Good Inside (2022) offers hope to parents who feel helpless when it comes to managing conflict in their homes. More than parenting, it’s about loving yourself and extending that love to your children. Dr. Becky rejects traditional reward and punishment strategies, instead encouraging parents to seek understanding with their children while still maintaining healthy boundaries.
Introduction: Throw away the sticker charts and fall in love with your children again.
If you’ve tried and abandoned your fair share of sticker charts and time-outs, you’re not alone. Frustrated parents everywhere are buying up advice books and joining support groups – all in an effort to fix their kids’ bad behaviors.
But maybe parenting shouldn’t revolve around traditional discipline methods and charts. And this summary is here to prove it.
Dr. Becky Kennedy’s Good Inside is about doing away with parenting methods that have proven ineffective and changing the way you approach your relationships with your kids.
In this summary, you’ll learn how to use connection-based strategies and find a way to hold your boundaries while teaching your child how to navigate their feelings and experiences without fear, shame, or self-doubt.
You won’t end tantrums.
You won’t end sibling rivalry or emotional outbursts.
But what you will do is build strong, sustainable relationships with your children that give them the resources they need to become confident, empowered adults. And, as a bonus, you can say goodbye to parent guilt, discouragement, and fear.
So with that, let’s get parenting.
Behavior is not the problem.
Before we begin, let’s make one point clear: Your child is good inside. No matter what. When he’s hitting his little sister with a shoe, he’s good inside. When she’s telling you she hates you, she’s good inside.
Agreeing to the “good inside” belief is the foundation for everything that’s coming next. Because once you treat your children, yourself, and everyone, really, with the understanding that they’re inherently good inside, you’ll start to make more generous interpretations of their behavior.
In fact, the first thing you need to do when situations get tough is take a breath and choose the most generous interpretation or MGI of the situation. Holding on to the MGI helps you approach your child with compassion and a desire to understand, rather than jumping to anger and blame.
Next, you need to accept the fundamental truth that two things can be true at the same time. Even if the two things don’t necessarily get along with each other. For instance, your child wants ice cream for breakfast, and you don’t allow them to have ice cream for breakfast. When you allow both things to be true, you won’t feel the need to completely change your child’s feelings.
In this way, the good-inside method isn’t about honoring feelings and giving children whatever they want; it’s about honoring feelings and holding boundaries.
All of this leads to the final piece of the foundation you need for building better relationships with your children: know your job. Know that it’s your job to hold boundaries, but it’s not your job to change your child’s feelings.
Now, let’s learn how to build on these concepts.
Never too late
Before we move on, let’s address a fear that many parents have when they learn this new way of approaching their kids. The fear is that it’s too late.
The answer to that fear is – it’s not too late. In fact, it’s never too late. Let’s go back to that two-things-are-true idea. Here are two things that are true: how you respond to behavior in the early years is essential, and it’s never too late to heal and change the way you parent.
The early years matter because long before a child has conscious memory, they store memory in their bodies. They recognize the people in their lives who make them feel safe and loved. They form attachments and connections. Paradoxically, the more secure they feel with a parent, the freer they feel to be curious, explore, and push boundaries.
How you handle conflict during these early years teaches your child a lot about themselves. You’re shaping your child’s personality by how you respond to their boundary-pushing, conflict-heavy behaviors.
But as stated before, if you’re past the early years wondering if it’s too late, it’s not. The brain has neuroplasticity – which is the ability to rewire based on new information. If you have past situations you aren’t proud of, you and your child can rewrite the ending through a process called repair.
Repair is connection after disconnection. It’s about going back to a conflict that ended badly, apologizing, talking about what you wish you’d done instead, and then approaching the child with a readiness to understand their perspective. More on repair in a little while. But first, let’s talk about why happiness isn’t as important as you think it is.
Resilience Over Happiness
Happiness isn’t the ultimate goal.
When happiness is your goal, negative feelings are an obstacle. And we should all be allowed our own feelings. When following the good-inside approach to parenting, the idea is never to change, judge, or avoid a child’s feelings.
Yes, you want your children to feel happy. But conflict avoidance, not trusting your own feelings, and feeling “bad” for not being happy can all lead to anxiety in the future. A much better goal to focus on is resiliency. A resilient child can manage their reactions, understand and trust their emotions, and feel comfortable in their own skin.
