TSC Review: “What Not To Say: Tools For Talking With Young Children”

balancing act

I am stoked to be writing my first review for The Single Crunch.  :)  And as soon as I started the book, What Not To Say: Tools For Talking With Young Children, written by Sarah MacLaughlin, I knew I would love it.  I so appreciate being guided in how to communicate effectively with my children, and this book is a gem.

Every parent is busy, and I appreciate that this book gets straight to the point.  Sarah starts off pointing out some of the reasons many parents say the things we say; which I love beacuse I think understanding why is so important to changing what we do.  And she reminds us to cut ourselves some slack as well:

“If you catch yourself saying something ineffective—or worse—don’t be hard on yourself, and
remember that awareness always precedes change. Rather than dwelling
on occasional poor form, focus on your intention to improve.”

Awareness always precedes change.  I love that.  It’s so refreshing to be reminded that even if we aren’t getting everything just right, we are at least aware that we have work to do – and that is the first step to improving.

The format of the book is very clear and easy to understand.  Sarah starts a paragraph with a commonly used phrase, such as, “Don’t even think about it,” and goes on to explain why it doesn’t work the way we think it should.  What she writes made so much sense to me.  In the case of the latter phrase, she explains:

“This popular warning is a real head-scratcher for the younger set.
When it does work and stops a child in her tracks, she is probably re-
sponding more to your tone than your words. If a child is approaching
kindergarten age and worth her salt at arguing, you could hear, “I wasn’t
thinking about anything” or, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
This might start a quarrel that could easily be avoided. Simplify your
message to a straightforward request: “Please do not touch that wet
paint.” In this case your tone of voice is useful—low and authoritative
can work wonders.”

See?  There’s nothing to buy, no magic wand.  Just carefully chosen words.  We can all benefit from this book, and I know from the comments I exchange with my readers that we are constantly searching for ways to improve our relationships with our children.  This book has helped me to change the way I want to communicate with all children.

As an added bonus, Sarah has taken the time to include a children’s book that relates to different phrases discussed, at the close of many of the paragraphs.  My children have learned so much from reading together, and often a book is a great way to introduce a topic that I’m unsure how to approach.  I think it’s a wonderful addition to all of the useful information in the book.

I know none of us have lots of extra time, and we often mention how even our bathroom time isn’t personal.  I downloaded this book as a PDF and read it whenever I got a chance, on my phone, or my computer.  Once I started though, I was really interested to learn so it was easy to finish.  Sarah writes as though she’s just talking to a girlfriend, in a very relaxed manner.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to better relate to their children, even if you feel you already have a good relationship.  Let me know what you think!

Special Giveaway!
Please comment about how your perception of a situation, shapes your reaction to your children, so that you can enter to win an ebook copy of What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children, in the format of your choice: PDF, epub, or Kindle format. Sarah will be giving away one copy at each blog stop and will announce it on the comments of this post tomorrow. (Other stops during this Blog Tour are listed here: http://sarahsbalancingact.blogspot.com/p/blog-tour.html)
Also, be sure to enter at Sarah’s site (http://sarahsbalancingact.blogspot.com/p/blog-tour.html) for the Grand Prize Giveaway: a Kindle Touch. Winner will be announced at the end of the tour after July 15th.

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Categories: Book Review, Gentle Parenting


I'm Kimberley, work-at-home single momma to two girls, Ryleigh, 9, and Logan, 3. The Single Crunch is the story of our journey from a lifestyle saturated in mainstream ideals to an organic existence, and learning to love each other, ourselves, and any living thing, unconditionally. I'm passionate about breastfeeding, unschooling, single parenting, writing, grief, childhood abuse, childism, and natural living. I write about all this and whatever else moves me, which is a lot, and I throw in some funny on the regular. I'm humbled and grateful to have you reading, thank you. I hope something here will help you in any way.

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20 Comments on “TSC Review: “What Not To Say: Tools For Talking With Young Children””

  1. Heidi
    June 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    I believe we don’t realize the influence our words have and the power setting an example has. I just realized the other day that if I imagine my daughter saying just what I’m saying in the way I’m saying it, I will greatly change my tone and word choice immediately. We make excuses for ourselves because we are adults, but this shouldn’t be the case.

