Pros: Lots of info that will really help parents
Cons: Doesn't discuss parents who have nothing to do with their kids
I had the pleasure of reviewing the book Just Tell Me What To Say by Betsy Brown Braun during the month of February. Ideally I wanted to write a review sooner but I found it best to read this book several pages a day and not all at one sitting so that I would able to absorb all the information inside like a sponge. There are a lot of great suggestions in the book and I'm glad I did it this way.
In Betsy Brown Braun's introduction, she says that the book is geared towards children two to six years old but that it can help with older children as well. That is one of the main reasons I wanted to read the book. I have three children (all boys) aged 2, 6 and 8 so this book fits with their ages perfectly.
Chapter one addresses communicating with your child. I found this chapter very interesting. Betsy Brown Braun writes about the four ways that we communicate with our children: verbal, nonverbal, listening and modeling. The author tells the reader what those forms are and gives suggestions on how to better communicate with your child. When communicating with your child, you need to be aware of the tone of voice you're using and your voice decibel level. One line I especially agreed with was "Yelling breeds yelling. Quiet breeds calm." Having three boys, things get heated at times. When I talk in a quiet, neutral voice during these moments, everyone slowly calms down. If I yell, it just enforces them to yell back at me, at each other. Sometimes it's hard to remember to say on that calm level but practice makes perfect. It does no good for you, the adult to get overly upset because you still have to get your children calmed down as well. Chapter one also talks about how we need to respect our children. That is something that a lot of us don't think about. Of course as a parent you don't think "Oh I'm going to disrespect my child." but disrespect can be in ways that you may never have thought about. Some ways of disrespecting your child is talking about your child in front of your child like they're not even there, spelling something to someone that you don't want your child to hear while they're in the room, using a foreign language in front of your child you've never intended for them to learn, teasing, being sarcastic, etc.
Chapter two is focused on Discipline Do's and Don'ts. Your child wants your full attention, whether it is positive or negative attention so they will act out in many ways to get it. There are suggestions on how you can deal with your child when they act up, how to handle your child's diversionary tactics, what not to do (don't tell your child no just to give in and say yes later), etc. One area I agreed with was, don't make the expectations to high for your child during a time that you know your child is cranky or sleepy (nap time or in the evening, etc). This is just setting them up to fail. Another area talked about threats. Don't give false threats. And as a parent, I'm guilty of having done that from time to time. I've said stuff like "If you don't hurry up, I'm going to have to leave you" or "Turn off the game or blah blah blah." Now obviously I wouldn't leave my child at home alone so that is just an empty threat. And my kids are smart enough to know that I would leave them at home alone. If your 're not going to make good on what you say, then don't say it.
Sibling Issues is the subject of Chapter Three. This chapter really stood out to me. Two of my boys are 8 and 6 and they often bicker and it drives me crazy. Betsy Brown Braun suggests using a timer when your children are fighting over property and territory. This is a technique that I already do and it really works. I set the timer for a certain amount of time and they know to quit what they're doing when they hear that ding. Another thing that interested me was the no tattling rule. If you have more then one child, then you probably hear "He did this!" "She did that!" "He took my (insert whatever toy they're fighting about here." There should be no tattling unless there is an emergency, danger or something is really wrong. I've started doing this and I like having this rule but it will take a while before someone is on the same wavelength and gets used to it.
Do you have trouble with not knowing how to handle eating situations with your children? Chapter four gives several suggestions. One of the things talked about is don't ever make food a battleground. The author says that when you fight about food, the fight becomes the focus and not the found. I have found this to be true. Dinnertime is not always pleasant in my household. My oldest son is really the one to often say he doesn't want to eat anything on his plate, even when it's something he has liked before (he's 8). Sometimes I think that he starts complaining just to pick a fight so that the food will be overlooked for a moment. In this situation the author recommends that you can choose to make a meal that he chooses or just tell your child point blank "This is the meal we're having. You can eat it or not." For dinner, I asked my oldest son what he wanted for dinner. It was something I was able to easily comply with so that's what the kids had for dinner. There was no battle. They all ate their food and that was that. I don't think that every parent is going to want to give their child a meal of their choice every night, but sometimes when it is possible, it's nice to give them the choice.
