If I had to sum all these up, it would be this: raise kids for the long term. The reasoning behind all these choices is that we want to produce competent capable adults, and solving short term in-the-moment issues, while important, isn’t the goal.
If kids ask a question and they aren’t ready to hear the answer, just tell them that. This doesn’t mean you have to go into every gruesome detail, it’s fine to couch your answer at the level you think they’ll understand and that you have time for, but they’re smarter than you probably think.
Win the series
Every interaction is a repeated game, and your goal is not to win this one iteration, but to win the series. So if a child is crying because she wants something, even though it feels like a win to give in now (she stops crying which is better for everyone, you haven’t really given up much), it’s disastrous in the repeated game because she learns that she can get what she wants by crying.
If you threaten a consequence and don’t follow through, they’ll figure that out really quickly. Which leads to the following rule: be very careful with threats. If you make them, carry them out; if you don’t want to carry out the threat, don’t make it.
Praise the process
We’re pretty particular in how we praise our kids. We try to use process praise (“I like the way you made up a story about all the parts of your drawing”), some amount of results praise (“That block tower is amazing! It’s so tall!"), and virtually zero person praise (“You’re a good artist/architect.")
Answer questions with as much detail as they want
I’ve had conversations with the kids about civil rights, affirmative action, religion, communism versus capitalism, consequences for breaking laws, race, sexuality, and so on. Not because I’ve set out to teach them that stuff, but because they ask lots of questions and I try to answer them. Kids are mostly concerned with concrete, day-to-day things – but some of the best interactions come when they are in the right questioning mood, and you definitely want to take advantage of it.
You have to be age appropriate – when talking about where babies come from, I don’t talk about penises in vaginas to a 5 year old – but they can handle a lot more than most adults give them credit for.