How to Talk so Kids Will Listen


The techniques introduced in this book are not exact solutions and science but rather an art and only a pointer. You cannot just keep going around repeating things like You are furious! or That sounds rough! and hope no tantrums or crisis will happen.

Helping Children Deal with Their Feelings

One of the biggest and the most common mistakes is to deny (or refuse) children’s feelings. Here are some common examples of denying feelings of a child:

Instead of denying the feelings, it usually helps a lot to help the children with their feelings. To help with their feelings..

  1. Listen with full attention.
  2. Acknowledge their feelings with expressions such as: I see.., or I understand...
  3. Name the feeling, such as That is frustrating! or This sounds so disappointing..
  4. Try to fulfill their wishes, either in fantasy or at least making a note to be fulfilled when it is possible in the future.

Name the Feeling

Imagine a kid who needs to get some shots regularly for a while, here is a list of statements that will not be very helpful:

Try to sympathise with the kid, show them you understand:

What is much more important than following this receipe is our attitude. It takes a lot of concentration and requires a lot of focus to listen with full attention and naming the feeling. Here are some examples:

Child Struggling Naming the Feeling
The bus driver yelled at me and everybody laughed. That must be embarrassing.
I would like to punch that Michael in the nose! Wow, you sound mad! You sound really mad at Michael!
Janey is moving away and she is my best friend. Distance is rough, sounds like you are going to miss her.

Hold the Advise

Try not to make things better immediatly. Do not respond with Then lie down and rest to a kid saying you I am tired. Try accepting the feeling, letting the kid finding a solution.

Mistakes to Avoid

Do not exaggerate it.
There is no reason to answer a kid saying It seems like you want to go to your Michael's when he says Dad, can I go to Michael's?. Reflecting the feelings is a helpful way for a child to discover what they are going through, not a recepie to follow blindly.
Do not ask how they feel.
Since they are already struggling with a situation, this will only add yet another task on their shoulders. It is totally normal they might not know how they feel, this is why you listen and name the feeling for them.
Put some effort in.
Do not simply say I agree with you or I understand you. Also, do not simply repeat what they say. There is no point saying Seems like you do not like David when a kid approaches you telling I do not like David. You must put some effort in, at least put yourself in the child's shoes and tell how you would have felt.
Accepting feelings does not mean accepting behaviour.
Take away the butter from their hands as you say I can see that you are having fun making designs in the butter with your fork, but butter is not for playing with, that is what play-doh is for.

Things to Try


Child Denying the Feeling Acknowledging the Feeling
I don't like the new baby. This cannot be true, you are just saying that! Sounds like sometimes the baby annoys you, are you sure it is not just that? You seem to play with him and have a lot of fun too!
I had a dumb birthday party. It was one of the best parties I have seen ever! I never even had a party for myself! You were not fully satisfied with your birthday party.. Were there things you wished they existed?
I am not wearing these braces anymore! I do not care what the dentist says! You are whether you like it or not, and you will care what the dentist says. They sure seem uncomfortable. Are they hurting you?
I am so mad! Just because I was two minutes late, the teacher kicked me off the team. Rules are rules! Get used to not being late! I know I would have been very disappointed if I was kicked out off the team. I wonder if there would be a way back in.