ParentSpeak: What's Wrong with How We Talk to Our Children--and What to Say Instead (Paperback)
A provocative guide to the hidden dangers of “parentspeak”—those seemingly innocent phrases parents use when speaking to their young children.
Imagine if every time you praise your child with “Good job!” you’re actually doing harm? Or that urging a child to say “Can you say thank you?” is exactly the wrong way to go about teaching manners? Jennifer Lehr is a smart, funny, and fearless writer who “takes everything you thought you knew about parenting and turns it on its ear” (Jennifer Jason Leigh).
Backing up her lively writing and arguments with research from psychologists, educators, and organizations like Alfie Kohn, Thomas Gordon, and R.I.E. (Resources for Infant Educarers), Ms. Lehr offers a conscious approach to parenting based on respect and love for the child as an individual.
About the Author
Jennifer Lehr is the author of PARENTSPEAK: What’s Wrong with How We Talk to Our Children—and What to Say Instead. She’s also the author of Ill-Equipped for a Life of Sex, an Elle must-read. She writes about parenting on her site, jenniferlehr.com, and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.
“A thought-provoking read that will prompt parents of all stripes to consider what they're saying when they talk to their kids.”—Booklist
“Underlying her friendly, enjoyable critique of certain phrases parents use reflexively—the kind that lead us to wonder, ‘How did my mother get in my larynx?’—Lehr offers a substantive and subversive message of respect for kids. The chapter about time-outs is worth the price of the book by itself, but I highly recommend you read the whole thing.”
—Alfie Kohn, author of Unconditional Parenting and The Myth of the Spoiled Child
“Parentspeak is the antidote to all those words we find ourselves saying to our children automatically, because everyone else says them: ‘Good job!’ . . . ‘Say you’re sorry.’ . . . ‘Don’t cry, you’re okay.’ . . . ‘Where’s my kiss?’” Lehr holds these and other thoughtless responses up to the light, where we suddenly see through them. I love Lehr’s clarity, her respect for children, and her ability to make it fun for readers as they have their worldview dismantled and renovated. Important for all parents; I will be recommending it to everyone.”
—Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting
“Smart, audacious, and often hilarious. Takes everything you thought you knew about parenting and turns it on its ear.”
—Jennifer Jason Leigh, actress, LBJ
“I’m obsessed with this brilliant gem of a book. I’m sharing it with my spouse, in-laws, extended family, and babysitters as a way to start discussions about when to ask for hugs, whether ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are always necessary, and that awful thing that constantly comes out of my mouth: ‘Be careful!’ What I love about Jennifer is that she deals out the most incisive, specific, modern advice, but then shares honest, authentic, and even awful true stories about her own mistakes. It’s like getting on the phone with the best expert and your best friend all at once.”
—Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent
“If the phrase ‘Good job, buddy!’ has ever made you cringe and you’re not sure why (except that you just heard it 6,873 times on the playground, including 146 times coming from your own mouth), this book is for you. Jennifer Lehr’s serious, skeptical look at why we sound so patronizing, controlling, and fake nice when we talk to our kids may change not only the way you talk to yours, but even the way you bring them up. Language is power, and this powerful book blows my mind—a fascinating read.”
—Lenore Skenazy, founder of the book, blog, and movement Free-Range Kids
“Beautifully bold. This book bucks convention so well you’ll wonder why you never questioned these platitudes before. Jennifer Lehr deeply understands kids, and her book is a lifesaver. Get ready to shake up your brain, ditch old habits, and discover what the parent-child relationship can really be.” —Heather Shumaker, author of It’s OK Not to Share and It’s OK to Go Up the Slide
“Children, even the youngest ones, are not dolls or pets; they are human beings, more intelligent than most adults realize. In this often witty, always highly engaging book, Jennifer Lehr helps us think about how to talk to and with these small humans. I recommend it for all new parents, and also for aunts, uncles, grandparents, early educators, and anyone else who interacts with young children.”
—Peter Gray, research professor at Boston College and author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life
“Funny, relatable, and packed with wisdom, Parentspeak encourages parents to proceed with compassion and meet kids where they are: in the thick of childhood. Lehr has a profound understanding of how language impacts children and provides practical strategies to help parents do what they often ask of their own kids . . . to choose your words carefully.”
—Katie Hurley, LCSW, author of The Happy Kid Handbook
“Wow. I had more EUREKA! moments in the first fifteen pages of this book than I have had in most of my 9 years of parenting. This book is now my forever shower gift. Thanks to the painstaking research and consideration of Jennifer Lehr, I now can understand why so many of my well-intentioned impulses have not always provided the calm, confident, loving outcomes I dream of. . . . It is never too late to examine or change the way we talk to and with our children. Words fly out so fast as a parent—this book gives us a second to step back and hear what we are actually saying. Bravo!”
—Kathryn Hahn, actress, Bad Moms
“Jennifer Lehr adds a new twist to the parenting literature. With humor and clear examples from her own and others’ experiences, she unravels messages that parents might not intend to give to their children but unknowingly are. This book will make them rethink how they interact and the language they use.”
—Tovah P. Klein, author of How Toddlers Thrive and director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development
“Language matters. It shapes our perceptions and influences how our children view themselves and their world. As such, Parentspeak is an important book in our time. With humor and grace, Lehr brings to light the issues with our common parental language and offers practical solutions. Well researched and insightful, Parentspeak will challenge you in the best possible way. Read it and grow.”
—Rebecca Eanes, author of Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide
“Finally someone who says what we shouldn’t say to our children—and, more importantly, why. If we want our children to follow their hearts, be resilient, and find their potential, then we must stop trying to lead and manipulate their way. Lehr shows us how we can derail their paths to success—and how to get back on track.”
—Bonnie Harris, MSEd, author of When Your Kids Push Your Buttons and What You Can Do About It