Say What You See for Parents and Teachers: More Hugs. More Respect. Elegantly Simple.

In this slim booklet (that took about thirty minutes to read), Sandra R. Blackard presents a simple guiding strategy – for responding to negative and positive behavior in a way that fosters self-confidence and creativity – as well as a handful of helpful tips; unfortunately, her strategy is just one piece of the parenting puzzle. Sandy’s techniques are included in other books that provide additional tips and guidance. In other words, “Say What You See” is a fabulous strategy communicated clearly in this book; it’s just not a one-stop-shop for all your parenting needs.

Blackard advises parents to “SAY WHAT YOU SEE using neutral observations to connect, validate, and calm upsets. When you see a behavior you like, add a STRENGTH to help children become centered and self-confident. When you see a behavior you don’t like, add a CAN DO to gain cooperation and encourage creativity.” In other words, rather than lavishing praise upon your child, simply describe what they’ve accomplished and mention the positive attribute it indicates; for negative behavior, describe what they’ve done and then channel the impulse behind the action to a more appropriate expression (telling them where, when, or how they “can do” that thing). The goal is to avoid judgment (negative or positive), recognize that “[a]ll behaviors are driven by healthy needs,” and “encourage children to think and solve problems on their own” so that they don’t feel the need to seek external affirmation in youth or later in life.

The few unique suggestions (of what to say to children in common situations) and observations that jumped out at me follow:

  • (To a young child who’s interrupting) “‘Grab that thought and keep it in your pocket for a little bit longer, and then when I’m done, you can let it all out.’”
  • (To a child who’s refusing to eat something) “‘You’re not eating it! No way.’” (“With no need to defend or prove a dislike, kids sometimes change their minds.”)
  • (Instead of praise) “‘You did that just the way you wanted to!’ [or] ‘It’s what you think that matters!’”
  • “Children can’t walk through walls, but they usually don’t get upset about it – walls just are. Effective rules are like walls [not doors].”
  • “Children find it easier to cooperate when their good intentions are recognized.”
  • “Avoid taboos; gain cooperation.”
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