How to Talk to Human Beings


@Brendan Today we’re programming kids. Kind of an “extreme AI” :wink:


You cannot say you’ve raised multiple children in the same environment. The introduction of the second child means it isn’t the same environment as when you raise the first. Additionally, the time you’ve spent between children means the environment has likely changed - and it should, as you grow as a ‘human being’ and things change. From finances to your hobbies, to your spouse’s interests and work, it is not the same environment.

That being said, of course some of it is nature. I don’t believe Jeff would argue against that.


If you like that sort of information, try Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg – NVC is quite an explicit methodology for not judging, acknowledging emotions, etc. And it actually says it’s for everyone, not just kids…
It’s an amazing book.


Did anybody manage to find a Kindle version? Amazon doesn’t seem to sell one.


My child is 88… I just inherited him… many of the things here apply to how I need to approach my Dad… It is very much like taking care of a 2 year old… only these things and challenges will only increase and the results will wither

this from a childless Son


Methinks you will change your absolutely naive understanding of “human beings” when your next offspring is born with autism. This post is one of the more appallingly ignorant I’ve read from this blog.


“A child’s reaction to the world and attitude/personality are almost entirely genetically programmed.”

Do they not teach nature/nurture in grammar school these days, or are you just willfully ignorant?


About the language being the best invention ever. It is truly marvellous, but there one major gotcha.

It’s also the language, your language, that actually was the barrier between you and you child. There’s so much body communication going on that goes amiss when language is expected.

Just watch and listen without language. It’s there, it has always been and you have kind of known it but your own language has almost hidden it.

Try this watching and listening without language consistently for a while and suddenly you see and hear it. And it’s not your child only that communicates that way, everyone does it.

When you start seeing it in animals, you are becoming a master. They do it, too, you know, and that’s how the animal parents know how to take care of their young. Most probably you have done it already to some extent but you did not know it.

That’s the nonverbal communication that we don’t know we know about.


Pictures are a bit misleading! Where’s the ones that show right behaviour and the wrong one? Especially the first one. Ok, now after looking at the first one for 5 mins I observed that it not continuous, but divided in 2 blocks of four ).


Its time I read this book again. The only parenting book I’ve read cover to cover. It is hugely helpful and packed with practical information. You may need to practice to get it right. Sometimes when I try some of the examples Jeff posted my kids will just get more pissed off, sometimes they calm down and/or work things out themselves. It has a lot to do with where I’m coming from. The major point of the book is that kids often just need to be understood and they want to figure things out for themselves. I found that to be accurate.


Thanks, great post!


The “toasty crunchies” example is pretty entertaining. However, the one thing not mentioned is the tax on your time.

Going through that whole script (including the temper tantrum) is about 20 minutes of your time that most of us don’t have.

Saying, “we don’t have that” and pouring food from the correct box instead: 30 seconds.

My child generally is content when they see tasty food. Sometimes actions really do speak louder than words.


This was a great post, thanks. And the Faber & Mazlish book is great. I remember reading it.
I wonder how much of child-rearing is culture-specific, and how much is household-specific. I was brought up in India, where more obedience was expected of children. (Not saying it’s better or worse–just different). I don’t recall my younger siblings having any temper tantrums. Mom put the puffed rice or toast or porridge or roti or whatever she had decided we were having for breakfast on the table. We ate it. End of story. Could some of a child’s behavior have to do with managing children’s expectations at an early age? (A confession here: my own children, whom I brought up in America, did have temper tantrums. Several. I usually sat on the couch until the storm passed. (Mostly because I didn’t know what to do). When the kids figured out Mom wasn’t going to do anything, they eventually stopped crying.
Now they’re teenagers, and I notice what matters most to them is the tone of voice in which I tell them things. Requests, rebukes, whatever it is I’m trying, if delivered softly, seem to go over better.


@Jeffrey Davis: Tax on time just once, and total tax on time until your child turns 18 are sometimes two different things.

Of course it’s easiest to do what takes 30 seconds, but what it also teaches to the child is that it’s OK to ignore other people’s feelings if it saves your time. It might not backfire in the first few years but it will eventually.

On the other hand, you might just be lucky to have a child who is content with tasty food. :slight_smile:


funny - I remember my wife telling me the same thing ten years ago when she first read “How to Talk so Kids will Listen, How to Listen so Kids will Talk”. She found its advice to be as useful in dealing with me as the kids and as useful in the workplace as at home.


@MJ: I didn’t see anything condescending about the deli example. The dude in front of you is complaining about the connection. What else can you do but sympathize? What would you do? Call AT&T and demand they construct a new tower? Just say “yeah I know, that sucks,” and move on.


Great article,

I learned NVC years ago (Non Violent Communication -> and it was the best stuff I learned about human interactions, and that I now use with my young boy.
Quite the same thing you describe but with a precise process we -geeks - grasp very quickly.

The books by Marshall Rosenberg are good references :


And if you like the books by Gordon, who inspired the book you’re recommending, you should definitely read Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting! The theory behind the practice!


Here’s what my wife figured out after about 1 year of parenting…

Almost any method, consistently applied, beats random emotional reactions when it comes to parenting.

Why? Because the kids will figure out the method and adapt to it and when the kids know what to expect, they calm down.

After 15 years of parenting, I’ve figured out that my kids know my method and can manipulate it at will to their own ends. And there’s nothing really wrong with this situation. As they approach adulthood, ideally they become increasingly in control of their own situation and we parents lose control.

So don’t bother arguing the merits of method A vs. method B. Just pick one reasonably decent one and stick with it.


My son will be 16 in less than nine days. I coulda used this book 15 years ago.

As for hereditary vs environment… doesn’t matter what you think the ratio is, you’re going to be wrong. Kids aren’t quantifiable.