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Independent Research

How To Talk So kids Will Listen and our Siblings Without Rivalry workshops have been used successfully by literally tens of thousands of parent and teacher groups for over two decades. Some of you who are dependent on outside funding may be finding that grants are becoming increasingly difficult to come by. Since funding from any source often requires evidence of effective use of resources, many of our leaders have asked us to demonstrate to others what they have already learned from their own experiences.

The following three studies may be of help:


In 1990 the Wisconsin Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse joined forces with the North District Family Living Agents of the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension to embark on a three-year commitment to parent education. After careful consideration they chose How to Talk So Kids Will Listen as their training program.

Some of the reasons stated for this selection were:

  • The facilitator does not need formal mental health training;
  • The kit is flexible and adaptable to many settings and formats;
  • Although it is designed for groups of six to twelve, it works successfully with both smaller and larger groups;
  • It is effective with different learning styles and reading abilities. Those who can't read can learn by listening;
  • It's funny, entertaining and touching. Not preachy or clinical.

Thus far, Family Living Agents, with the help of a federal grant, have used the How To Talk So Kids Will Listen program to train more than 100 volunteers to facilitate parent support groups in thirteen counties. More than 6900 parents have been reached to date.

The program has received consistently high evaluations by participating parents, group leaders, and home economists both in Wisconsin and nationally.

Colorado and North Dakota

In a recent study of five different family education programs, How To Talk So Kids Will Listen had the highest percentage (88%) of respondents reporting one to three positive behavioral changes two to five months after the last session.

Although all of the programs tested resulted in positive behavioral changes, the only program that provided higher-level positive family functioning improvements was the How To Talk So Kids Will LIsten program. Self-esteem, family coping and qulity of life levels all rose, while stress and depression levels fell. When participants were asked, "Do you want your tax dollars to continue to support this type of effort?", 97% of respondents said yes to supporting How To Talk So Kids Will Listen.™

The research, by Robert J. Fetsch and Deb Gebeke, was reported in an article, "Colorado and North Dakota Strengthening Marriage and Family Programs Increase Positive Family Functioning Levels" and was published in the Journal of Extension, Vol. 33, No. 1, Feb. 1995.

University of Washington

The following is an excerpt from an article written in 1996 for the Faber/Mazlish Forum, Issue No.2, by Dr. John Gottman, Executive Director of the Family Relationship Institute of the University of Washington.

At the University of Washington we have recently found scientific evidence that supports the work that Dr. Haim Ginott and Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish have been doing with families. We have been conducting studies with young families who have a preschool child, studying them as the child develops. We wanted to chart the emotional life of these families to see what, if anything, parents do to raise emotionally healthy children.

Two Types of Families

Here's what we discovered. We found there are essentially two types of families. One type we call "emotion dismissing." These parents minimize the role of sadness, fear, and anger in their own personal lives and therefore view these emotions as toxic in their children. They will do anything they can to change their children's negative feelings quickly. They'll make light of the feelings, urge the children not to "dwell" upon them, attempt to distract the unhappy youngster, even try to tickle him into a better mood.

The other type of family we call "emotion coaching." These parents respond to their children's emotions very much like what Faber & Mazlish recommend in their books. Instead of viewing their child's emotions as toxic, they listen to their children when they are sad or angry or afraid; they help them to verbally label their feelings; they accept those feelings and, when appropriate, follow up by problem solving with them. While the parents accept all feelings, they also make it clear that certain behaviors are unacceptable.

Better Lives

Our research has revealed that children who have emotion coaching parents are entirely different from children who have emotion dismissing parents. The children of emotion coaching parents are:

  • Better able to regulate their own emotions
  • Not easily disorganized by their negative feelings
  • Better able to focus their attention
  • Have fewer negative interactions with their friends and other children in school
  • Whine less
  • Are seen more positively by their teachers
  • Do not develop behavior problems
  • Are more resistant to infectious illnesses
  • Have higher reading and math scores in school, even controlling for their initial intelligence.

This means that if two children have the same IQ, the one with emotion coaching parents will achieve more than the on with dismissing parents

The Father's Role

We have also discovered that fathers are very important in this process. Fathers can either do a great deal of harm to their children's emotional development (if they are derogatory), or a great deal of good (if they are emotion coaching). It is not just the father's presence that matter, but how he is present that matters.

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