My 10 Favorite Parenting Books

Parenting is tough work. (Can I get an Amen?) In today’s culture, it can be especially hard, as many of us grew up without seeing much parenting done. The privacy and individualism our culture prizes make it difficult–even prohibitive, at times–to learn how to be a good parent.

In addition, many of us live far from family. It’s one thing to call mom or grandma up on the phone for a bit of advice in a pinch, but a phone call is no substitute for having someone come alongside you to help navigate the rocky road of motherhood.

Below, I’ve shared the 10 books that did this for me. These were the books that comforted me when I was in tears and desperate for any guidance. They have taught, inspired, reprimanded, encouraged, guided, and nurtured me in my vocation as a mother. Today, I want to share them with you.

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Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

If I could recommend only one book for parents, this would be it. For better or worse, this book has formed a core style for mine and my husband’s parenting–or at least, what we are striving toward. It’s all about minimizing in your life to bring joy, gratitude, and security to your children. I can’t recommend it enough.

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Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

All of my children are spunky, but I have one who is…shall we say, spirited. This is my kid who requires the same energy to parent as the other three combined! For quite awhile, my husband and I were simply at a loss as to how to parent. None of the tools in our toolbox worked, and we were desperate. Then, we found this book, and suddenly we started to see our “difficult” child in a new light…and we learned how to help that child thrive–and the rest of our family, too!

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Setting Limits with Your Strong Willed Child by Robert MacKenzie

This is the book I recommend in conjunction with Raising Your Spirited Child. It’s the best book I’ve found on discipline. The techniques are simple but occasionally counterintuitive, or just slightly different that what I wanted to do instinctively. The subtle differences have made a difference in my ability to effectively discipline and guide my children.

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The Five Love Languages for Children by Gary Chapman

A friend loaned me Chapman’s original The Five Love Languages as a newlywed, and I found it truly impactful. I had always assumed my love language was the one everyone spoke! This book further helped me to further understand how children (who, because their personalities are still forming and vastly effected by what stage of development they are in) give and receive love. It also gave me some ideas for how to give love to my kids who speak a language very different from mine.

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Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman

I’ll admit, I got this book on a whim. I figured I’d see a lot of myself in the style, and maybe pass it onto my husband for a few tips. (They say pride goes before a fall, right?) Turned out, my stolid engineer of a husband was way more emotionally intelligent than his reflective writer wife. This book really opened my eyes to the difficulties I had in knowing how to parent my children’s sadness. Meanwhile, my husband did garner some great tips on how to deal with their anger. Overall, I would say this is probably the best parenting book out there to help you deal with those important, every day moments that can help your child mature into a thoughtful, confident, and self aware adult.

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Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen

For a long time, I left this book (a gift) to gather dust on the shelf. I figured it would be too permissive for my style, but when I finally sat down to read it, I discovered it actually had a lot of good advice. There were tons of practical tips for what, instinctively, was quite counterintuitive for both me and my husband, as it wasn’t the parenting style either of us was raised with. However, I think it really helped round us out as parents and gave us strategies we could easily implement to be more playful and confident in our problem solving and disciplining.

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The Fussy Baby Book by William Sears

This one’s definitely a bit of a niche book, but it saved. my. life. with my second born, who was what Sears terms a “High Needs Baby.” I drove myself cray-cray trying to implement all the advice that was thrown at me as I flailed in desperation to wrangle my terror baby–but Dr. Sears helped me understand that neither my baby nor I was doing anything wrong. My baby was not a “bad” baby, anymore than a calm baby is a “good” baby. He also gave me some advice on how to cope with the particular needs of my son, who simply did not fit the mold of most parenting books on anything from sleeping to stranger anxiety. If you have a high needs baby, this book is gold.

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Parenting Without Borders by Christine Gross-Loh

A Korean-American who lived for several years with her young family in Japan and also traveled extensively to research the other countries featured in this book, Christine Gross-Loh has created a sort of compendium of global parenting styles. The goal of the book was certainly not to promote one style over the others, but rather to show a broad range of styles. It opened my eyes to how many assumptions we hold as American parents are not necessarily universal–or beneficial. This book gave me the freedom and confidence to branch out of the American mold and adopt some other parenting philosophies and techniques from other cultures that I found pertinent to our family and way of life.

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Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer

Often touted as the book for parents interested in Waldorf education, this is a concise, practical manual on how to give kids a wholesome, well-rounded childhood that addresses their intellectual, emotional, and physical needs as they develop through the early years. It’s also a joy to read. It’s one of those books that I return to year after year, just to refill my tank and get me excited about my vocation as a mother.

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Habits: The Secrets to a Mother’s Success by Charlotte Mason

This book was not truly written as such by Charlotte Mason, but all the advice is hers. It’s a compilation of all that Charlotte Mason wrote in her other works on the importance of building healthy habits. While a very slim volume, it is by no means a quick read. There is so much wisdom packed densely into these few pages, and every time I open it, I discover another profound truth poking at me to be a better mother, Christian, and human being. I’d recommend it for anyone, but mothers most of all.

Now it’s your turn! What books have most helped you to grow as a parent?

One comment

  1. Melissa says:

    I am looking forward to reading some of these! I hadn’t heard of all of them, so they will be on my list to check out! I also LOVE Raising Good Catholic Children and No Regrets Parenting. I read and re-read them every year.

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