By Jennifer Lehr
“Good job!” “Give Grandma a kiss!” “Can you say, ‘Thank You’?” These are some of the most common, seemingly innocuous phrases we say to our children each day to encourage good behaviour. Although we have the best intentions at heart, what if the reflexive language we use contradicts the message we’re trying to send? In ParentSpeak, author Jennifer Lehr deconstructs 14 classic phrases parents use to determine if they’re constructive or destructive. (Spoiler alert: they’re destructive!)
Lehr explores how parents speak, citing the work of top psychologists, pediatricians, educators, and child-abuse experts, to demonstrate how these sayings manipulate, objectify, micro-manage, distress, invalidate, and threaten children. Lehr argues, “[language] doesn’t just affect them as children and our relationships with them, but also who they become as adults and how they relate to others and the world.” Intertwined with this psychological perspective, Lehr provides real-life examples and personal anecdotes, along with recommendations for alternative language parents should use. The key is to validate children’s emotional responses in these situations, rather than revert to the dismissive and condescending language of Parentspeak.
Perhaps the biggest take away from this book is the way we talk to children becomes their inner voice. Therefore, it’s important we learn to speak consciously, communicating with compassion and respect no matter the age. After reading this book, you’ll understand more about the language you use, and learn to communicate better with your child.