I love the title of Chapter Five. "Get Your Finger Out Of Your Nose!" Dealing With Boogers, Burps, Farts - Manners and Social Graces. Now I know that every parent has to deal with the things listed in the title but again...with three boys... we see a lot of boogers, burps and farts. While this chapter deals with what you can say when your children do any of the above in any given situation it also goes over manners. Instead of only getting on to your child for NOT displaying "proper" manners, encourage them for when they do. This helps reinforce what they already know.
Chapter Six addresses one of the phrases that kids probably say a few thousand (if not more!) times during their childhood. Which phrase? The "It's Not Fair!" one of course. The author writes that you shouldn't try to make life always fair for your child. For example, if only one of your children need a new pair of shoes, then don't get the other child a new pair if they don't need one, just to make it fair. As an adult, you know that life isn't fair and your child will have to learn this as they grow up too. This chapter also tells you how to deal with whining, back talk, swearing, lying and more.
You'll learn about how to handle the whole birds and the bees questions in Chapter Seven. This subject seems to make a lot of parents get that whole deer in the headlights look. I haven't had to deal with this yet so hopefully by reading this chapter I'll be prepared for when it happens and I won't stutter and get a blank face. One of the points that the author makes is not to overload them with information. First try to find out what your child already knows and go from there, correctly or confirming as well as giving some additional information. The important thing is to give them the information and not to tell them you won't talk about it now. It's better for your child to learn this stuff from YOU and not from one of their friends. This chapter also tells you how to handle and what to say regarding when your child touches themselves in a private area (I'd say the word but then I'd have to flag this article in case it offended someone). What I really got from this section was not to overreact if you catch your child doing this. Your reaction could affect them for life if it is a overblown negative one. Also discussed are how to teal with telling your child about menstruation (the author recommends not talking to your young child about this unless your child is accidentally exposed to it while you're on your period), nudity in the home & among siblings, and so on.
Talking about serious illness with a young child can be tough because the subject matter is upsetting to you. In Chapter Eight, Betsy Brown Braun recommends that you have it together before you have the talk with your child. Talk to a professional or whatever you need if you think you're going to fall apart in front of your child. Do not keep your child in the dark about what is going on. Children are very smart and they can pick up on your feelings. It is best to tell them if someone is going into the hospital for whatever reason so that they don't make up their own explanation that could be worse then what is really happening. This chapter hit close to home because my Mom is having surgery next month. While the kids know about it, I am sure that we'll be talking about it even more when the time comes.
Death is the subject matter of Chapter Nine. Betsy Brown Braun recommends talking to your child about death before your child is affected by it. It also discusses life cycles and how to explain it to your child depending on what age they are. The author recommends showing them how life cycles go and to keep track of how your children grow by having a height chart so they can see how much they grow in a year, etc.
Chapter Ten is about divorce. How you and your soon to be ex spouse can handle explaining what is going on to your child and so on. The only thing that I felt was really lacking from this chapter was after your divorce and what to say if the other parent has nothing to do with the child at all, how do you explain to your child why the other parent doesn't call, write or want to have contact with them any longer? Unfortunately in this day and age, it's more common then you'd think. That is my situation and I would have loved a few suggestions on it.
The last Chapter in the book is about Natural disasters. While you may think that your young child doesn't know what's going on in the world, they probably know some. They observe how you act when something terrible happens in the world. When you're watching the news, they're right there with you. When you read the newspapers, they see the pictures of tragedies plastered all over it. This chapter will help you answer questions like what is war, what is a terrorist, etc.
The end of the book closes with a list of related books for children, sources and index.
If you have young children and plan on buying only one parenting book this year, buy this one. Just Tell Me What To Say by Betsy Brown Braun will literally tell you some of the things you can say in several situations as well as give you GOOD advice. I haven't always enjoyed all the parenting books I've read but I can say this one is worth is weight in gold. I will be outlining several of the suggestions I read and checking back on it often. As parents, we strive to be the best that you can be but sometimes we just need a little help. This book will give you some of the extra help you may need.