Words are powerful. How often do you use ParentSpeak? Do you know what it is and how it can affect children? I’ll admit, I was much more aware of this concept when my children were toddlers and I had more time to read (prior to homeschooling and working from home), and this book is a worthwhile read for every parent; whether you’re new to parenthood, or your children are a little older.
Workman Publishing sent me a reviewer’s copy of ParentSpeak by Jennifer Lehr so I could share my thoughts about it with you. (This post contains affiliate links). The cover of the book says, “What’s Wrong with How We Talk to Our Children -and What to Say Instead,” and this is just exactly what is contained within.
Parenting books can be a great resource, but sometimes I wonder if those that are more apt to read them are already in the ‘good’ parent category while those who really should e reading and learning from parenting books are those who wouldn’t go near them. I suspect part of this is that some parents always want to do better, some thing they’re already doing great (whether they are or not), and some who don’t want to see themselves reflected in a book as doing something that perhaps they could be doing better at.
It’s hard to face your faults and take criticism sometimes, even if it is constructive. Over the past couple of years there has been a bit of a movement towards learning how not to yell at your children. I know that I haven’t reached that level yet…we all have our days; but I’m trying.
What ParentSpeak is about is highlighting ways you or others may speak to children (your own or others); how it comes across to the children, and what effect it can have on them, not just at the time but later in life as well. And it goes beyond just simple talking; it’s also about actions.
Here’s a look at the contents of ParentSpeak:
- These Manipulate
- “Good Job!”
- “Who’s My Big Boy?”
- These Objectify
- “You’re So Cute!”
- “Give Grandma a Kiss!”
- These Micro-Manage
- “Be Careful!”
- “Can You Say ‘Thank You’?”
- “Say ‘Sorry’!”
- This Distresses
- “Tickle, Tickle, Tickle!”
- These Invalidate
- “You’re Okay!”
- “Behave Yourself!”
- These Threaten
- “I Said, ‘Right Now’!”
- “Do Your Want a Time-Out?”
- “Do You Want a Spanking?”
- All That Said
To have all of these phrases laid out so logically caught my attention. How often do you say some of these phrases? After reading about them, you will be internally kicking yourself each time you do say one of them. And after a while you will find yourself being more aware of how you talk to children and find better ways of expressing yourself and letting your children feel free to express their feelings and thoughts as well.
Let’s take tickling, for example. This is something that I have grown to hate so much that I am pretty much not ticklish anymore. It actually makes me feel ill. The laughter brought on by tickling is (usually) uncontrolled, and many people like to tickle children and think that because they’re laughing they enjoy it. Even when the child tells them to stop, they continue on. Now, it’s okay to tickle your children, but to do it in a responsible way. If they say stop, respect them and stop. Children need to learn that what they say is important and should be respected. Many child abusers will start with tickling, and kids need to know that that should have control over their own bodies. My daughter is getting very good at expressing this when she is tickled, “I said STOP, now stop that and be respectful!” is a phrase I hope that she’ll continue to use in the future and know that her word is law. And my son as well, is learning how to tell others when play is going too far for him and he wants to quit. It isn’t right for children to feel so helpless over their own bodies; what does that set them up for in the future?
One thing that struck me about Parent Speak is that we often expect our children to live up to a higher standard than we set for ourselves and other adults. If a grown man crashes while biking, we ask if they’re okay; how we can help. If a child falls off a bike, we tell them, “You’re Okay! Now get back up!” Why is this? You’ll find out if you read this book.
And how many times a day do you hear the phrase, “Good job!”? Really, why is everything so good? Doesn’t the phrase get over-used and meaningless after a while? What can you say instead that has more meaning, more lasting power? What can be said to give children internal motivation? There are many ways to show your pleasure with an outcome…what’s your favourite?
Each chapter of Parent Speak is based upon a phrase that is commonly spoken to children. The effect is has on children is given. scenerios are walked through, and alternative options and their outcomes are provided. In many cases there are ideas for both the parents and children to try. This is nice as it gives parents a way to help their children become more assertive about their own likes and dislikes. It gives power to them. And it gives power to parents to help raise their children in the best way forward.
Words are powerful. Use them carefully.