Guiding Young Children From the Inside Out
Supporting the Social and Emotional Development of Young Children
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Some of my favorite go-to books and websites

Can Do Kids

Robert Brooks, Ph.D.
Sam Goldstein, Ph.D.


Research has shown that resilience is the most important quality you can instill in your children. Here's how to help them handle any challenge with confidence. If you were asked what you wanted in life for your kids, you might say happiness, success in school, close friendship, a loving family, and a gratifying career. Although you can't give your kids all these things, you can help them develop the trait that is the key to attaining them: resilience.

Read more of this exerpt from this terrific book by Robert Brooks, Ph.D. and Sam Goldstein Raising Resilient Children

Keep The Cool In School

Promoting Non-Violent Behavior in Children
By Bruce Duncan Perry, M.D., Ph.D.

Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D, a leading expert on brain development and children in crisis, has identified six core strengths that children need to be humane. A child who can form and maintain healthy emotional relationships, self-regulate, join and contribute to a group, and be aware, tolerant, and respectful of himself and others will be more resourceful, more successful in social situations, and more resilient. Studies show that when a child is violent, one or more of these core strengths did not develop normally. The child without these strengths will be in greater danger of becoming violent and also less able to cope with bullies and other verbal or physical abuse. A child who does not develop these core strengths is a vulnerable child.

Read more from this and other articles written by Dr. Bruce Perry on the Scholastic website.

Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!"

By Alfie Kohn Note: NOTE: This article was published in Young Children, September 2001; and, in abridged form (with the title "Hooked on Praise"), in Parents Magazine, May 2000.

Hang out at a playground, visit a school, or show up at a child's birthday party, and there's one phrase you can count on hearing repeatedly: "Good job!" Even tiny infants are praised for smacking their hands together ("Good clapping!"). Many of us blurt out these judgments of our children to the point that it has become almost a verbal tic. Plenty of books and articles advise us against relying on punishment, from spanking to forcible isolation ("time out"). Occasionally someone will even ask us to rethink the practice of bribing children with stickers or food. But you'll have to look awfully hard to find a discouraging word about what is euphemistically called positive reinforcement. Lest there be any misunderstanding, the point here is not to call into question the importance of supporting and encouraging children, the need to love them and hug them and help them feel good about themselves. Praise, however, is a different story entirely. Here's why.

A great article by Alfie Kohn. Click here to read more about the five reasons.

Assessing Young Children's Social Competence

Diane E. McClellan and Lilian G. Katz
EDO-PS-01-2
March 2001

The set of items presented below is based on research on elements of social competence in young children and on studies in which the behavior of well-liked children has been compared with that of less-liked children (Katz & McClellan, 1997; Ladd & Profilet, 1996; McClellan & Kinsey, 1999).... The checklist is intended as one of a variety of ways the social well-being of children can be assessed.

This is a great, teacher-friendly tool that you might useful.

Positive Discipline Guidelines

From the book Positive Discipline
by Jane Nelsen

Misbehaving children are "discouraged children" who have mistaken ideas on how to achieve their primary goal-to belong. Their mistaken ideas lead them to misbehavior. We cannot be effective unless we address the mistaken beliefs rather than just the misbehavior.

Use encouragement to help children feel "belonging" so the motivation for misbehaving will be eliminated. Celebrate each step in the direction of improvement rather than focusing on mistakes. A great way to help children feel encouraged is to spend special time "being with them." Many teachers have noticed a dramatic change in a "problem child" after spending five minutes simply sharing what they both like to do for fun.

Check out the other fifteen tips on the Positive Discipline website. Jane Nelson's books contain a wealth of ideas. Her Positive Discipline series targets kids from toddlers through teens.

Questions and Answers about Resilience

Sam Goldstein, Ph.D.

Question: You spoke of "empathizing" with your children, seeing the world through their eyes, as a step to raising resilient kids. If your kid tries to justify why he got into a fight with another kid in school, how can you show empathy if you realize it was your child's fault?

Answer: We have found that many parents confuse empathy with giving in to their children or not holding them accountable for their actions. However, empathy has nothing to do with giving in or making excuses for our children's unacceptable behaviors. Rather, empathy involves seeing the world through our children's eyes and asking such questions as, "How can I speak with my children so that they will be most responsive to hearing what I have to say?" and "Would I want anyone to speak to me the way I am speaking with my child?"

These questions and answers about resiliency originally appeared in a Newsweek article in 2001.

The Risks of Rewards

Alfie Kohn
EDO-PS-94-14
December 1994

Many educators are acutely aware that punishment and threats are counterproductive. Making children suffer in order to alter their future behavior can often elicit temporary compliance, but this strategy is unlikely to help children become ethical, compassionate decision makers...As with punishments, the offer of rewards can elicit temporary compliance in many cases. Unfortunately, carrots turn out to be no more effective than sticks at helping children to become caring, responsible people or lifelong, self-directed learners.

Another thoughtful Alfie article. If you are using rewards with kids, this article might get you to rethinking your strategies.

What Children Can't Do...Yet

Dan Hodgins


When working with children keep in mind what they are ready for and what they are not; what they can do and what they are unable to do…yet.

I can't share.

Children use possession of objects as a device to understand autonomy. Just as babbling comes before talking, so owning comes before sharing. To share fully, a child must first fully possess.

I can't say, "I'm sorry," and mean it.

Saying "I'm sorry" has little meaning to the young child. To say, "I'm sorry" and understand what you are saying, you must also be able to understand how the other person feels.

I can't remember what you told me.

Most children remember only what is important to them. A child may not remember that you just told them to walk, and not run, while indoors. Adults often forget that children have trouble remembering.

Check out the rest of Dan's valuable little article online.

Avoiding "Me Against You" Discipline

Ideas that work
Note: This digest was adopted from an article that appeared in the November, 1988 issue of Young Children (pages 24-9).

How do young children learn self-control,self-help, ways to get along with others, and family and school procedures? Such learning occurs when parents and teachers of infants, toddlers, or preschoolers are continuously involved in setting limits, encouraging desired behaviors, and making decisions about managing children.

When making these decisions, caregivers often ask themselves these questions: Am I disciplining in a way that hurts or helps this child's self-esteem? Will my discipline help the child develop self-control? This digest suggests methods and language that can be used in handling common situations involving young children.
This article is an oldie but goody...one that I have used hundreds of times. It's one of those "theory into practice" things with ideas you can use tomorrow.

Copyright 2005-2012 Jenna Bilmes