Amazon offers more than 180,000 parenting guides—more than double the number of diet books, as psychology professor Robert Epstein notes in “What Makes a Good Parent?” Clearly, many parents long for child-rearing advice. The articles in this issue offer a host of insights grounded solidly in scientific research.

The findings might surprise you. Academic testing, for instance, has a terrible rap these days. Yet done correctly, it beats other study methods for fixing information in a student's mind. Moreover, telling children that they are smart can backfire; if you want them to be eager learners and creative thinkers, praising effort is far more effective.

Beyond wanting our children to love learning, we hope that they will get along well with others, be happy and bounce back from adversity. More time for unstructured play may be part of what is needed. This activity has been linked to improved social development; it also enhances cognition and language skills. Also in "What Makes a Good Parent?" discover 10 scientifically validated steps parents can take to raise happy, well-adjusted kids.

Teens may seem like aliens, and their brains are different from those of both adults and younger kids. Neuroscience reveals that the recklessness of the teen years is the product of a brain that has a newfound taste for exploration but underdeveloped impulse control. Although this makes teens seem frighteningly rebellious, it also means that their brains are capable of great creativity and adaptability. Other unexpected positive news: peer pressure can work for good as well as ill; it can actually induce older kids to learn faster from both positive and negative experiences and improve their performance on school tasks.

This collection also speaks to parents facing unusually taxing situations. For children with intense anxiety and fear, for instance, investigators have shown that techniques enabling youngsters to gradually face worries head-on can do wonders. Articles also tackle divorce and defiance and discuss therapies that have proved helpful to children on the autism spectrum.

Epstein reports that you will already be moving in the right direction if you follow this simple guidance: give your kids lots of love and affection. The pages that follow tell you the rest of what you need to know.