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Raising Human Beings

Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child

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In Raising Human Beings, the renowned child psychologist and New York Times bestselling author of Lost at School and The Explosive Child explains how to cultivate a better parent-child relationship while also nurturing empathy, honesty, resilience, and independence.

Parents have an important task: figure out who their child is—his or her skills, preferences, beliefs, values, personality traits, goals, and direction—get comfortable with it, and then help him or her pursue and live a life that is congruent with it. But parents also want to have influence. They want their kid to be independent, but not if he or she is going to make bad choices. They don’t want to be harsh and rigid, but nor do they want a noncompliant, disrespectful kid. They want to avoid being too pushy and overbearing, but not if an unmotivated, apathetic kid is what they have to show for it. They want to have a good relationship with their kids, but not if that means being a pushover. They don’t want to scream, but they do want to be heard. Good parenting is about striking the balance between a child’s characteristics and a parent’s desire to have influence.

Now Dr. Ross Greene offers a detailed and practical guide for raising kids in a way that enhances relationships, improves communication, and helps kids learn how to resolve disagreements without conflict. Through his well-known model of solving problems collaboratively, parents can forgo time-out and sticker charts, stop badgering, berating, threatening, and punishing, allow their kids to feel heard and validated, and have influence. From homework to hygiene, curfews, to screen time, Raising Human Beings arms parents with the tools they need to raise kids in ways that are non-punitive and non-adversarial and that brings out the best in both parent and child.

Raising Human Beings - Chapter 1 - ROLE CONFUSION
It seems like it’s always been this way. Adults telling kids what to do and making them do it. Might makes right. Father knows best. Spare the rod and spoil the child. Do as I say, not as I do. Children should be seen and not heard.

And yet, along with some other historically subjugated groups—women, people of color—children have come a long way. Not so long ago, children were brought into the world to ensure the survival of the species, to help out on the farm, to generate some income, or simply because birth control wasn’t yet in vogue or reliable. Nowadays, with the species more populous than ever and with most kids off the hook (in the Western world, anyway) for tending the flock or contributing income, kids have choices. They’re real people. They matter. And they know it.

Some observers of Western society are not especially enthusiastic about the rise in kids’ status, pointing with alarm at what they perceive as the disrespectful, irreverent character of the modern child (Aristotle, of course, complained about the same thing). They lament the “adultification” of children and look with disdain upon parents who aren’t sufficiently in charge. They long for the good old days, when roles were clear, kids knew their place, and administering a well-deserved thrashing wouldn’t get you reported to the authorities.

On the other hand, there are those who aren’t quite convinced that the good old days were as marvelous as advertised. They’ve come to realize that might and right don’t overlap seamlessly, and that father didn’t always know best. They now recognize that the rod was an unnecessary and even counterproductive teaching tool, that thrashings were a pretty extreme way to make a point, and that there’s more to raising a kid than carrots and sticks. They believe that allowing children to have a voice in their own affairs might actually be good preparation for The Real World.

So, as it relates to how to raise kids, a lot of parents are a little confused about how to proceed these days. They’re mired in that muddy territory that lies between permissiveness and authoritarianism. They want their kid to be independent, but not if he’s going to make bad choices. They want to avoid being harsh and rigid, but not if the result is a noncompliant, disrespectful kid. They want to avoid being too pushy and overbearing, but not if an unmotivated, apathetic kid is what they have to show for it. They want to have a good relationship with their kid, but not if that means being a pushover. They don’t want to scream, but they do want to be heard.

It’s all about balance, but the balance sometimes seems so precarious, so difficult to achieve.

Fortunately, it’s not mud that lies between the Dictatorial Kingdom and the Pushover Provinces. It’s a partnership, and one in which collaboration, rather than power, is the key ingredient. A partnership that will help you and your kid work together as allies—as teammates—rather than as adversaries. A partnership that will help you forge a relationship that works for both of you, that gives you both room to grow, that provides your child with the solid foundation he needs to someday spread his wings and fly.

We seem to be moving pretty fast here. A collaborative partnership? With my kid? For real?

