How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, By Farber/Mazlish (Book Review Pedcast)

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How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk


Doc Smo here, your pedcast host. Thanks for joining me today. I have another book review for you today that I think you will find interesting. In fact, I know you will find it interesting.  It is actually an older book titled, “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen”, by Adele Farber and Elaine Mazlish. I have seen it on lists of “must read” parenting books and frankly, after my read, I agree with that assessment. Let’s go under the hood and break down some of this book’s main points, shall we?

I think the main reason this book is important is because it deals with a unique but important topic. Most parenting books deal with effective limit setting, best practices with regards to nutrition, sleep, or education, but this one… simply, how to talk to your children so they will hear you and understand that you care about their feelings– a refreshingly simple concept.


The authors enlighten their readers to the realization that their children’s feelings are very important and need to be listened to, recognized, and understood. The old saw that “Children should be seen but not heard” is the antithesis of  good parenting according to Ms. Farber and Ms. Mazlish.


If I were to summarize the most important points of this book, here would be the list:


-For parents, the listening part of a conversation with your child is more important than the talking part.

Acknowledgement of your child’s feelings is one of the most important tools in a your parenting toolbox.

Engaging Cooperation from your child is another major technique or tool, enlisted by creating an emotional climate of cooperation from your child.

-I thought the authors did a nice job of discussing various Negative parenting styles. These are caricatures of poor parenting like belittlement, begging, setting a poor example etc.

-The author contends that punishment doesn’t work since it often provokes an urge for revenge in your child. What you want instead is a child who wants to cooperate with their parents, not one that feels resentment and a need to get revenge. The authors feel that parents need to focus on the Natural consequences of their children’s decisions rather than a need to punish them.

-And finally, the authors encourage their readers to create autonomy and self-reliance in their children as much as possible, rather than dependency. Dependency will eventually breed resentment.



I have to tell you, I thought this was a great book, as relevant today as it was in 1980 when it was originally written. It is readable, thought provoking, and fun to read. It even has cartoons to illustrate points. What’s not to love? There are exercises and role-play for parents to try out that I found very interesting. The authors even bring their real life experience from their various workshops where they teach these skills to parents. For me, this gave the book a real authenticity.

I think the big contribution this book offers is that it offers to change the tone of communication with children. The authors teach parents how to treat their children with respect and sensitivity. It even made me rethink some of my communication styles with children I treat. I realized that I need to acknowledge my patient’s feelings more than I do. The children that I treat are often in uncomfortable situations and I think there is room for more sensitivity to that fact on my part.

So, to summarize the Farber/Mazlish formula of communication; Parents who accept and acknowledge their child’s feelings are likely to have a child who will accept their parent’s limit setting rules.

Another Farber/Mazlish pearl; the more you push a child’s feelings away, the more the child can get stuck in those feelings and not mature emotionally.

If you have children of any age, I encourage you to buy and read this book. I think you will be glad you did.

I am giving it 4.75 Doc Smo stars on a 1-5 scale…I can see why it is considered a classic in parenting literature. If you haven’t read it, do!


As always, thanks for joining me. Take a little time and explore the hundreds of posts on my website, If you subscribe, and listen regularly, I promise that you will be the best informed parent in the room. Until next time.