When Winston Churchill submitted a book on raising children to a publisher, he was asked his credentials for writing it. "The best," he is reported to have replied; "I am a former child."
A former child myself, I was attracted to "How to Talk . . . ." As one might guess, it is concerned with effective communication between parents and children , which, the authors say, will bring about more cooperation from children than all the yelling and pleading in the world. The book contains an impressive numbers of anecdotes -- from parents who have attended workshops run by the authors and used the techniques taught -- to illustrate their points.
The opening sets the book's tond: "I was a wonderful parent before I had children. I was an expert on why everyone else was having problems with theirs. Then I had three of my own."
While the authors admit being influenced by a noted child psychologist, Dr. Haim Ginott, they essentially talk parent to parent, dealing practically with everyday situations. In addition to basic text and workbooklike material (how would one respond to certain situations, etc.), there are questions and answers and parents' stories. There are even cartoons illustrating various points.
The book deals with such things as helping children deal with their feelings, alternatives to punishment, praise, and even freeing chilren from playing roles caused by labeling.
Some "wrong" ways of dealing with situations are blatant. Others aren't. Take praise, for instance: According to the authors, if after winning a hard race a youngster is told by a proud father, "I knew you could do it all along," the father is essentially giving credit to his own omniscience, rather than his son's achievement. More helpful praise, they suggest might be, "That represents months of practice and a lot of determination!"
The thread running through the book is the need to understand and accept children's feelings -- reaching a child where he or she is at the moment, then going on from there. the following argument, for instance, can be avoided by a slight change in response:
Child: Mommy I'm tired.
Me: You couldn't be tired. You just napped.
Child: (louder) But I'm tired.
Me: You're not tired. You're just a little sleepy. Let's get dressed.
Child: (wailing) No, I'm tired!
By realizing that the child may indeed not be feeling wide awake, and responding with something like, "So you're still feeling tired -- even though you've just rapped . . . ." you've let the child know you understand how he or she is feeling, and move onto doing what needs to be done.
Simply reading a book won't make someone a good parent. But some books can help with the parenting process. This is one of them. It points out ways to be more supportive and encouraging -- to help parents better express the sense of love that inspires parenting without getting tangled up in words. It also teaches them to expect their children to respond.
To quote one parent who noticed her once not-so-cooperative son starting to take the initiative for doing any jobs around the house after she began expressing her pride for those times when he did so: "It seems the more I look for the best in him, the easier it is for him to be better."