In 1980, Rawson & Wade published How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. The authors advocated an approach called humanistic parenting, which advises compassionately guiding a child in his actions rather than influencing him with rewards and punishment.
More than three million copies later, according to current publisher Scribner, Faber’s daughter, Joanna, and coauthor Julie King have written How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen (Jan.), a guide to living with children ages two to seven. What accounts for the continued popularity of Faber and Mazlish’s methods amid continually shifting parenting trends? Joanna Faber, a parenting and education expert who leads humanistic workshops for families, explains.
Why is your mother’s parenting approach still relevant today?
One of things that always amazes me is how long information [about humanistic parenting] has been around. And yet, all these years later, people are still struggling with the mechanics of how to get the kids into the tub and out of the tub and into PJs and into bed, how to get them not to kick the dog or shove the little sister. We still have the challenge of getting through a day without it feeling like a series of conflicts that wear you down.
What do you think your book offers a contemporary readership?
Our book has a very nuts-and-bolts interpretation of [my mother’s] ideas and principles, and it plops them right down into the middle of the 21st-century family home and says, okay, what do you do when your kid insists on throwing sand in the playground? It’s not just a parenting treatise. We have stories from our own families, and groups we’ve led, and classrooms where teachers have resolved conflicts with humor and engagement, without punishments, threats, or bribes.
Why haven’t parenting books moved beyond the evergreen topics?
Why aren’t they common sense? They should be; they should be in our DNA. But here’s a trend you don’t need me to tell you about: There are so many families now where both parents are working full time, and the kids are scheduled up to their necks. The time pressures are enormous, and there’s more stress than ever. Parents are also dealing with all the electronics, and schools where young children are expected to do an hour of homework or more. The stresses now are different.
Do these sorts of changes affect fundamental parenting advice?
Nonupdated books are a distraction. People have commented on things in my mom’s book, which assumes Mom is home and Dad is off to work. That’s not our world anymore. I can’t even tell parents, “Let your kids rewind.” We don’t rewind now; tapes are outdated technology. In another 20 years, [our book’s] stories will be old and useless, and we’ll have to update them again.