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Joanna Faber pens new ‘How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen’ book

Feb. 6, 2017 


Joanna Faber and childhood friend Julie King were "guinea pigs" for Faber’s mother’s parenting techniques when they were growing up in Roslyn Heights — Adele Faber is the author of the iconic parenting book "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk," which has sold more than 3 million copies in 30 countries since its initial publication in 1980.

Now Joanna Faber and King have penned their own parenting book with new stories and strategies expanding on Adele Faber’s methods and applying them specifically to younger children, called "How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life With Children Ages 2-7" (Scribner, $26).

"I grew up in a family where, if we had a conflict, instead of punishment, our parents listened to our feelings and they expressed their feelings and we worked at solutions to the problems," says Joanna Faber, now 56 and with three adult children of her own. "I grew up soaked in that kind of language, which is why I thought having children would be a snap." She laughs. "But it wasn’t. It was so hard.

"There’s nothing like the relentlessness of dealing with young children 24 hours a day. I can’t say, ‘Oh, I’m so good at this, this is so easy,’ but what I can say is, ‘I used these skills every day, all the time, and they help me get through the day.’ "

CHAPTERS BY CHALLENGES

Faber’s and King’s mothers met when the girls were in strollers in the 1960s, and the two moms became fast friends. They would try out Faber’s developing theories on their kids. "She and I were the guinea pigs for this approach in our early lives," Julie King, also 56, says of herself and Joanna. The younger Faber and King also became friends and stayed friends throughout the decades. The two have been carrying on Adele Faber’s work through workshops and more in the Hudson Valley area of New York (Faber) and San Francisco (King), where they each now live. The elder Faber, now 89 and still living in Roslyn Heights, wrote the introduction to the new book, published this month; she says she’s "ecstatic" and "deeply satisfied" that her daughter is continuing her work.

The younger Faber and King say they noticed that most people who take their workshops are people with young schoolchildren and toddlers. So they decided to focus a volume on those challenges, such as getting out in the morning, hitting or grocery shopping.

They’ve also included a chapter to address children who are "wired differently" — they have sensory processing issues or are on the autism spectrum. One of King’s children has Asperger syndrome.

"We arranged the book by common challenges," Faber says. "You can go right to what beleaguers you at that moment and just grab a treasure trove of stories. You don’t have to read it in order."

WHAT TO SAY?

Parents often grasp the principle of empathy that dominates the women’s work. But they want to know how to apply those theories in the trenches or in the midst of a struggle, Faber and King say. "But what would you actually say?" King says they ask.

Here are three examples of the kind of advice in Faber and King’s new book, addressing the struggle of getting dressed in the morning:

"Kids wriggle, kids kick," Faber says. "One time my little 2 1/2- year-old was sitting in a chair … he was wriggling so much he hit his head on a chair and had to go to the emergency room to get stitches." How could she have handled it better? "The No. 1 go-to method for little kids is to be playful," Faber says. "If you make an inanimate object talk, you’re golden." She suggests, for instance, taking a shoe and acting like a ventriloquist. "Say, ‘I feel so empty. Why won’t somebody stick a foot in me?’ "The child will likely laugh and join in the game.

"Battling to get a coat on? What a miserable way to start the day," Faber says, for both parent and child. Instead, put the child in charge, she says. Buy a big working thermometer, and tape little pictures of each type of garment — coat, sweatshirt, gloves, etc. — next to the appropriate temperature range. Then ask the child each morning: "Can you go look at the thermometer and tell us what we have to wear this morning?"

"It completely flips the dynamic," Faber says.

Consider letting the child pick his clothes at night for the next day — and let him sleep in them. When he gets up, he’s ready to go.

"I feel like the whole strength of the book is all these examples," Faber says. Parents might say, "Oh, that would work for us."

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McClatchy-Tribune Information Services