Wagging Tongues

Kids are hard to understand—they shout, they sulk, they slam doors. Luckily, a pair of new books, Why Girls Talk—and What They're Really Saying and Why Boys Don't Talk—and Why It Matters, both by Susan Morris Shaffer and Linda Perlman Gordon, is here to give parents a primer on the native tongue of youth. The gist. While boys don't say much of anything and girls chatter all the time, they're both speaking the language of adolescence.

Helpful as they are, these two new releases offer no guidance for one of the fastest growing configurations in the modern American family: Two Parents, One Dog. For such canine units, there's Hungarian ethologist Vilmos Csanyi's new book, If Dogs Could Talk: Exploring the Canine Mind. This investigation of "dogness" provides plenty of communication tips for anxious parents. Just don't mix up the advice. Teenagers are likely enough to end up in the doghouse on their own.

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Word for Word

How to tell they're upset

  • Girls: They talk
  • Boys: They brood
  • Dogs: They yip

What makes them proud

  • Girls: Sitting with the popular kids
  • Boys: Being praised by their fathers
  • Dogs: Opening doors with their noses

How they express intimacy

  • Girls: Instant messages
  • Boys: They don't
  • Dogs: Gift of used tennis balls

What their grooming says about them

  • Girls: I think I'm fat
  • Boys: I think I'm weak
  • Dogs: I got rained on

How to talk to them

  • Girls: Share common experiences
  • Boys: Use short statements
  • Dogs: Use short statements

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