They never listen is the biggest complaint I hear from every parent friend I know but with some clever tools we can tackle this problem and feel heard ( is it that they don’t listen or that we do not feel heard that is the biggest issue) today I interview Joanna Faber author of How To Talk So LITTLE Kids Will Listen to get some tips.

Hi Joanna, Welcome to No Mum Is An Island. I am a great believer that no mum or dad should have to do everything themselves, we can’t possibly know it all, and we need all the support we can get, there is a wealth of information out there to help us upgrade our parenting experience, to make our lives easier and this website is a hub for just that! You have upgraded your life by finding a way to get little kids to listen and sharing that invaluable information with others. 

Your mother wrote this best selling parenting book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. Why did you write How To Talk So LITTLE Kids Will Listen? How is it different from your mother’s book?

We wrote this book for all the folks out there who said some version of, “I love this How To Talk approach to raising children, but…what do I do when my two-and-a-half year old is screaming because we won’t let him eat the dog food… or climb the refrigerator shelves…or take his battery operated fire truck into the bath with him…”

Little kids really do inhabit their own special realm. They’re full of big ideas and big emotions, but they haven’t quite figured out how the world works yet. It takes a special mix of patience, firmness and whimsy to survive life with toddlers. Julie and I thought it might be a great idea to write a book that showed how adults can use this wonderful “How To Talk approach” in very specific scenarios that are common to younger children. We arranged the book according to typical challenges such as eating, sleeping, sibling rivalry and so forth. We used 100% real stories from parents in our workshops and from our own lives as parents and teachers to illustrate the skills. So the book is not academic and preachy. It reflects the wackiness of actual life with young children.

We also included a chapter on children with autism and sensory issues. Parents of these kids often don’t see themselves represented in the typical child rearing books. So we gathered all our stories from parents with non-neurotypical children and showed how they can adapt these skills to the developmental needs of their particular child.

OK so why don’t kids listen to their parents? Shouldn’t we have evolved over the last few thousand years to have cooperative kids?

Hmmm, that would be nice! The problem is that we adults are intensely interested in a whole bunch of things that kids couldn’t care less about. For example, we’re obsessed with time. When’s the last time you said, “We’re going to be late!” ? (Probably this morning.) Kids don’t care about time. They care about what they’re doing right now, and they don’t like being rushed. We adults are always fretting about cleanliness – “You have to wash your hands, take a bath, shampoo your hair…” Most kids would be perfectly content to go through life with sticky fingers, grimy knees, smelly feet and hair clumped up with oatmeal and yogurt. We want them to put away their toys and keep their room tidy. They’d like to sleep with their trucks and their crayons in bed with them. And so forth. You get the idea. We have radically different agendas.

So how are we supposed to get our kids to cooperate?

Kids get ordered around a lot during the day. There are so many things we have to get them to do. And of course nobody likes the feeling of being ordered around. Not kids and not adults. It makes us feel defiant. Orders create automatic resistance, so when we rap out a command we are working against our own interests.

Just to give you a simple example, one of our suggestions is to substitute a choice for a command or a threat.

Instead of “Get your pajamas on now, or no bedtime story for you!”

We might say, “Do you want to put your pajamas on the regular way…. or inside out?” Or, “Do you want to put them on with your eyes open, or do you want to try to do it with your eyes closed?”

It sounds like you’re suggesting that parents have to be kind of silly when they want their children to do things…

You may notice that there is a spirit of whimsy here. A lot of the suggestions in our book have a playful element. Kids respond so well to playfulness, it can be almost magical. A miserable conflict can be transformed into a joyful activity. I’ll give you one example: I had a mom in my workshop who reported having bitter battles with her son over cleaning up the blocks. She had threatened to throw them away multiple times, with no apparent effect. She had forced him to clean them up by clamping his hand over each individual block, forcing his hand into the block bag, and then prying his fingers off the block. You can probably imagine just how unpleasant that whole ordeal was!

After our workshop session on alternatives to orders and threats, she decided that the block bag would talk in a gruff “blockish” voice. “I hungry! FEED ME BLOCKS!” Suddenly her child was racing around the room to gather up tasty blocks.. And his older sibling came to help as well. The block bag was stuffed with blocks, and made many comments about the different flavors and the state of its digestive tract. A new cleanup routine was born.

Of course we aren’t always in the mood for playfulness, but when we can muster up the energy, it’s a powerful tool!

Some parents feel children should learn to obey their parents without their parents always having to make up fun and games what can you tell them?

It’s more than just fun and games. We do share many of the same goals as more traditional parenting books. We want our children to be well behaved. But we find ways to make children FEEL cooperative, so the family can feel more joyful and connected, instead of using more forceful ways that make children feel angry and defiant and parents feel frustrated. Ultimately we value the spirit of cooperation and caring, over obedience that relies on force. We want our children to be cooperative even when they are bigger than us. And by using the tools in this book, including problem-solving and identifying and acknowledging feelings, we are also modeling for our children caring and respectful ways to solve conflicts with other people in their lives.

You can buy the book here, learn more at and you can download the app for iphone here for android here

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