For real. You may not be aware of it, but you started collaborating with your kid the instant he came into this world. When he cried, you tried to figure out what was the matter. Then you tried to do something about it. Then, based on his feedback, if it became apparent that your intuition or your intervention wasn’t spot-on, you adjusted. So you’ve had a collaborative partnership with your kid for quite some time.

Will I still be an authority figure in a collaborative partnership?

Yes, very much so. Not an “old school” authority figure, but an authority figure nonetheless.

It turns out that what you’re mostly looking for, as a parent, is influence. Not control. And there is more than one way to get that influence. One path involves power and coercion, but there’s another path, one that enhances communication, improves relationships, and better prepares kids for a lot of what actually lies ahead in The Real World. This book, as you might have guessed, is about the second path.

The good news is that, by mere virtue of your position as parent, you already have influence. The bad news is that you don’t have as much influence as you thought and that if you use your influence in the wrong way, you’ll have even less.

Now some more good news: your child wants influence too.

That’s good news?

Yes, that’s very good news. For your child to do well in The Real World, he’ll need to know what he wants. Of course, it wouldn’t be ideal for you to give him everything he wants just because he wants it. So he’ll also need to know how to pursue what he wants adaptively and in a way that takes others’ needs and concerns into account. As a pretty influential guy named Hillel once wrote, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I?” The problem, of course, is that Hillel didn’t give us the recipe for balancing those two considerations. Nonetheless, you’re on the hook for helping your child do it.

Creating a collaborative partnership with a child is unfamiliar territory for many parents, and we adults often aren’t very enthusiastic about treading into unfamiliar territory. If we’re going to err, it’s often going to be in the direction of authoritarianism and rigidity, and we can easily find support for this position, perhaps from parenting experts (depending on who we follow), perhaps in scripture (if we’re selective about where we look). But working toward a collaborative partnership has the potential to make parenting far more rewarding and to have you someday looking in the rearview mirror with great satisfaction.

We humans have come so far in so many realms. We have electricity and iPods and smartphones and the Internet. We can communicate instantaneously with people anywhere in the world. We’ve mastered flight. We’ve landed people on the moon and explored planets. We can transplant hearts and livers and faces and replace limbs. We can prevent and cure diseases. We can make babies without need of intercourse . . . and help them survive if they’re born many months before term.

But we’re still overreliant on power and control to solve problems. In that very important respect, we haven’t come far enough. And it begins with how we raise our children.

Completing the quote from Hillel, “If not now, when?”

• • • • •

As you read in the introduction, there are several stories that run throughout the book. Each focuses on a different family. These families’ situations will help elucidate the themes and strategies you’ll learn about. Let’s meet our first family now.

Denise was in her early-morning single-mom frazzle. Three kids to get out the door to school, a job to get to (preferably on time), and a boss who tried to be understanding but didn’t take kindly to late-arriving employees.

“Hank, get down here and eat your breakfast! Nick, stop doing your homework and go get dressed for school—you should’ve finished it last night, anyway! Charlotte, please turn off the TV and get your backpack ready. You’re going to miss the bus! I’ve told you a million times not to watch TV in the morning before school! And the dog still hasn’t been fed!”

Charlotte, the youngest of Denise’s kids, meandered into the kitchen. “Can’t somebody else be the one who feeds the dog in the morning? There’s too much for me to do.”

“Fine, I’ll feed the dog,” said Denise, pouring milk into a bowl of cereal for Hank. “Just get out of here so you don’t miss your bus! I don’t have time to drive you to school again!”

“I like when you drive me to school,” said Charlotte, sitting down on a kitchen chair.

“Charlotte, don’t sit down!” said Denise. “I like driving you to school, too, but not when I’m this late. Go!”

Charlotte got up from the chair, just in time for her older brother, Hank, to flick her ear as he sat down for breakfast.


“Hank, leave her be!” hissed Denise. “What did I tell you was going to happen to your Xbox if you keep torturing your sister?”

“What’s for breakfast?” mumbled Hank, still half asleep.

