How to Be a Person

65 Hugely Useful, Super-Important Skills to Learn before You're Grown Up


By Catherine Newman

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 26, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

For the kid who leaves a wet towel wadded up on the floor or forgets to put a new roll on the toilet-paper thingy, witty parenting writer and etiquette columnist Catherine Newman has created the ultimate guidebook of essential life skills for kids. Jam-packed with tips, tricks, and advice — all illustrated in an irresistible graphic novel–style — How to Be a Person shows kids just how easy it is to free themselves from parental nagging and become more dependable — and they’ll like themselves better, too! They’ll learn how to do chores like loading the dishwasher and making a bed, brush up on communication skills like making a phone call and apologizing, and master 61 other super-helpful skills including how to stick up for somebody, fold a T-shirt, and turn a 33-cent package of ramen into dinner. Improve work-life balance for the whole family with this kids’ guide to growing up.


For Ben and Birdy and everyone else who's trying to be their best selves — all of us. We got this.

— Catherine

For Allistair, Murray, and Cooper.

— Debbie


Becoming Your Best Self

Other Beings:
How to Care for the People, Pets, and Plants in Your Life

Saying It Right:
How to Be Kind and Get Your Point Across

Dirty Things:
How to Clean and Care for Your Home

Edible Food:
How to Make Meals and Find Your Way around the Kitchen

You're Wearing That?:
How to Clean and Care for Your Clothes

Your Two Cents:
How to Get, Give, and Spend Money

Useful Skills:
How to Do Basic Important Things

Thank You

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Becoming Your Best Self

We swear we're not trying to turn you into a premature adult! We don't want you trudging around in a small suit with a briefcase or wedging yourself under the sink to fix the plumbing in your bathroom. But we do think you'll be a happier person if you learn the skills in this book — some of which you probably already know, others of which people probably think you already know (shhhh), and all of which will come in handy pretty much immediately. The truth is that it feels good to do meaningful things, and it feels good to be appreciated, and these skills pretty much guarantee a combination of those two good feelings.

Look, we understand that maybe you didn't pick this book out all on your own. Maybe your grown-ups even passive-aggressively gave it to you for your birthday along with a pair of rubber gloves and a plunger. (You're welcome!) But it doesn't really matter, because we're convinced that a lot of the tasks we tend to think of as chores can be truly rewarding — especially if you have a chance to step toward them with confidence rather than being backed into them by that bulldozer of nagging otherwise known as your mom or dad. Or maybe by the time you're reading this, there's a robot that can do all of the household chores! Perfect. Put this book aside to show your children one day. "Before we had robots, we had to water the plants and wipe the kitchen counters ourselves!" you'll say, and the kids will shake their heads and pity you.

One thing we know: asking, "What can I do to help?" is a sure way to be your best self. And with this book in hand, you won't have to say awkwardly, "Um, I don't actually know how to do that!"

A note: if you have different abilities — neurologically, cognitively, or physically — then some of these skills might require various kinds of adaptation and hacking. We'd love to hear your thoughts about how to make this book work better for you: choose "contact" from the menu on my website,

Other Beings

How to Care for the People, Pets, and Plants in Your Life

Someone can feel looked after by you without you doing anything at all. You could be just smiling or sitting nearby. But some situations require more active caretaking, and these are a handful of them.

How to Cheer Up Sick People

If someone in your house is sick, you can bring them something soothing, like a glass of ginger ale, a bowl of soup, or some scrambled eggs on toast. Or keep them company while they watch TV or do a puzzle book or look through the box of old holiday cards.

If a friend is sick, you could drop by* with flowers or a magazine, or send a card.

For a classmate who's been sick for a while, you could gather cards from the whole class and send them in a big envelope.

* Wash your hands when you leave if it's something you could catch!

Bring some sunshine. It's nice to visit someone who's in the hospital and bring a homemade card or even a "Get Well" banner to hang by their bed. You might need to gather your courage, because hospitals can be a little frightening, but you don't need to stay long, and your sick person will be so happy to see your face! They're still the same person under there, even if they are surrounded by weird tubes and blankets or a hospital-y smell.

