The Good News About Bad Behavior

From PublicAffairs, an imprint of Hachette Books.
Now available to order! 

A new and surprising problem has quietly been developing in the current generation of children: they are out of control. A recent study of first-graders found they could sit still for no more than three minutes, only a quarter of the time that their peers could in 1948. Government statistics show that half of all children will develop a mood or behavioral disorder or a substance addiction by age 18. In the era of the helicopter parent, children seem to have lost the ability to regulate their behavior and emotions.

Our time-honored methods of punishments and rewards haven't taught discipline--they've undermined it. Journalist Katherine Reynolds Lewis spent five years investigating this crisis: observing families at the dinner table, meeting educators who are transforming the school experience for kids with attention and mood disorders, studying psychological research, and looking introspectively at her own parenting habits. And in this unexpected and valuable book, she documents a new theory of discipline that could reverse the trend: "The Apprenticeship Model," which centers on listening and building children’s skills to address the root causes of misbehavior, rather than reactionary incentives and consequences. By strengthening their connection, communication and capability, we can raise children who are self-disciplined, confident, and better equipped to handle the challenges they'll face in life--and whose parents can finally stop wondering what they're doing wrong.

The book grows out of Lewis’ July 2015 article for Mother Jones magazine about school discipline. Within days of appearing on, the article became the site’s most-read story ever, racking up more than 4 million views, 790,000 Facebook shares, 6,000 tweets and 980 comments. Parents and teachers around the world wrote in to say the piece changed their approach with children. It made its way into conference sessions and university curricula, and attracted interest in Sweden and Germany. Clearly, millions of people were facing the same fears, confronting the same problems, and looking for solutions.

By the end of The Good News About Bad Behavior, readers should respond to unwanted behavior from children not with alarm, but with eagerness. Rather than seeing it as a problem, they’ll see it as an expected and totally normal part of how modern kids develop — and a chance to practice the tools in the book.

Thank you to the Logan Nonfiction Program at the Carey Institute for Global Good, Ragdale Foundation and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts for fellowships and residencies that supported the writing of this book.

Book clubs and school groups may use The Good News About Bad Behavior as a "community read," which means that the organization announces a community-wide book selection ahead of time, so when Katherine arrives for a scheduled talk and signing, the audience can engage on a deeper level with the ideas in her presentation.

For information on setting up a community read or book talk, contact me



“Katherine Lewis has written a smart, compassionate book for the 21st century parent. Forget the carrot-and-stick approach to redirecting children’s’ behavior. We can help our kids develop their inner motivation for behaving well — while simultaneously forging lasting family bonds — by following the wise guidance in BAD BEHAVIOR.” —Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of WHEN and DRIVE

"Journalist and parenting coach Lewis documents a crisis seen in children of all ages. . . . plenty of practical advice . . . The Good News About Bad Behavior is a great addition to public and academic library parenting collections.”  —Joyce McIntosh, Booklist

“The Good News About Bad Behavior is the book parents and teachers need in order to understand the link between empathy and genuine, human connection to positive behavioral outcomes. Lewis explains how children's lack of self-regulation and resilience is at the root of so many modern parenting dilemmas and gives practical, useful advice for how to do better for our kids. The Good News on Bad Behavior is an important addition to my parenting and education library.”  —Jessica Lahey, New York Times bestselling author of The Gift of Failure

"An engaging, conversational writer, Lewis intersperses the neurological deep-dive with fly-on-the-wall reporting on families in action and examples from her parent-training group... Lewis provides a reassuring road map forward. And a little more help with the laundry won't hurt, either."―Seattle Times

"An approach to child-rearing that allows for 'the messiness of childhood.' As children today navigate tech and social media, a changing landscape of play, and a culture more oriented to personal success than family well-being, Lewis argues that we can no longer rely on old methods of discipline such as time outs."―KQED

“Our new-normal is a generation of children who cannot self-regulate and who instead exhibit behavior that is both disruptive at school and home and can make us parents feel embarrassed; we then seek control via rewards or punishments, neither of which creates any permanent learning or intrinsic change in the child. Into the breach steps journalist Katherine Reynolds Lewis, armed with the latest behavioral science research and her eye-opening journalistic inquiry. She introduces a new discipline model making all the difference in classrooms and families, at the heart of which is a paradox - in order to get kids to behave the way you want, you must give up control of that outcome and let them do the work to get there themselves. The logic of it becomes clear through her detailed real-life stories of parents, educators, and kids whose lives are changing dramatically. An absolute must-read for anyone raising or teaching 'difficult' children, and insightful to anyone eager to teach kids how to regulate their own behavior and ultimately thrive in society on their own.” —Julie Lythcott-Haims, New York Times bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult

"Lewis proposes ... that, instead of simply levying a punishment in the moment, parents come up with agreements with their kids and clearly define the consequences for violating them."―Washingtonian

"Household jobs can build a child's capability, helping them practice independence and autonomy, foster connection with the family and help them become capable adults, according to "The Good News About Bad Behavior," an insightful new book."―San Francisco Chronicle

"Lewis wrote her book in response to what she sees as a crisis of self-regulation among kids today. This, she explains, is the reason why nearly half of today's children will develop a mood disorder, behavioral disorder or substance abuse problem by age 18."―CNN

“If you hate disciplining your kids with time-outs and punishments, you're in for a treat. Instead of trying to control children, this timely book shows how you can teach them to control themselves.” —Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Give and TakeOriginals, and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg

"Katherine Lewis has written an important book that will give hope and support to mothers and fathers who want both understanding and answers. With a parent's compassion and a journalist's rigor, she offers advice from the trenches while providing a realistic roadmap towards a better family life. Blending solid science and highly readable storytelling, The Good News About Bad Behavior is sure to become a parent must-read." Judith Warner, New York Times-bestselling author of Perfect Madness and We've Got Issues

“At a time when families are feeling pressed for time and stressed by the demands of modern living, Katherine Reynolds Lewis makes an urgent case for connection, communication and giving children space to develop their own capability. With compelling stories and research, Lewis’s book is a welcome guide through the land mines of modern parenting.” Brigid Schulte, award-winning journalist and author of the New York Times-bestselling Overwhelmed: Work, Love & Play when No One has the Time, and director of The Better Life Lab at New America

"Childhood - and parenting - have radically changed in the past few decades, to the point where far more children today struggle to manage their behavior. That's the argument Katherine Reynolds Lewis makes in her new parenting book, The Good News About Bad Behavior."―NPR

“The definitive book on raising children to cope with the distractions and temptations of the modern world. A must read for parents and educators looking to do things differently than in the past.” Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time

“A book that is both incredibly fascinating AND insanely helpful? That's what you're holding in your hands. A great book! It is both reassuring and fantastic to know that there's a way out of bad behavior, and a very rational reason for why it exists in the first place!” Lenore Skenazy, President of Let Grow, founder of Free-Range Kids

“Filled with current research about fostering the skills and values children need for success in life today… I will be using this book with the parents I teach and coach for years to come.” Patricia H. Cancellier, MPH, Education Director, the Parent Encouragement Program