Resilience isn’t about getting the outcome you want. Remember, your job is to hold boundaries, not control your child’s feelings. Sometimes you just have to sit through the tantrum, and that’s okay.
To teach resilience, you need certain capabilities like empathy, listening, acceptance, and presence. You need to be able to help your child identify their strengths and learn to solve problems on their own. Here’s the hard part – to accomplish what you want for your child, you also have to treat yourself with the same love and respect.
That’s why raising children with a connection-based mindset is also a self-improvement journey. Because our relationships with others – even our kids – will only ever be as good as our relationship with ourselves.
When your goal is resilience, not only do you have to work on yourself, you also have to see behavior for what it is – a glimpse into your child’s inner world. Whenever startling behaviors occur, remember to make your most generous interpretation, remind yourself that two things are true, and approach with a desire to understand.
Now let’s get into the part about changing your behavior.
As we’ve already mentioned, your relationships with others will only ever be as good as your relationship with yourself. If you’re like most parents, you’ve experienced your fair share of shame. It’s important to face that shame, name it, and bring it out into the open. You’re doing this for your own healing, but also so you can recognize shame reactions in your children and help them navigate those tough emotions.
Shame freezes kids. It puts them between a rock and a hard place. Say your son lies about hitting his sister with his shoe. It’s not because he’s a disrespectful little liar. It’s because he’s stuck between wishing he hadn’t hit his sister and worrying that he’s about to lose the love and security he needs from you.
You can help him out of it by empathizing with that shame, helping him bring the truth out, and showing him that his safety and emotional security aren’t at risk just because he makes a bad decision.
Connection is the cure for shame. It helps children feel safe enough to make the right decision on their own. Remember, your child is good inside. You can create an environment that makes it possible for them to be good on the outside as well. One way to create connection and security is to tell the truth. During high-intensity moments, children may have questions. Tell them the truth in simple, understandable ways so that they can better understand their world and their feelings.
As you begin approaching your children with empathy and honesty, recognize that you deserve that same sort of treatment. Self-care is about giving yourself what you need in order to be good on the outside. Breathe, allow your feelings, get your needs met, recognize that others may not like your requests, and repair any hurt you’ve done to yourself.
As we mentioned before, connection is the cure to shame. In the next section, we’ll talk about how to build connection capital with your kids.
Connection is Key
Building connections is an ongoing process. This isn’t a fix-it-and-forget-it situation. Connections need to be established, maintained, and grown.
One of the ways you can do that is with deliberate one-on-one time without your cell phone. You don’t need to take a week off screens or shut off your internet. Just make it a point to have regular moments where your children see you put your phone away and focus on them.
Emotional vaccination is a way of connecting with children before big moments. Maybe before the first day of school, you sit with your child and talk about what’s going to happen. Acknowledge any fears or other feelings. Share a story from a similar experience you had.
Feelings aren’t the problem. Feeling alone in feelings is the problem. The “feeling bench” is a metaphor for how a child feels when something big that they don’t understand is happening. Just sitting with them on the bench and letting them know they’re safe and not alone is sometimes all that’s needed.
Arguably, the most important connection-building technique is something we’ve already discussed: repair. Your goal should never be to avoid relationship ruptures – because that’s impossible. But if you learn the skill of repair, you’ll strengthen your relationships and give your children the skills they need to be resilient in the future.
The four key steps to repairing are: reflection, acknowledgment, saying what you would do differently, and then connecting with curiosity and understanding.
Connection-building is ongoing and it creates the best environment for kids to bring their inside good to the outside, but it doesn’t do away with unwanted behaviors. In the next section, let’s talk first about bad behaviors, and then about normal behaviors that look bad.
When Disconnection Occurs
Bad behaviors happen in good kids. Usually, bad behaviors are a result of a lack of connection, unmet needs, or some underlying fear. If your kid isn’t listening to you, you likely have a connection problem. Don’t try to talk louder, they’re not going to listen. Instead, take a break and go back later and connect with them first before telling them what you want them to do.
Sometimes a child’s emotional demands are too high and it comes out in their body. Emotional tantrums, aggressive tantrums, and fear and anxiety are all manifestations of high emotional demands on a child who’s unable to regulate them.
