How to Talk so Kids can Learn (by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish)

It’s probably twenty years since I first came across the writers Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. They are best known for their non-violent non-coercive parenting recommendations, as explained in the classic ‘How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk’, and ‘Siblings Without Rivalry’. Idealists, undoubtedly, but many of their ideas are very useful; on the whole I aimed to use them, or similar ways of raising my own children.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that another book by these authors, ‘How to talk so kids can learn’ is on the recommended reading list for trainee teachers in the UK. I picked it up to browse a few months ago, and dipped into it from time to time before reading it cover to cover. The format is very similar to that of ‘How to Talk so Kids will Listen...’, with some anecdotes, clear explanations, cartoons depicting the most important points, and then some real-life discussion and further suggestions.

While the subtitle of this book is ‘At home and in school’, and it’s undoubtedly of value to those with large families, and those involved in home education, child-minding, or running any kind of children's group, it is intended primarily for teachers in schools - and as such I imagine it would be a very valuable resource. In today’s climate, where many children lack respect and motivation, it’s vital for a teacher to be able to inspire a child to think and participate, rather than (as happened too often in the past) by sarcasm, yelling, punishments or even excluding. The underlying thesis of this book is that most children do want to learn, if only they can be guided in the right direction, and treated with respect, as valuable individuals.

Topics are covered loosely in separate chapters which include ‘The Pitfalls of Punishment’, ‘Solving Problems Together’, and ‘How to Free a Child’. The subject matter is very similar to that of the original classic, but the difference is that other children are involved. A teacher cannot spend half an hour sitting with an individual child who is misbehaving or violent, because there is a whole class to deal with. Moreover the teacher is not in the same role as a parent: he does not need to teach the child morals or ethics, or even raise him. The teacher’s job is to impart information, skills and learning techniques.

I’m not a school teacher myself - thank goodness! Some of the scenarios in this book left me feeling exhausted at the thought of what would be involved. But I found it extremely interesting nonetheless. I like the style, the writing pace is just right, the cartoons break up the text a little and put the message over in a slightly different way, and the advice all makes excellent sense.

I know from experience that non-coercive respectful parenting is a great way to raise children - and am pleased to learn that this can be the case in the classroom, if teachers take the time to put these principles into practice -while acknowledging that no single book can provide all the answers.

Very highly recommended.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews

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