what you read immediately. It doesn’t ask you to make any sticker charts or draft a family mission statement, and it doesn’t actually ask you to change anything about your life except for one thing: the words you use when talking to your kids.
That’s no small feat, I know. But one of the most exhausting things about parenthood for me is always needing to have a “good” response ready to my kids’ constant questions, complaints, and requests. They throw 10 million big and small needs and wants at me, and it’s honestly the decision fatigue (okay, also the noise) that gets to me every day. The methods described in this book really helped take the pressure off me to have a new, creative response to everything my kid says. I don’t have to negotiate or have two logical, positive choices ready to go at all times.
My favorite tips and tricks from the book:
- Put it in writing. The authors recommend keeping a “wish list” for your kids, so whenever they want a new toy or anything else, you can say, “Great idea! Let’s put that on your wishlist.” I made a note on my phone for this, and it has stopped so much whining about wanting new or different toys.
- Talk about my own feelings. When I see my kids doing something I don’t want them to do, I talk about what *I’m* thinking and feeling instead of what they are doing. “Oh no, I hear loud voices! It sounds like a big problem.” “I’m worried you are going to hurt your brother.” “I feel sad when I hear you talk that way.”
- State the facts. Instead of lecturing or over-explaining (guilty!), just state the facts. “Wow! There are a lot of Cheerios on the floor. I keep stepping on them. They need to be swept up. Here’s the broom.”
Before reading How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen, I for sure would have told you that I cared about validating my kids’ feelings and that I worked hard to acknowledge how they were feeling. But just a few chapters in, I realized I wasn’t doing much of that at all. My go-to responses had become correction and lecturing. It turns out there was a gap between what I said I cared about and what my actual parenting looked like.
All my parenting problems have not magically gone away, but I feel better equipped to deal with them and less exhausted by how I have to respond every day. Best of all, that gap between what I say matters to me in parenting, and what I’m doing every day is shrinking.
And for that, I’ll give this book five stars.