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The Learning Gap, by Harold W. Stevenson and James W. Stigler (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992). This is just plain fascinating reading about a longitudinal study conducted at the University of Michigan to try to determine why some students hang in there longer and handle frustration better than others. The results may surprise you: it's all about what parents emphasize to their kids. Here's the big clue: affirming your child's effort is more important than praising her end result.

The Magic of Encouragement: Nurturing Your Child's Self-Esteem, by Stephanie Marston (New York: Morrow, 1990). "Kitchen-tested" tools to enhance your child's self-esteem and positively affirm his strengths and efforts.

My Kid's an Honor Student, Your Kid's a Loser: The Pushy Parent's Guide to Raising a Perfect Child, by Ralph Schoenstein (Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus, 2003). Sharp observations, spun out in a humorous style, about today's parents obsessed with creating Superkids.

Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child, by Jim Taylor (New York: Hyperion, 2002). The author contrasts the old style of parental pushing that's overinvested in kids' grades and soccer scores with the positive pushing of parents who invite children to gain joy from their achievements.

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, As, Praise, and Other Bribes, by Alfie Kohn (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999). A stirring (and convincing) argument that affirmation must not be laced with the carrot-and-stick approach of rewarding kids' efforts but be deserved and oriented toward instilling internal joy instead.

Raising Confident Boys: 100 Tips for Parents and Teachers, by Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer (Cambridge, Mass.: Fisher Books, 2001). A wonderful compilation of practical ideas to help bolster a boy's self-image. Also by the same author: Raising Confident Girls: 100 Tips for Parents and Teachers (Cambridge, Mass.: Fisher Books, 2001).

Toilet Trained for Yale: Adventures in list Century Parenting, by Ralph Schoenstein (New York: Perseus, 2002). A humorous yet scathing look at parenting in overdrive and the effect it's having on our kids. Interesting reading!

Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishment to Love and Reason, by Alfie Kohn (New York: Atria, 2005). Kids do best when given unconditional love, respect, and opportunities to make their own choices. In the end, says Kohn, we sure don't want docility and short-term obedience. Well said, and a great read.

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