As a parent, your first goal is safety. If you need to physically remove the child or restrain them, that’s part of your job. Hold the boundaries. Say to your child, I won’t let you hit your sister. The words I won’t let you are powerful because they tell your child that they can count on you. That you’re a safe person who’ll keep them and others safe.
Once safety is accomplished, connect with your child. Get to the root of why they lost control and help them understand. Don’t forget to tell the truth.
Attachment issues can also result in unwanted behaviors like sibling rivalry or lying. Usually, in these cases, a child fears losing their connection with you or losing their place in the world. Connect with your child, empathize with them, and tell the truth. Remember that the goal isn’t to end the behavior, but to make it safe for them to stop the behavior on their own.
Powerlessness can lead to rudeness, defiance, and whining. These are some of the most challenging behaviors to face because they often grate on your nerves or rub you the wrong way. Check in with yourself and why the behavior bothers you before approaching your child. Then connect with your child to talk about your job and their job. Help them find the control they can safely enjoy while respecting the boundaries you set and trusting you to make space for them to grow.
These are just a few of the more common behaviors that come up when there’s a disconnection or unmet need. The behaviors we’ll address next have a different root cause.
Understanding What’s Normal
Many parents are worried about behaviors that are completely normal. Shyness, frustration intolerance, food challenges, tears, and perfectionism are all behaviors that occur out of a child’s normal need to find control over their environment.
When you see a child hesitate to join the group, that’s actually a good thing. They’re trying to understand what’s going on before jumping in. You can help your child by talking about something big beforehand or by sitting with them through their hesitancy and answering any questions they may have. Don’t push them into a situation they don’t feel comfortable with. In the end, you want them to be able to trust their feelings, and that won’t happen if you tell them their feelings are wrong by pushing them into something they don’t want to do.
Frustration intolerance, crying, and perfectionism are also about controlling the environment. Your goal isn’t to help get your child out of these feelings, but rather to help your child continue to progress through them. It’s good for a child to be able to continue to work even in the midst of a certain amount of frustration. Sit with your child, share stories of your own experiences, and help them feel safe to be in their feelings.
Fights over food are often a parent-generated conflicts. Feeding your child is your most fundamental job and gets to the root of your role as a parent. Having a child reject your food almost feels like a personal attack. Remember your job is to give them the right food. Your job isn’t to force them to eat it.
Ultimately, you want your child to grow up with resiliency and confidence. You want them to be able to navigate tough situations, understand consent, hold their own boundaries, and grow in their relationships. They won’t be confident if they don’t trust their own feelings. They can only trust their feelings if you model that trust by being with them through their emotional highs, holding the boundaries, and helping them recognize the good inside themselves.
Raising children with the good-inside approach is ultimately about love and respect. Most behaviors that children exhibit should be easily understandable. After all, we have many of those same behaviors even as adults. Recognize that behavior isn’t the problem and that changing behavior isn’t the ultimate goal. Your child is good inside. There’s a reason they’re behaving the way they are. Your approach to their behavior has to start with connection. Your job is to hold boundaries. And by doing these things, you’re creating an environment that allows your child to feel safe, loved, and good on the outside.
Parenting, Family Conflict Resolution, Conflict Management, Popular Child Psychology, Self-Help, Relationships
About the author
Dr. Becky Kennedy is a clinical psychologist and mom of three, recently named “The Millennial Parenting Whisperer” by TIME Magazine, who’s rethinking the way we raise our children. She specializes in thinking deeply about what’s happening for kids and translating these ideas into simple, actionable strategies for parents to use in their homes. Dr. Becky’s goal is to empower parents to feel sturdier and more equipped to manage the challenges of parenting.
