Author gives tips on 'How to Talk,' listen to children

May 07, 1993|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,Staff Writer

By allowing children to air hostility, fear and pain, we allow them to become emotionally healthy adults who pass their well-being to their children, Adele Faber says.

Since the mid-1970s, in books, workshops and video series, Mrs. Faber and Elaine Mazlish, a co-author, have taught parents how to listen to their children and allow them to express their feelings honestly.

Sound parenting does not come naturally, Mrs. Faber says. "Everything I teach is so against the mainstream of the culture," she says by phone from her New York home. "The mainstream is put-downs, sarcasm, ordering and lecturing, warning and threatening, and naming, shaming and blaming."

Tonight, at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, the Maryland Committee for Children presents "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk," a lecture by Mrs. Faber, derived from her book of the same title.

In honor of Maryland Week of the Working Parent, Mrs. Faber will also lead a parenting-skills workshop tomorrow morning.

Mrs. Faber and Mrs. Mazlish met while studying with the late child psychologist Haim Ginott. Together, they devised a system of skills based on his work and interviews with hundreds of parents and grown children.

In "How to Talk," as well as in "Siblings Without Rivalry," "Liberated Parents/Liberated Children" and "Between Brothers and Sisters" -- published around the world in a dozen languages -- the co-authors reconfigure ways parents can cope with daily issues, from mediating between two children arguing over a toy to establishing discipline and domestic order.

As well as discussing key issues and leading readers through written exercises and role playing, the authors provide amusing cartoons that distinguish between unhealthy, knee-jerk responses to dilemmas and healthy, liberating responses.

One cartoon, for instance, explains how to gently and creatively reinforce house rules with no assignment of blame or guilt: Instead of whining, "Who drank milk and left the bottle standing out?" why not try something like, "Kids, milk turns sour when it isn't refrigerated."

Mrs. Faber, the mother of three grown children, finds it very gratifying when she receives a phone call from a gushing South African mother, or learns that a Polish priest starts a publishing company solely to print her works, or a workshop participant reaches a milestone.

Consider the man in a workshop on accepting children's feelings who learned to react differently when his son dissolved in tears after falling.

Instead of rebuffing him, with "Don't cry," the father said, " 'A fall like that could really hurt, let me see your knee,' " Mrs. Faber recounts.

"The boy just climbed on to his lap and lay there and looked up at his father and just didn't move, just sat there for the longest time. He didn't go to his mother," Mrs. Faber says.

At the workshop, the father modestly dismissed this pivotal event as "nothing."

Not true, Mrs. Faber told him. "To me, it was something. A very big thing. At that moment, [he taught his son] that men can nurture and men can be nurtured. What a powerful message [to give a] little boy."

Mrs. Faber is especially challenged by the fathers who attend her workshops but sit tentatively in the back row.

"It thrills me when dads come, because they have a much longer road to travel in order to learn these skills," she says. "When they were boys, their feelings were denied. Why wouldn't they deny anyone else's feelings?"

Followers of Mrs. Faber and Mrs. Mazlish's wisdom know that their problem-solving tactics also unlock a sense of creativity and fun, often for

gotten in heated moments with children. Whimsy, humor and imagination are an important part of their philosophy, Mrs. Faber says. "The skill I love the best is giving in fantasy what you can't have in reality. It's so delicious."

For example, you're riding in a hot car, and a child is thirsty, and he wants a drink now!

Instead of saying, "Honey, there's nothing to drink," how about, "Oh, I hear how thirsty you are," Mrs. Faber suggests. "I wish we hTC had a great big thermos full of lemonade right now," she continues, "a bathtub of juice, an orange tree in the car!

"Look at how the mood has changed [and] the relationship," Mrs. Faber says.

She promises: Tonight's lecture and tomorrow's workshop will be just as fun.

ADELE FABER

What: Lecture and workshop.

When: Lecture, 8 tonight; workshop, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. tomorrow.

Where: LeClerc Auditorium, College of Notre Dame of Maryland, 4701 N. Charles St.

Admission: Lecture tickets are $12 for non-members and $10 for Maryland Committee for Children (MCC) members. Tickets available at the door.

The cost for both the lecture and the workshop is $30 for non-members and $25 for MCC members.

Call: (410) 752-7588.

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