Denise placed the bowl of cereal in front of Hank.

“I don’t want cereal,” grumbled Hank.

“It’s all I have time for today.”

“Then I won’t eat breakfast.”

“There are some frozen waffles in the freezer,” offered Denise. “Does that work?”

“I don’t want breakfast.”

“I don’t want you going to school without breakfast,” said Denise, opening a can of dog food.

“Yeah, well, I’m not hungry. You never have time to make pancakes except on the weekend.”

Hank got up from the table and left the kitchen.

“I can’t make pancakes every day!” called Denise. “And nobody else likes pancakes, anyway. Nick, stop with the homework. Do you want the cereal Hank isn’t eating?”

“Hank probably got his spit in it already,” said Nick.

“That’s right, loser,” called Hank from the hallway. “?’Cuz losers eat my spit.”

“I’m not eating it,” announced Nick.

Denise sighed and dumped the cereal in the sink and poured a new bowl of cereal for Nick.

“I’m not using the same bowl he spit in!”

“Fine. I’ll give you a new bowl.” Denise poured fresh cereal and milk into a different bowl and set the dog food in front of Nick.

“This is disgusting!” Nick protested before Denise noticed her error.

“Oh geez!” Denise replaced the dog food with the bowl of cereal.

“Don’t spill it on my homework!” Nick warned.

“Bye,” Charlotte called from the front hallway.

“Bye, sweetie; I love you!” called Denise.

A minute later, Denise heard Hank leave without saying good-bye. Then she noticed that Nick hadn’t touched his cereal.

“Nick, enough with the freaking homework!”

When Nick had left and Denise was finally on her way to work, a few minutes late as usual, she wondered why every morning had to be just like the last. Would it ever get easier?
This reading group guide for Raising Human Beings includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


In Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child, renowned child psychologist Dr. Ross Greene helps parents maintain the balance between helping kids figure out who they are—their skills, preferences, beliefs, values, personality traits, goals, and direction—and ensuring that kids benefit from parents’ experience, wisdom, and values. His collaborative, nonpunitive, nonadversarial approach helps parents reduce conflict, enhance parent-child communication, and forge a partnership with their kids. With extensive real-life scenarios, Q & A’s, and step-by-step instructions, Dr. Greene has written an essential and practical guide that arms parents with all the tools they need to raise kids who are confident, self-aware, empathic, and humane.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. In the very beginning of the book, Dr. Greene writes, “These days, the guidance on how to raise kids is so ubiquitous and so incongruous” (page xi). What does he mean? Do you agree? What are some examples to support his statement?

2. Do you agree that the most crucial task of your child’s development is discovering who he or she is (skills, preferences, beliefs, values, personality traits, goals, and direction)? If so, why? If not, what then is the most crucial task?

3. Dr. Greene argues that there are not significant differences between the typical child and the behaviorally challenged child. Why does he make this assertion? Was it surprising to you? Do you agree? Why?

Role Confusion

4. What does Dr. Greene mean when he writes about role confusion? Do you think it is as prevalent as Dr. Greene says? How do you see role confusion in your own household?

5. What are the Dictatorial Kingdom and the Pushover Provinces? Do you see your parenting style falling into either category? What are the flaws of each category? How is making these distinctions helpful for parents?


6. Incompatibility is used to describe moments when a child cannot meet the demands and expectations placed upon him. When is incompatibility a good thing? What is the role of the helper when dealing with this concern? How can you recognize when incompatibility may arise?

7. Why does Dr. Greene suggest that tantrums can be a good sign on page 15? In what manner should you respond to incompatibility?

Business as Usual

8. In Chapter 3, Dr. Greene takes parents through a few traditional exhorting and extorting scenarios. Why aren’t they effective? How can punishment interfere with helping kids find their inner voice?

Your Options

9. Discuss the four goals for solving problems collaboratively: identify unmet expectations, evaluate your child’s ability to meet expectations, prioritize, and solve the problem. What are the differences between Plans A, B, and C in the problem-solving goal? What is appealing about this framework? How can you incorporate it into your own parenting?

