Savvy Review: The Parents' Phrase Book

Eliza Clark
January 31, 2014

Many of the parenting books on our shelves were written by experts who have a whole bunch of letters lined up after their names. And then there are rafts of parenting memoirs and advice books written by mothers. There are funny ones, poignant ones, tragic ones, instructive ones, gripping ones, practical ones, and everything in between. Indeed, the conversation about parenting has never been richer, and we all benefit.

The people we don't hear from as often, however, are dads.  This makes sense—there aren't nearly as many dads acting as primary caregivers for their kids as there are moms, yet. Yet. But more and more dads are stepping up to this hugely important job, and it's great to hear from them. Most of all, it's great to hear from a dad as funny, light-hearted, and full of good sense as Whit Honea. 

In his new book The Parents' Phrase Book, Whit Honea gives us his parenting philosophy in an eminently practical form: "Hundreds of Easy, Useful Phrases, Scripts, and Techniques for Every Situation." This is a how-to manual in the best sense: fun to read, painless to remember, and instantly applicable.

Honea has no pretensions whatsoever—as he says up front, "The advice I offer is merely suggestion; granted it is really awesome suggestion, but the words you use are entirely up to you. You are the parent; I'm just some guy on the playground."

On the other hand, he sticks to his points, and doesn't mince words: "There are definitely things parents can do and say that are right and others that are absolutely wrong."

He takes on a lot of tricky topics like telling vs. tattling; childhood lies; whether the tooth fairy is real; bullies and bystanders; kids' friendships; conflicts over chores; sex and puberty; homework woes; and a lot more. Here's an example of a great response to something most kids say over and over, enough to drive any parent crazy:

Kid: "I don't want to clean my room!"

What to say (according to Honea): "Everybody in this family does their part to make the house run smoothly. Those chores are your part."

What not to say: "As long as you are living under my roof, you will do what I say."

Oh, but don't you just want to say that last bit when the kids are fighting you every inch of the way? That and worse? When parents get tired and stressed, it's easy to slip into "because I said so" or "not now" or "be quiet" answers to everything they say. Honea reminds us to make the effort to respond calmly and thoughtfully. He also reminds us to respond to our children with enthusiasm and encouragement. And he helps us out by feeding us the phrases we need.

The hope is that if we say the good things Honea tells us to often enough, then they'll become second nature.  Or as he puts it: "We want [our kids] to be the best people they can be. Possible side effects include bettering ourselves in the process. That's a win-win."

From the Parents

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