Table of Contents
Part I Dr. Becky’s Parenting Principles
Chapter 1 Good Inside 3
Chapter 2 Two Things Are True 13
Chapter 3 Know Your Job 27
Chapter 4 The Early Years Matter 39
Chapter 5 It’s Not Too Late 51
Chapter 6 Resilience > Happiness 61
Chapter 7 Behavior Is a Window 71
Chapter 8 Reduce Shame, Increase Connection 85
Chapter 9 Tell the Truth 95
Chapter 10 Self-Care 10
Part II Building Connection and Addressing Behaviors
Chapter 11 Building Connection Capital 119
Chapter 12 Not Listening 141
Chapter 13 Emotional Tantrums 149
Chapter 14 Aggressive Tantrums (Hitting, Biting, Throwing) 157
Chapter 15 Sibling Rivalry 169
Chapter 16 Rudeness and Defiance 179
Chapter 17 Whining 187
Chapter 18 Lying 195
Chapter 19 Fears and Anxiety 203
Chapter 20 Hesitation and Shyness 211
Chapter 21 Frustration Intolerance 219
Chapter 22 Food and Eating Habits 227
Chapter 23 Consent 237
Chapter 24 Tears 245
Chapter 25 Building Confidence 251
Chapter 26 Perfectionism 259
Chapter 27 Separation Anxiety 267
Chapter 28 Sleep 275
Chapter 29 Kids Who Don’t Like Talking About Feelings (Deeply Feeling Kids) 285
An Instant Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Indie Bestseller
“This book is for any parent who has ever struggled under the substantial weight of caregiving—which is to say, all of us. Good Inside is not only a wise and practical guide to raising resilient, emotionally healthy kids, it’s also a supportive resource for overwhelmed parents who need more compassion and less stress. Dr. Becky is the smart, thoughtful, in-the-trenches parenting expert we’ve been waiting for!”—Eve Rodsky, New York Times bestselling author of Fair Play and Find Your Unicorn Space
Dr. Becky Kennedy, wildly popular parenting expert and creator of @drbeckyatgoodinside, shares her groundbreaking approach to raising kids and offers practical strategies for parenting in a way that feels good.
Over the past several years, Dr. Becky Kennedy—known to her followers as “Dr. Becky”—has been sparking a parenting revolution. Millions of parents, tired of following advice that either doesn’t work or simply doesn’t feel good, have embraced Dr. Becky’s empowering and effective approach, a model that prioritizes connecting with our kids over correcting them.
Parents have long been sold a model of childrearing that simply doesn’t work. From reward charts to time outs, many popular parenting approaches are based on shaping behavior, not raising humans. These techniques don’t build the skills kids need for life, or account for their complex emotional needs. Add to that parents’ complicated relationships with their own upbringings, and it’s easy to see why so many caretakers feel lost, burned out, and worried they’re failing their kids. In Good Inside, Dr. Becky shares her parenting philosophy, complete with actionable strategies, that will help parents move from uncertainty and self-blame to confidence and sturdy leadership.
Offering perspective-shifting parenting principles and troubleshooting for specific scenarios—including sibling rivalry, separation anxiety, tantrums, and more—Good Inside is a comprehensive resource for a generation of parents looking for a new way to raise their kids while still setting them up for a lifetime of self-regulation, confidence, and resilience.
Psychologist Kennedy, better known as Instagram’s Dr. Becky, brings her advice to the page in her encouraging debut on how parents can “do better on the outside and feel better on the inside.” She makes a solid case that self-development and child development go hand in hand, and to help readers accomplish both, she lays out 10 parenting principles she lives by. These include the belief that all children are good, that resilience is more important than happiness, and that telling the truth is key to having a strong connection with one’s kids. Then come some strategies for increasing “closeness in a parent-child relationship,” with a focus on behavior issues: validating the intensity of a child’s feelings (“your upset is as big as this whole street!”) can help with tantrums, for example, while talking to a child about their feelings can ease separation anxiety, and recording a reassuring message on a “comfort button” kids can press can calm sleep worries. Kennedy’s points that it’s key to really understand a child and that one-on-one time goes a long way are well delivered, and the book is flush with useful ideas—so much so that end-of-chapter summaries would have been a helpful addition. Frustrated parents will find this well worth their time. (Sept.) – Publishers Weekly
Dr. Becky is profoundly changing the way we parent our kids and the way we parent ourselves. Her innovative work shows parents how to challenge inherited beliefs and behaviors and shift the paradigm of how we understand family dynamics. Her work is proof that we can be the parents we want to be—and that we are all good inside.” — Gabby Bernstein, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Universe Has Your Back