Solving Problems Together

10. What is the Empathy step of Plan B? How important is empathy when solving problems collaboratively? How can you teach empathy to children?

Technical Support

11. What are some things you should avoid doing to keep Plan B from going off the rails? Are these things that you often find yourself resorting to? Are there any other things you would add to the list? How can you avoid doing them?

Parental Angst

12. What are the signs that your parental anxiety is over the top? What are your most common sources of anxiety? How can you reduce it?

An Enduring Partnership

13. Discuss the different expectations kids struggle with at various age points. How does this breakdown of expectations help you prepare for an enduring partnership with your child? Were there any major expectations you didn’t see listed? If so, discuss where they might best fit and how you can approach them.

The Big Picture

14. Throughout the book, you met three different families struggling with various problems. How were these families helpful when trying to figure out how to use collaboration? What did you learn from the different families? In what ways were they similar to your family?

Enhance your Book Club

1. Practice Plan B in your group. Take turns role-playing situations you are currently dealing with at home and apply Plan B to solving these problems.

2. How can you apply Dr. Greene’s Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) method to problems outside the realm of parenting? Discuss ways in which this method can be used with friends, coworkers, and other adults in your life.
Photograph by Jon Sachs

Dr. Ross W. Greene is the author of Raising Human Beings, Lost and Found, Lost at School, and The Explosive Child. Dr. Greene was on the faculty at Harvard Medical School for over twenty years, and is now founding director of the nonprofit organization Lives in the Balance (, through which he disseminates the model of care—now called Collaborative & Proactive Solutions—described in his books. Dr. Greene’s research has been funded by the US Department of Education, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Stanley Medical Research Institute, and the Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory Group. He speaks widely throughout the world.

"This practical guide is a powerful tool to support the development of mindsight—how we know our own mind, connect with others, and respect differences. Collaborating with our children and teens is an important skill Ross Greene inspires us to acquire to help our kids learn the lifelong capacity to problem solve, be empathic, and become more insightful. Filled with captivating stories and clear steps, Raising Human Beings will help you raise thoughtful and resilient individuals."—Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. New York Times bestselling author of Brainstorm and co-author of The Whole-Brain Child and No-Drama Discipline

"Ross Greene takes a deep dive into the complexities of raising a human being and emerges with guidelines that are clear, doable, and sure to empower both parents and their children."--Adele Faber, co-author of How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

"Want to know how to prepare your child for the innovation era? How to raise a child who knows who he or she is and can collaborate and solve problems creatively? Ross Greene will show you how in this book. Practice the parenting approach he describes, and your child will thrive!"—Tony Wagner, author of The Global Achievement Gap and Creating Innovators

"Parents and children everywhere will benefit from Dr. Greene’s insights into everyday parent-child interactions. His empathic understanding of families’ daily struggles shines through the entire book. He provides realistic, concrete, and effective guidance for turning those struggles from confrontation to collaboration. Bravo!"--Joan E. Durrant, PhD, author of Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting, Associate Professor of Family Social Sciences, University of Manitoba

"A brilliant, practical guide on how to raise children in such a way that they will become the people we all want our children to become.  Brimming with specific tips and how-to details, as well as encouragement and optimism rooted in decades of experience, this book can quickly become any parent's go-to resource day in and day out, especially in those moments when you feel at wit's end.  Bravo, Dr. Greene!"--Ned Hallowell, New York Times bestselling author and ADHD expert

“Inspirational . . . This book is a game changer for parents, teachers, and other caregivers. Its advice is reasonable and empathetic, and readers will feel ready to start creating a better relationship with the children in their lives.”--Publishers Weekly STARRED review


"Not only does Dr. Greene teach us how to be collaborative partners in our children’s development, but how to both raise and to rise up as better human beings."--GeekDad

 “Easy to follow...stuffed with examples and mock adult-child conversations...makes a powerful case for rethinking typical approaches to parenting and disciplining children. "--The Atlantic

More books from this author: Ross W. Greene