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an engaging primer, entitled Stop Arguing with Your Kids, Dr. Michael P.
Nichols, a Professor of Psychology at the College of William and Mary as well
as a practicing family therapist, sanguinely, but gingerly, climbs the
demanding rungs of the conceptual ladder of "responsive listening".
Stripped to the core, the quintessence of responsive listening is that good
parental listening skills are a potentially highly effectual means to non
argumentative interaction, between parents and their children, in which parents
remain firmly in charge. Nichols embraces the view that parents have within
their grasp the power to transform counter productive arguments, with their
children into civil discussions by learning to listen responsively to their
children. And tethered securely to this view, Nichols in workaday fashion
pursues the overarching purpose of teaching parents how to practice responsive
listening, when interacting with their children. Parents should be enamored of
this captivating book.
important concept underpinning the foundation, of responsive listening, as
constructed by Nichols, is that relations between parents and children should
optimally be cooperative rather than antagonistic in nature. Parents who are
disciples of responsive listening are obliged to carefully elicit and consider
the wishes of their children. But, importantly, genuine concern about the
child's views does not imply the relinquishing of authority, that is properly
parental in nature, to the child.
exultant sense of optimism, regarding the improving of relations between
parents and their children by utilizing the communications mechanism of
responsive listening, pervasively permeates the length and breadth of the
text. Yet, prospective readers should be mindful that the responsive listening
approach, propounded by Nichols may have soothing appeal at a theoretical
level, but may be quite difficult to apply in the very demanding laboratory of
real life. In real life terms, the application of responsive listening is far
more art than science. The "art" of responsive listening challenges
parents to be highly adept listeners. But, in practical terms, children may
often act in a manner that will make responsive listening by parents very
difficult. In realistic terms, the consistently skilled application, of the
art of responsive listening, will likely require not inconsiderable parental
patience, persistence, and practice.
adroit application, in day to day life, of Nichols' concept of responsive
listening, may, potentially, mitigate significantly the incidence of
destructive arguments, between parents and children, and, in that vital
respect, very positively affect parent child relations. But a further caveat
is that the efficacy of responsive listening as a communications mechanism to
bolster relations between parents and their children, has not been forged in a
scientifically meaningful way in the fire of scientific peer review. The
discourse of Nichols, although enthralling, is bereft of quantification. In a
different vein, the qualitative, and arguably scientifically unhinged, textual
discussion exudes a plain English stylistic savor.
dissects and examines the pathology of arguments, and further proffers
potentially curative treatment, in the form of responsive listening, by
employing various instruments. An important instrument wielded artfully and
instructively, by Nichols, to skillfully probe the body of responsive
listening, is the crafting, for didactic purposes, of dialogs between parents
and children. Handiwork, of this sort, contributes meaningfully to the book's
practical value. There are, as well, a goodly number of anecdotal snippets,
which are grafted helpfully into the text.
lineaments, of responsive listening, are etched, painstakingly, over the course
of three, structural "parts". The five chapters comprising the book's
first part focus on truncating the limb of argumentation. Chapter one explores
the territory of parent child dynamics gone awry, as the result of
argumentation. The elixir concocted, by Nichols, is the watery mix of
responsive listening, which may enable both parents and children to emerge from
the fractious pit of argumentation. The responsive listening approach
conceptualized, by Nichols, obligates parents to encourage their children to
vent their feelings. As seen perspicaciously through the lens of Nichols, the
alternative, to attentive parental listening, is an unpalatable cycle of
arguing, which may cascade into resentment and anger. In chapter two, Nichols
expounds pithily and instructively on the five steps, of listening responsively
to children. Nichols expounds, insightfully, in chapter three, on: why
children argue; why parents get pulled into arguments with their children; and
how parent child arguments escalate. Paradoxically, according to Nichols,
parents can perhaps best maintain their authority, regarding children, by not
being overly controlling. The inspiring of a spirit of cooperation in
children, by means of responsive listening, is the absorbing subject of chapter
four. The firm belief, of Nichols, is that an entrenched pattern of parent
child argumentation can be broken. And the means of breaking a cycle of
chronic arguing, riveted in the framework of listening responsively, garners
the rapt attention, of Nichols, in chapter five.
application of responsive listening to different age groups is described in the
book's second part. As explained, very interestingly, in chapter six, Nichols
believes that the bricks used to build the communications house of responsive
listening are applicable even with respect to young children. School age
children draw the discerning focus, of Nichols, in chapter seven. As explicated,
by Nichols, the secret of minimizing arguments, with school age children, is
for the parent to respect the child's feelings, which, in turn, may help
foment, in the child, a feeling of respect for the parent's authority. The art
of responsive listening often gets harder with teenagers. The tension often
affecting relations between teenagers and their parents, and the possible role
of responsive listening regarding the alleviating of any such tension, captures
the insightful attention, of Nichols, in chapter eight. In the view of
Nichols, a parent listening responsively to a teenager should ask for the
teenager's opinion, and consider it seriously.
book's concluding part, Nichols, in chapter nine, trenchantly puts forth the
view that, even though adolescence is commonly a challenging time for the whole
family, this does not mean that the period of adolescence must necessarily
entrap the family in an insufferable web of antagonism. Lastly, in chapter
ten, Nichols offers diverse suggestions, tied to listening responsively, which
may be helpful under circumstances in which arguing may seem unavoidable.
parents, the concept of responsive listening, at some level, may be quite
alluring; but the devil may be in mastering the real life practice, of the hard
earned art of listening responsively to children. Importantly, the adept
application, in everyday life, of Nichols' thoughtful concept of responsive
listening, may very positively impact relations between parents and children.
The finely described thoughts, of Nichols, in this regard, may be most
appealing to a considerable gamut of readers, reaching to: family therapists,
child psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and, not least, parents
2006 Leo Uzych
Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public
health degree, from Columbia University. His area of special professional
interest is healthcare.