Parenting Must-Read: Just Tell Me What to Say


I rarely pick up a parenting book. Baby books were a different story–not knowing what to expect, I sought out every guide to birth, sleep, and general how-to because I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t, so it makes no sense that I’ve only bought potty training books in the past year, when really I can use the most help with discipline, eating, and getting ready for baby #2. Enter Just Tell Me What to Say, a brilliant book with a cutesy subtitle (“Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents”) that belies the solid advice inside. My mother bought it for me after seeing it recommended on some show or site, and it covers praise, tantrums, divorce, death–nearly anything you should know if you need help addressing these things with your kids.

Take the section on whining. I remember being a whiner, and being told to “Stop whining!” even though I had no idea I was doing it. (I was obviously a whiner well past toddler-hood if I can remember this.)

Betsy Brown Braun, the author and parenting coach, explains that whining is often a habit. Kids get so used to it, “they don’t even know they are doing it.” To help break them of it, she recommends pointing out a child’s “different voices” when they’re not whining and offers a sample “script” that goes like this:

Sometimes you use a voice with me that is a whiny voice. It sounds like this ____. Do you recognize that voice? That voice does not work with me. When you want my help or attention, you need to use your regular voice. That is the voice I will listen to and that will work.”

I haven’t been so thorough in my explanation to my two-and-a-half-year-old, but we’ve begun the conversation and the distinction between our whiny and regular voices, and I think (i.e., I hope) she’s getting it. The picky eaters section is also filled with tips I plan to use (like absolutely, positively, never commenting on what your kid is or isn’t eating. Period.)

I’m still skipping around, but so far this is the type of book you tell your friends to buy. Which makes me wonder if there are any other must-reads I’m missing out on. Got any to recommend?

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