"...awareness always precedes change."
So encourages author Sarah MacLaughlin in the introduction to her book, What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children. "Rather than dwelling on occasional poor form," she continues, "focus on your intention to improve."
For parents and caregivers looking to improve their communication with children, this book provides both the awareness and the practical guidance to do so. Focusing on 1- to 6-year-olds, this short and to-the-point guidebook covers 66 common phrases that are counter-productive to raising emotionally healthy children.
Each chapter is hung on an effective framework of topic discussion, "what not to say" phrases, and more beneficial phrases that can be used instead. Children's book recommendations related to the chapter topics are also included in each section, furthering the parent's ability to discuss the topic with the child through an effective and age-appropriate means.
Following the introduction, the first chapter discusses common reasons that adults use ineffective or inconsiderate phrases when speaking to children, including fear, fatigue, and the expressions we heard as children. I found this to be a useful opening, as knowing why we do things is often the biggest hurdle to overcome in moving on to better paths.
The rest of the book was a refreshing and succinct reminder of, well, what not to say. "What on earth are you doing?" "Be nice." "There's nothing to be afraid of." "Good job!" While some of the phrases were completely out-of-bounds for me, others reminded me of my own struggles with carelessly tossing out a threat or speaking disrespectfully out of frustration. A few were phrases I'd never even considered as being inappropriate or ineffective; I always love finishing a book and feeling like I've learned something new.
What Not to Say covers a range of communication-related topics, including clarity of speech, tone, narration, respectful language, labels, bribes, emotional intelligence, control, and consistency. Above all, I appreciated the focus on seeking solutions rather than scolding, shaming, lecturing, spanking, or entering into power struggles.
This is definitely a book I would recommend to parents or caregivers of young children. It was short enough to be easy to get through, with just enough theory to make it convincing while still being heavy on the practical application. A perfect balance all around!
Sarah is generously giving away an eBook copy of "What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children" (PDF, epub, or Kindle format) at each blog stop. To enter, leave a comment on this post sharing a phrase you have eliminated or are currently trying to eliminate from your communication with your child. Sarah will announce the winner in the comments of this post tomorrow. Be sure to leave your email so we can contact you if you win!
Other stops and opportunities to win during this Blog Tour are listed on Sarah's Blog Tour page.
Also, you can enter at Sarah's site for the Grand Prize Giveaway: a Kindle Touch! The winner will be announced at the end of the tour after July 15th.
About The Author
Sarah MacLaughlin has worked with children and families for over twenty years. With a background in early childhood education, she has previously been both a preschool teacher and a nanny. Sarah is currently a licensed social worker at The Opportunity Alliance in South Portland, Maine, where she works as the resource coordinator in therapeutic foster care. She serves on the board of Birth Roots and writes the "Parenting Toolbox" column for a local parenting newspaper, Parent & Family. Sarah teaches classes and workshops locally and consults with families everywhere. She considers it her life's work to to promote happy, well-adjusted people in the future by increasing awareness of how children are spoken to today. She is mom to a young son who gives her plenty of opportunities to take her own advice about What Not to Say.
More information about Sarah and her work can be found at her website and her blog.