Whit Honea recently wrote “The Parents’ Phrase Book.” Whit is a friend and a writer I respect, and I think his book is quite helpful for parents; I hope you find it helpful, too. (I did not receive any remuneration- even a free book- for this interview.)
The best advice I could ever give is to do everything with love—from packing a lunch to discipline, building a fort to volunteering at a school function—it can be frustrating and trying, but childhood is a small window closing quickly, and only we can decide if it leaves us with wonderful memories or too many regrets. -Whit Honea
Briefly tell us about your book
“The Parents’ Phrase Book” tries to help parents communicate in a more open, understanding, and effective manner with their children. This is accomplished by introducing common situations and phrases that a parent may encounter, then offering suggestions and examples of how to respond as well as things not to do. In addition, “The Parents’ Phrase Book” serves to help adults, regardless of their parenting status, reconnect with their own childhood and to view the world with a bit of perspective. Adults and children alike are encouraged to embrace empathy, their respective self-worth, and to be the best person they can possibly be.
The concept of a “phrase book” spans many genres, but the one thing they all have in common is providing tools to better communication within that environment. That is what “The Parents’ Phrase Book” does for parents. The advice is layered in examples, suggestions, and through the lens of the reader.
One issue I come across a lot lately, now that Nick is 8, is that he gets frustrated when he fails or struggles at the new harder things (school, sports, etc.) he’s now facing. What kinds of phrases could be useful for me in handling this frustration?
My 10-year-old is just like this. If he doesn’t find immediate success in an activity then he doesn’t want to do it. This is where parents can apply the wisdom of the ages, and paraphrase any number of people smarter than myself who have cited failure as the steppingstone to success. It’s okay to be frustrated, but it’s not okay to just give up.
Depending on the activity at hand I often use a personal story from my own childhood (see, reconnecting!) and share the struggles that I faced. The fact is that kids aren’t going to like or find success at everything, but we want them to try. As parents we want their lack of interest in an activity to be found through their own experience, not an apathetic unwillingness to participate.
Another issue I have is that Nick is constantly comparing how he’s treated to how his friends are treated, like “they get to eat sugar cereal…” “they get to watch that PG13 movie…” Any handy phrases for that?
This can be tough as most of us don’t want to judge or criticize the parenting choices of others (at least in front of our kids), but that doesn’t mean we can’t be honest and say that we disagree with them. If we explain to our children that each home has different rules, and why we have them, they will usually be a bit more understanding. That’s not to say that they will like or agree with our rules, but they will realize that their lack of sugar cereals and PG-13 movies is coming from a place of love, safety, and concern, rather than some sort of punishment.
On the other hand, an occasional bowl of Lucky Charms never hurt anybody, and when served as a special treat instead of “part of a nutritional breakfast” they are likely to appreciate the gesture all the more. Just don’t declare things the way they are and leave it with “because I said so” or the like—this is likely to build further resentment and may lead to children passing cereal aisles that aren’t even on their way home.
Lots of the readers here are working dads trying hard to balance careers and family time. How do you recommend dads talk to their kids about work or the times that they have to work late hours or travel?
As working parents we know that every paid moment away from the family allows for the further betterment and security of it, financially speaking, but kids, even those that understand the concept of mortgages, rent, bills, and taxes, only know that we are gone. The reality is that we have to work, and often that takes us away from those we want to be with and the moments they are making. The key is what we do with the time we have together. It’s far too easy to work late and spend the next round of free time on the couch catching up on House of Cards, but TV isn’t going anywhere and a tired game of catch in the yard trumps Emmy-winning dramas every single time. Honesty is the best policy, so tell the kids why you can’t be with them, explain what you are doing and why you must do it. They won’t like it, but they like a roof over their head, and they may even find a bit of pride in knowing that they are doing their part by letting you do yours. (psst. I wrote about this topic here, SB)
Skype them often.
What’s your best parenting advice?
The best advice I could ever give is to do everything with love—from packing a lunch to discipline, building a fort to volunteering at a school function—it can be frustrating and trying, but childhood is a small window closing quickly, and only we can decide if it leaves us with wonderful memories or too many regrets.
Well Said, Whit!
What do you think about Whit’s parenting advice? Any of your own to share? Let’s discuss in the comments section.
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Whit Honea lives with his wife and two sons in the Los Angeles area. His fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and his take on parenting has appeared on popular sites like Babble, BabyCenter, GeekDad, DadCentric, and The Huffington Post. He has been twice named a BlogHer Voice of the Year and nominated for an Iris Award for Best Writing.