Holistic Moms Network
“Because I said so. ”
“Good job! ”
“You'd better stop that by the time I count to three. ”
“I can't believe you did that! ”
Do you have a young child? Do these phrases sound all-too-familiar? Have you ever sat back and considered the language you use with your children and its impact? HMN Member and author of What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children Sarah MacLaughlin has done just that—and has written a handy, thoughtful little book that every parent should read.
Some of the expressions we use with children are obviously counter-productive, as MacLaughlin points out. But others send subtle messages to our children about their behavior, self-worth, and how to operate in the world. Messages that are not serving them well. “Good job” is so easy to say but can lead to a dependence on adult praise and, as MacLaughlin explains, “robs him of the opportunity to truly please himself, which is the foundation for gaining self-esteem and self-motivation.”
Other catch phrases, drawn from our own childhood experiences or simply out of a moment of frustration, do not serve parents well either. “Because I said so” breaks the parent-child connection because it “dismisses the child's feelings” and may well lead to defiance and questioning as your child grows. “You're driving me crazy,” “you scared me to death” and “I'm going to leave without you” reflect the stress and frustration of parents but also create anxiety for our children. Fortunately, MacLaughlin is full of ideas and suggestions for alternatives. Instead of warning your kids that you're at your breaking point, how about presenting a new activity, refocusing attention or suggesting that he/she finds “something calmer to do”? Rather than threatening to leave, try giving an option such as “let's hold hands and walk out together, or I can carry you. ”
Change is not always easy. But it starts with awareness and attention. Realizing what we are saying and how it impacts our children is a great starting point. Putting focus on our kids, understanding their unique temperament and developmental stage, as well as their environment and world view are all critical to improving communication and the narratives that we use for our children. We need to be patient not only with our kids, but with ourselves in the process. Reminding ourselves that parenting is no easy task is vital to success. As MacLaughlin writes:
“Little kids are messy and silly, frustrating and wise. Raising a child, or just spending the day with one, can be a real adventure. Bring your flexibility and patience—and don't forget a sense of humor. These qualities, and using the right words along the way, will promote understanding and a peaceful atmosphere. And you will enjoy your time with children more. ”
Get a copy of What Not to Say and see for yourself.
Because I told you so ;-). —Director, Holistic Moms Network
Reviewed by Mom
I just finished what has to be one of the most helpful guides for raising young children... What Not to Say: Tools for Talking With Young Children by Sarah MacLaughlin. What Not To Say is a compilation of 66 common expressions to avoid using and why they don't work. The author not only tells you what NOT to do, she gives you tips on what could potentially work better.
What Not To Say is geared toward parents or caregivers with children aged 1–6. As the mother to twin 4-year-olds, I can appreciate the challenges of this age group. This age group is wonderfully interesting and funny but can also be stubborn and reactive...my boys are certainly the toughest bosses I have ever had! I could not wait to crack open this book!
Right away I recognized many of the common expressions listed as either something I have said or have heard another parent say to their child. For instance, how about the old stand-by “Because I said so”? This one doesn't really work, does it, but we all know someone who has said it or we ourselves have uttered it. MacLaughlin explains that by using this we dismiss our child's feelings and close the lines of communication. Sure, the steady fire of questions from a pre-schooler can be a bit draining at times but isn't it far more satisfying (for them and us!) to answer their questions rather than cut them off? What about “There's nothing to be afraid of”? Of course there are things in the world to be afraid of...aren't we all afraid of something (BEARS!!)?? Instead of dismissing our child's fears we should address them and find a way to navigate them.
Those are just two of the expressions addressed in this book but each and every one gave me pause and made me think about what I say to the kids and how I say it. What Not To Say is broken up into easy to navigate sections and many of the common expressions include book suggestions for your child to help drive positive points home and address any tough times they may be going through. What Not To Say earns huge points from me and I happily recommend this book for anyone with young children. This book really helps you to understand your child, understand how your words can affect him/her, and gives you pointers on how to make more meaningful connections. I think we all want our interactions with our children to be joyful ones and Sarah MacLaughlin gives some solid tips for helping you to do that. A must read! —mom blogger
Midwest Book Review
“What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children” is a practical guide for communicating with children. Parents will find the mindful interaction style of intergenerational communication a very helpful model. Dealing with children ages 1–6 can be very challenging and stressful, but there are also rewards for the patient, sensitive, experimental, and determined parent. “What Not to Say” is also laced with humor, an invaluable asset. Topics covered include why wrong things are said, changing language to make it work, use of labels and nicknames, threats or bribes, handling emotions, the inner critic, conveying clear messages about our bodies, and avoiding the temptation to make contests over control issues. All information is conveyed in a clear, non-judgmental style, and refreshing hints of lack of perfection abound. Parents and teachers and child caregivers will hail “What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children” as a great resource and fount of ideas for good communicating skills with children.
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