“Dr. Becky teaches parents that the foundation of child-rearing is building a solid relationship with their child and offering themselves grace along the way. Captivating and timely, Good Inside is a book parents can turn to at every stage of development, from infancy to adulthood, to continue building connection with their kids.” — Nedra Tawwab, New York Times bestselling author of Set Boundaries, Find Peace
“Parenting is the most important job we’ll ever have and the one we get the least training for, so we tend to follow what our parents did—which, often, wasn’t great. Emphasizing connection first, Dr. Becky offers a new way to parent, sharing clear advice and examples for setting boundaries with love and compassion. Good Inside is the book I wish I’d had when I was raising my kids; and I’m so glad they’ll have it as they raise theirs.” — Richard Schwartz, PhD, founder of Internal Family Systems and author of No Bad Parts
“At a time when parents are sorely lacking in stamina and resources, Dr. Becky’s wise words and deep insights offer a treasure trove of practical strategies and essential support. Good Inside is the book we all need right now, and the book that will continue to guide us for years to come.” — Reshma Saujani, Founder of Girls Who Code and author of Pay Up
“Warning: reading this book might make you a better parent. Whether you’re struggling to get your toddler to calm down or your teenager to open up, Becky Kennedy is a fountain of wisdom. She strikes the ideal balance between affirming your best instincts and challenging you to rethink your worst reactions.” — Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the TED podcast WorkLife
“Dr. Becky makes a solid case that self-development and child development go hand in hand, and helps readers accomplish both. Flush with useful ideas…parents will find this [book] well worth their time.” — Publishers Weekly
“Parenting is the most important job we’ll ever have and the one we get the least training for, so we tend to follow what our parents did—which, often, wasn’t great. Emphasizing connection first, Dr. Becky offers a new way to parent, sharing clear advice and examples for setting boundaries with love and compassion. Good Inside is the book I wish I’d had when I was raising my kids; and I’m so glad they’ll have it as they raise theirs.” – Richard Schwartz
“At a time when parents are sorely lacking in stamina and resources, Dr. Becky’s wise words and deep insights offer a treasure trove of practical strategies and essential support. Good Inside is the book we all need right now, and the book that will continue to guide us for years to come.” – Reshma Saujani
Dr. Becky is profoundly changing the way we parent our kids and the way we parent ourselves. Her innovative work shows parents how to challenge inherited beliefs and behaviors and shift the paradigm of how we understand family dynamics. Her work is proof that we can be the parents we want to be—and that we are all good inside.” – Gabby Bernstein
“Dr. Becky teaches parents that the foundation of child-rearing is building a solid relationship with their child and offering themselves grace along the way. Captivating and timely, Good Inside is a book parents can turn to at every stage of development, from infancy to adulthood, to continue building connection with their kids.” – Nedra Tawwab
Warning: reading this book might make you a better parent. Whether you’re struggling to get your toddler to calm down or your teenager to open up, Becky Kennedy is a fountain of wisdom. She strikes the ideal balance between affirming your best instincts and challenging you to rethink your worst reactions. – Adam Grant
“This book is for any parent who has ever struggled under the substantial weight of caregiving—which is to say, all of us. Good Inside is not only a wise and practical guide to raising resilient, emotionally healthy kids, it’s also a supportive resource for overwhelmed parents who need more compassion and less stress. Dr. Becky is the smart, thoughtful, in-the-trenches parenting expert we’ve been waiting for!” – Eve Rodsky
Potty-training battles, eating habits, separation anxiety, and sibling rivalry are common parenting woes explored by Kennedy, a clinical psychologist with a private practice dedicated to resolving parenting challenges. Rather than time-outs, sticker charts, or any type of punishment or reward, Kennedy encourages readers to dig in to the child’s internal world and view their behavior as a cue for help or need, not an identity. She advocates for a connection—rather than consequence—model of parenting that’s centered around viewing a child as “good inside,” an idea that may seem, on the surface, to be obvious, yet may not translate into practice for many parents. Kennedy also includes scripts to spark conversation between parent and child on a variety of topics. She explores such issues as looking behind a child’s meltdown, combating whining (a little humor goes a long way), and preparing a child to cope with separation or another anxiety they may face. Consent is a critical issue explored in this book. VERDICT The author’s choice to base this book on her private practice may limit its audience; nonetheless, the many parents familiar with Kennedy’s work will value her suggestions. – Library Journal