Once again, Elizabeth Pantley finds a fresh approach to writing about parenting, and her warmth and gentleness shine throughout Hidden Messages: What Our Words and Actions are Really Telling Our Children. Instead of lecturing, Elizabeth uses stories - some true, some compilations of anecdotes - to teach the lessons. This
is a book that can help all parents become better parents,
in small ways and in dramatic ways. She has written a book that
will help parents understand how what they say and do impacts what
their children think and feel, and often in ways we might not first
realize. In her own words in the introduction, Elizabeth says, "It
examines the seemingly healthy everyday interactions between parents
and children to find the surprising problems lurking beneath."
think every parent who reads this book will see herself (or himself)
in at least one of these stories, even parents who truly believe
they are doing a good job. And that's not to say that they aren't
doing a good job; the lessons presented in this book, however, provide
the framework to help parents do an even better job. Here
is how the book works: First, there is a story to read, involving
parent(s) and child(ren). After the story comes "The Hidden Message"
- the message that is unknowingly being conveyed through the words
and actions of the parent(s). After the message comes "Changes You
Can Make." As usual, Elizabeth offers real-life, doable solutions
to the parenting challenges that she presents.
Messages deals with eight topics: responsibility and independence;
thoughtfulness and kindness; annoyance and anger; relationships;
discipline and behavior; listening, caring and love; time and priorities;
and, parenting styles. Some of the hidden messages that Elizabeth
"I can talk
about you all I want, and since you're just a child, you're not
listening to what I say anyway. You're not worthy of the same respect
I'd give another adult. Besides, this is how I really feel
about you, and I don't care about your feeling - you're just a kid,
so your feelings aren't important."
about any of these tasks. I'll do them for you. I'll always
be there to do them for you. You're not very capable, and you'd
never catch on, anyway, even if I did try to show you."
"If you want
our attention, all you have to do is yell and fight. One of us will
be right there to solve the problem for you."
"The new baby
is a special, fragile, precious person - much more important to
us than you are. From now on, everything you say or do will be affected
by her presence. From now on, she comes first."
"What you have
to say is not important enough to justify my complete attention."
"I demand that
you obey me, and obey me you will.but since I always tell you what
to do and when, and since I've not taught you how to make your own
decisions, or encouraged you to think for yourselves, or helped
you develop self-discipline, I would be shocked to know what's going
on behind my back."
If you read these
messages separately from the parables, they seem hostile, absurd,
ridiculous. And yet, when you read them after reading the associated
story, they make perfect sense, and it is easy to see how a child
might internalize these messages based on how they are treated and
spoken to. As I read some of these stories, my own memories of being
a child came flooding back to the surface, and I saw my own parents
and childhood in the stories. It is fascinating to read Elizabeth's
book and see where we as parents might be doing the very same things
that the characters in the anecdotes are doing. But as Elizabeth gently
reminds us, "As with so many situations in life, half the battle is
discovering the mistake; the other half is fixing it - and becoming
aware of the potential for error can sometimes prevent it altogether."
These parables are excellent tools for helping parents become conscious
of what they are doing and saying and aware of how their children
might be reacting to these deeds and words. Without taking away any
of a parent's authority, she helps us see things from a child's point
of view and helps us learn to talk to and treat our kids with love
I am very pleased
to include this book in my personal collection and would happily recommend
it to any friend or family member. The style of the book - relating
stories rather than simply saying what to do and what not to do -
makes this book so much more effective in getting the points across.
Dr. William Sears says in the foreword, "This unique book is sure
to gently tweak the consciences of even the best parents, inspire
them to raise their children in a more conscious and sensitive manner
- and tug at their heartstrings as a reminder to give constructive
messages to their children." I can't say enough good things about
Elizabeth Pantley's books in general, and Hidden
Messages is no exception. It is an inspiring book.
Book review by Jennifer Thompson
• Hidden Messages at Amazon.com
• Hidden Messages at Amazon UK
• Hidden Messages at Amazon Canada
Also on StorkNet by Elizabeth Pantley:
• Interview with StorkNet members
• Articles on StorkNet
• Kid Cooperation review
• Perfect Parenting review
• No-Cry Sleep Solution review
Visit Elizabeth's website