I found the book How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, at a thrift store. I have to admit that I opened it with very low expectations, as I think that our culture tends to emphasize talking to our kids way too much. In general, and especially for toddlers, actions speak far louder than words. However, I was happily surprised to discover that I really enjoyed this book, and agreed with almost everything it had to say. It was aimed primarily at elementary-school-aged kids, but many of the lessons can be applied to toddlers quite easily.
The book gives what I consider to be really practical advice on how to talk to kids in ways that recognize their feelings (without labeling too much), encourages their cooperation, and helps them to be competent. I especially loved how it shows parents how to help/let kids come up with their own solutions to problems they present. Some of these were too advanced for toddlers, but even at Rainbow Bridge when a child comes to me with a complaint, I’ll often start out with, “Oh no! What will you do?” Not jumping in to solve every problem helps children feel competent and proud of themselves. Even the chapter on Praise, which made me cringe just to open it, started out looking at the difference between authentic praise and over-excessive praise, and how undeserved praise can backfire in different ways. Then it looked at ways to praise kids that feels good to them. It is very hands-on, with exercises for you to do, and lots of actual dialogue between parents and kids.
The only complaint I can come up with is that the book is very rosy in its outlook, with children going from being recalcitrant and surly to being reasonable and responsive with just a few short sentences from mom or dad. In reality, if you have negative patterns going with your child, it will take consistent practice to change those patterns. However, if things are going relatively well with your child, this book is a great resource for nipping negative interactions in the bud and helping your relationship flourish. I would definitely recommend it.