Arts & Culture

Book reviews

Four books by Yale authors

The Everyday Parenting Toolkit: The Kazdin Method for Easy, Step-by-Step Lasting Change for You and Your Child
Alan E. Kazdin with Carlo Rotella ’94PhD

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25
Reviewed by Jennifer Conlin

Jennifer Conlin is a regular contributor to the New York Times.

What is most remarkable about Alan Kazdin’s latest book, The Everyday Parenting Toolkit, is how it covers every age group from toddler to teen. Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale, draws on the real-life successes of families who sought advice from the Yale Parenting Center, of which he is the director. (See “Breaking the Tantrum Cycle,” September/October 2005.) Those case studies, dealing with everyday behavioral issues, are the crux of this book; they’re mixed with scientific research on childrearing, and the combination gives parents lessons on how to handle everything from a young child’s tantrum to a young adult’s Facebook obsession. (Yes, you have to “set limits on access to computers, smartphones, tablets, and other such devices.”)

Kazdin’s toolkit includes three phases of parenting goals. “A” (antecedents): setting up circumstances that will promote a particular behavior you want to see from your child. “B” (behavior): seeing more of that behavior. And “C” (consequences): making the behavior a habit.

Most reassuring, however, is the myriad of advice offered to parents under stress. Kazdin does not judge parents for yelling, nagging, and even sometimes swatting a child—but he does explain why those desperate measures won’t solve the problem. Instead, he promotes positive parenting. In under 200 pages, we learn why most punishments rarely work and that hugging a child can be the most important technique for achieving good behavior.