  2. Catherine
    June 22, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    I have really noticed how my mood affects my son. If I’m happy, so is he (mostly anyway). So, I’m sure it’s true that when I expect him to be “good” it is more likely that will be my perception of his behavior. The books sounds very interesting.

    • June 22, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

      There is actually very cool research out there (I read it in a book called, A General Theory of Love that is just amazing) about how our limbic (emotional) brains affect and regulate each other. In no other case as intensely as in the parent-child relationship I would guess.

  3. June 22, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    I will definitely read this book. One phrase that really annoys me is “How many times do I have to tell you?” Does Sarah mention that one in her book? My eldest son (6) has started saying it to my youngest (4). He didn’t get it from me, but from his dad. I have told them both that I don’t like it. It is awfully condescending.

    • June 22, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

      Yes I do!

    • June 28, 2012 at 10:13 am #

      Hi Carmen, you’ve won a copy of the book! Please contact me for instructions to claim it. Thanks everyone for reading and commenting. :) Kimber

      • July 2, 2012 at 7:38 am #

        Wow! I’m thrilled! Thanks so much. Is it a paperback? I’d love to have it. The thing is, I’ve already read the book. I bought it for the Kindle straight away and read it in a couple of days! Loved it.

      • July 3, 2012 at 10:48 am #

        Hmm…well if you’d like to have the author choose another winner I can let her know…

      • July 3, 2012 at 10:58 am #

        Ok, yes, let her choose someone else. I’m honoured that I was chosen in the first place. Thanks!

      • July 3, 2012 at 11:02 am #

        Thank you, very much. The participation is greatly appreciated. <3

      • July 3, 2012 at 11:21 am #

        Hi Carmen, Thanks for buying the book! I’d actually be happy to send you a signed copy. Can you email your address to my assistant Beth? beth@bethbarany.com

        Thanks! Sarah

      • July 3, 2012 at 11:28 am #

        Wow. Yay! :)

      • July 3, 2012 at 11:31 am #

        Thanks so much, Sarah. I’ve just sent an email to Beth.

  4. Mel Roberts
    June 22, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

    My son(4.5) has language difficulties, which in turn leads to behavioural issues, and so communicating with him in a calm manner, which he is able to relate to and comprehend, as well as encouraging him to broaden his language skills, is always a challenge!

  5. June 22, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    That is a challenge! Words are important, (I obviously think so.) but don’t underestimate the power of your tone, body language, emotional state, proximity, touch, etc.

  6. Stephanie
    June 22, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

    I completely agree that our children will obviously learn phrases from us whether we like it or not. My 2 yo started yelling “give it back!” at my 6 mo when he grabbed the spoon I was feeding him with :/ he also tells him to “stop it” all the time. I’m doing so much better with the words I use with him, but my husband is really struggling with it.

    • June 23, 2012 at 9:28 am #

      My book is super short and so husband/partner friendly! A few choice repeats back from my son were, “Are you kidding me?” and “Stop harassing me!” Oh boy!

  7. julieyoung
    June 23, 2012 at 5:19 am #

    my 2.5 yo is very much still pre-verbal, and it’s tough to think about how the phrases that we grew up really sound to a toddler today… it would be great to have a good reference/reminder of what not to say :)

  8. June 23, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

    Hey, it’s really interesting reading other bloggers’ takes on this book, which I’ve been lucky enough to be able to read already. I totally agree with Sarah’s views on this subject. It does take practice to moderate the way you talk to children, but as I work with children professionally I can reinforce that your choice of words makes a HUGE difference to the result.

    The more calmly and respectfully and directly you speak to children, the better they’ll respond. Just the other day I stopped a three-year-old from punching and pinching me by saying very quietly “I won’t let you hit me. Please use gentle hands, like this” (holding his hands and showing him how to make them floppy). IT WORKS. A few years ago I’m sure I would have come out with one of the totally useless expressions mentioned in Sarah’s book, like “Don’t even THINK about hitting me!”- which would have made no sense at all to that child. And I bet in that case he would have gone right on hitting me.

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