How to Bring a Little Sunshine to Older Folks

Just the fact of you being there is likely to bring cheer! But you could offer to play a game (they might want to teach you a strange one you've never heard of) or do a jigsaw puzzle or read to them, if that's something they might like.

If you are good with nail polish, your person might say yes to a manicure!

If you play an instrument, sing, tell jokes, or do magic tricks, your older person will likely be a very appreciative audience, and you will end up feeling like a STAR.

How to Be with a Baby or a Little Kid

Maybe you've got teeny-tiny guests at home — or even a whole new sibling. Whatever the reason, there's a baby in the house, so you will want to pay attention to it!

  • Be patient and gentle. Babies might need a little time to get to know you!
  • Ask an adult to help you learn how to hold the baby safely, what the baby likes, and if there are any books or toys for the baby. If you'd like to help feed or bathe the baby, just ask!
  • Don't freak out if the baby, uh, gets something on you. Babies are messy, and they can't help it.
  • Play with the baby or toddler the way they like. Maybe the baby wants you to build the tallest block tower ever, but then just wants to knock the blocks down — over and over and over again. Or they might want you to "read" the same board book with no words in it over and over and over again. Okay! Ask an adult if there's anything dangerous you should worry about, such as choking hazards, electrical outlets, or food allergies.Ask for help if you need it.

If you're interested in babysitting, consider working first as a parent's helper — which means watching a baby or child while a parent or other caregiver is in another part of the house, but still available to step in and help if you need them.

How to Help Someone (Including Yourself) Fall Asleep

Lots of people —including little kids, big kids, older folks, and fretful folks—have a hard time falling asleep. There are many strategies to try. Feel free to mix and match as much as you like!

A sleepy mugful. Warm milk actually contains a neurochemical called tryptophan, and although the science isn't clear on whether or not this actually helps you fall asleep, creating an association between sleep and a comforting mug of warm, nourishing milk definitely can.

Chamomile tea may also scientifically help or psychologically help. Either way it's good.

Aromatherapy. Chamomile and lavender essential oils are thought to be relaxing. You can shake a few drops into a hot bath, onto a tissue near your pillow, or into a diffuser, which is like a tiny humidifier.


  • “Catherine Newman has created a starting place for loving, productive conversations about independence, competence, and kindness.”— Jessica Lahey, best-selling author of The Gift of Failure

    “Kids will delight in this witty, clear, and fun-to-read handbook. And parents will rejoice in having Catherine Newman as a wise and warm partner in teaching our children nearly everything they should know — but don’t want to hear about from us!” — Dr. Lisa Damour, best-selling author of Untangled and Under Pressure

    “An illustrated guide that teaches tweens (who aren't eager to learn anything from you) life skills such as managing money, doing the dishes, and addressing an envelope.”— Parents

    “Geared toward kids — but honestly, everyone in the house should brush up on these cleaning and life skills.” — Real Simple

    “Emphasizes why these skills are so important for kids to master and how good they’ll feel once they do. The illustrations reflect diversity and avoid gender stereotypes. Entertaining way to teach valuable skills that every kid (and adult) needs to know.” — Booklist

    “This succinct and entertaining guidebook describes life skills with step-by-step instructions... No matter who is reading and enjoying the book, the skills are fleshed out with easy-to-understand steps and engaging illustrations.”  — School Library Journal


On Sale
May 26, 2020
Page Count
160 pages

Catherine Newman

About the Author

Catherine Newman is the author of What Can I Say? and the award-winning bestseller How to Be a Person, as well as two parenting memoirs: Waiting for Birdy and Catastrophic Happiness, and a middle-grade novel, One Mixed-Up Night. She's also the co-author of Stitch Camp. Newman is the etiquette columnist for Real Simple magazine and the editor of the James Beard Award–winning kids’ cooking magazine ChopChop. A regular contributor to publications including the New York Times, Romper, Cup of Jo, and Grown & Flown, Newman lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her family. Visit her at

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