Tag Archives: cliche

Translation of professional jargon and avoiding cliches

This is a work in progress. We would like to continue adding to this list. Please feel free to make your own suggestions or comments about the included phrases and their definitions.


Translation of jargon phrases

What Professionals say What parents hear What you should say
‘disguised compliance’ I can’t do anything right Nothing. If you think parents are not genuinely engaging then test their engagement. Continue to assess.
‘attachment’ They don’t think I love my child We are worried about the way your child understands the world around him, and who he can trust to keep him safe. This sometimes happen if parents find it hard to be consistent in the way they look after a child. Here are some things we can do to make things better for you and your child.
‘good enough parenting’ As long as I don’t hit my child, I’m ok No parent can ever be perfect. But every child deserves to have his basic physical and emotional needs met. A lot of the time, that means parents are going to have to put the children’s needs first and above their own particularly while the children are very young and vulnerable.
‘pre-contemplative stage’ ???? It is often difficult to make changes to the way you live your life. Making changes comes in stages – first you have to recognise you have a problem, then you have to do something about it and then you have to keep doing it! If parents haven’t even got to the first stage of recognizing they have a problem, then it is difficult to help them
Significant emotional harm As long as I don’t hit my child, I’m ok Children can get hurt in all sorts of ways, not just by being hit. If they are ignored, shouted at or never praised, this can make it hard for them to grow up feeling good about themselves. Adults who don’t feel good about themselves are often very unhappy and sometimes make bad choices in their lives, which hurt them and everyone around them. Children deserve a chance to be able to grow up into happy adults.
Future risk of harm Social workers think they can gaze into a crystal ball and take my child away for no real reason If something happened in the past then there is a risk it will happen in the future. But no one is a prisoner of their past. You can show that you understand what went wrong before and that you want to change it. But you don’t accept anything did go wrong, and you won’t work to try and change it, then the court will be worried about what is likely to keep on happening in the chld’s future.


Words and phrases to avoid

Some words and phrases are not helpful in either establishing or maintaining a relationship between professionals and parents. They are seen as inflammatory and/or cliches .

There is a danger that such phrases are used as a convenient shorthand for a bundle of concerns which may lead to professionals failing to properly analyse what it is about the particular examples that is causing legitimate concern. Also, people find it difficult to engage with or listen to someone who appears to be talking in cliches.

For example: avoid saying ‘Parent X is lacking insight into his problems with substance abuse’. Instead say: Parent X has been using drugs for a long time and has not got any help to stop, even though I have asked him to and given him the address for where he needs to go to get help. Therefore i am worried Parent X just doesn’t understand that he has a serious problem with drug use and I don’t think he can safely look after his children unless he deals with this’.

It is always better to speak plainly and provide examples of actions or failure to act so that everyone is clear exactly what the problem is and what, if anything can be done about it.

Examples of words and phrases that are becoming unhelpful cliches/are not easily understood

I can see an immediate distinction here between legal ‘terms of art’, such as ‘recusal’ and phrases which risk slipping into unhelpful cliche, such as ‘lack of insight’.

Please add in the comments any words/phrases you think should be on this list. 

  • collusion
  • core assessment
  • CP Conference
  • domestic violence
  • emotional attunement
  • failure to engage
  • guardian ad litem
  • holistic needs
  • lack of insight
  • minutes of meeting
  • orange book assessment [I have no idea what this is!]
  • personality traits
  • professionals meeting
  • recusal
  • redacted
  • social work assessment