BY WAY INTRODUCTION
“When parents say something to a child they often saying something about him. This is why communication to a child has such an impact on him as a person and ultimately on the relationship between you and him. Every time you talk to a child you are adding a brick to define the relationship that is being built between the two of you. And each message says something to the child about what you think of him. He gradually builds up a picture of how you are perceiving him as a person. Talk can be constructive to the child and to the relationship or it can be destructive.”
— DR. THOMAS GORDON —
founder of Parent Effectiveness Training
three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee
I’ve noticed there’s a language particular to us parents. It’s like you have a kid and boom, you can’t help but talk differently. We often start off with a stream of loving nicknames like “sweetie,” “my darling” and “my angel” and soon we’re cooing “Shhh, don’t cry.”, fawning “Ohhhh, she’s sooo cute!” and exclaiming a string of animated “Good jobs!” and before we know it, we’re begging our kids to take “just one more bite,” gasping “Be careful!”, admonishing “No!”, and threatening “If you don’t…” with a wagging finger.
I call this Parentese— a language we use it to help, socialize, teach and reassure our kids. Unfortunately, however, it’s not doing the helping, socializing, teaching and reassuring we think it is. Ironically, in many cases, the effect is actually the opposite of what we intend.
Do we talk in Parentese because our parents did? Or because everyone else does? Do we truly believe these things will help us raise loving, considerate, confident, self-respecting children? Or, is Parentese what we we default to it when we’re triggered and exhausted? Likely, it’s a cocktail of the above.
In my upcoming book “GOOD JOB!” And Other Things You Shouldn’t Say or Do (unless you want to ruin your kid’s life) (Workman, 2015) I will peel back the seemingly harmless veneer of twenty-one worn-out phrases to expose the not-so-healthy messages lurking below the surface. I’ll explain why “Good job!” isn’t good, “It’s okay!” isn’t okay, “One more bite!” isn’t healthy, “Give me a kiss!” isn’t loving, “Say please!” isn’t polite, “She’s shy” can be humiliating, “You’re so cute!” is anything but, “Say you’re sorry” breeds contempt, “If you don’t…” preys on children’s deepest fears and “Don’t you talk to me like that!” asks for more of the same. And most importantly and hopefully helpfully, I’ll give Parentese a healthy makeover by offering more respectful and compassionate ways we can talk to and treat our children. As I’ve discovered, a shift in perspective and some simple changes can immeasurably strengthen the bonds that form a secure foundation for life.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THINGS YOU SHOULDN’T SAY OR DO:
1. “Good Job!”
2. “Be Careful!”
4. “My Baby is Bored!”
5. “Let’s go to the mall!”
6. “Shhh…It’s okay!… Don’t cry.”
7. “You’re so cute!”
8. “Be a Big Boy”
9. “She’s shy!”
10. “Don’t you talk to me like that!”
12. “Say Please!”
13. “Say you’re sorry!”
14. “One More Bite!”
16. “Put on a sweater!”
17. “Give Grandma a Kiss!”
18. “I’m gonna tickle you!”
19. “Time out!”
21. “Mommy and Daddy will be back home in a few days.”