If I’m being honest, parenting books make me wary–I’ve so often found that at the same time they give me concrete strategies that I can put into practice, they also give me a guilt complex that I’m not doing everything I should be doing to be the best parent I can be. True, I have found some books that are just motivating and lovely and don’t bring on the guilt at all (I’ll detail a couple below), but for the most part, I have to tread a bit lightly with the genre.
That being said, I have sometimes found that even books that I felt were a little bit condescending towards certain parenting strategies or guilt-inducing were still books that I’m glad I read, simply because they DID provide me with some techniques and frameworks that actually really worked (though no one single method has been perfect, obviously).
Below are a few of the titles that have stood out to me for their helpfulness (though I will detail which ones bugged me with their tone).
Note: This post includes affiliate links through Amazon, which means I get a small commission on any sales made, at no extra cost to you.
Deliberate Motherhood by The Power of Moms
For me, there are two kinds of parenting books that I need–ones that give me concrete strategies that I can apply in the everyday situations that come up, and ones that remind me of the importance of what I’m doing. Deliberate Motherhood falls into the latter category, and it’s one of my favorites on this list. This book is broken down into 12 different sections, each of which includes an essay about a different “power” or aspect of motherhood, such as patience, joy, order, and play. Each essay is authored by a different woman, which means that they all have different approaches in presenting the material (and admittedly, I like some of the essays much more than others). I read this during a particularly overwhelming season of motherhood (having just given birth to my second), and it was exactly what I needed to face the transition with optimism and a fresh perspective on the most important job in the world.
The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah MacKenzie
Even though I was already sold on the importance of reading aloud to my children, I still loved this recent read all about not only the WHY of reading aloud to children, but also the WHAT (it includes scads of book titles that make great read-alouds, each broken down by age group), and HOW (by detailing strategies that work in different stages of life and with different ages). Besides the book lists (which alone make the cost of the book worth it for me), it also sold me on the idea of reading aloud to kids into their teen years, which is an idea I hadn’t really thought much of before (and not really something I’d consciously planned to do). Like I said in one of my reviews on this book, I’m seriously tempted to make this my go-to baby shower gift (along with a board book or two, of course–like these that I’ve listed as among our favorites!). Hot Tip: Although the sale is not currently running, I have seen this title go on sale for only $1.99 on Kindle before, so it might be worth waiting around for Black Friday or other end-of-year sales to see if it will go down again!
French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon
I first read this when my oldest was still under a year, and I’m SO GLAD I read it as soon as I did! This parenting book hit the perfect blend of readability for me—it reads like a memoir (as it details the American-born author’s move with her two young girls to France, where her husband is from, and the ensuing troubles she ran into having two VERY picky eaters in a culture that eats everything), the tone is not guilt-inducing, and it includes some super specific strategies throughout on what you can do to ensure that your child will grow up more willing to try new flavors and not be so picky about new/healthy/different foods. I’m definitely due for a re-read on this as my oldest is now a toddler and has started displaying some tendencies toward pickiness!
Covenant Motherhood by Stephanie Dibb Sorensen
This is another title that addresses the importance of motherhood, specifically, all the little daily tasks that can often seem like drudgery (and which so many times, the mothers of the house take on), such as doing the laundry, prepping meals, and cleaning the house. Basically, this book takes each of those tasks and compares it to an attribute of Christ’s character, thus showing how these daily (often thankless) chores can help us to become more like the Savior. For example, the chapter on preparing food draws parallels with the story in the New Testament of Jesus feeding the five thousand, and the chapter on cleaning and washing parallels with the many times that Christ “cleansed” as part of his ministry. Seriously, this is one book I would buy for ALL of my young mother friends if I could (and it’s one I plan to reread each year, at least for now).
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury
First, it must be pointed out that I had SERIOUS problems with the tone on this one. It’s precisely because there are books with tones like this one had (making it seem like there’s only one “right” way to do things and if you don’t agree, you’re going to permanently damage your child) that I am wary of parenting books in general. HOWEVER, I do have to admit that I got quite a few concrete strategies from this book that I still use regularly today, including acknowledging and labeling feelings, using first-person language instead of passive voice language (“I won’t let you hit me” instead of “It’s not nice to hit”), and setting up and enforcing boundaries early (because if I don’t, that’s usually when I myself get ruffled or upset in discipline matters). If you go in with both eyes open on this one, you can hopefully ignore the judgmental tone and get a lot of useful techniques to use with your toddler.
Gone Too Soon by Sherri Wittwer
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I believe that all little children who die before the age of accountability (8 years) are automatically saved through Christ’s sacrifice for all humankind. We also believe that families can be together (in family units) after this life. This book, written by a member of my church, talks more about this hopeful doctrine as it pertains to children lost through stillbirth or miscarriage or other causes, and this book was hugely comforting to me after we suffered a miscarriage early last year. This book contains both doctrinal insight and faith-filled accounts of parents who have suffered through loss, and it is a short but inspired book that would be a great help to any couple who are going through such a loss.
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
Although I cannot in the least say that I’m a tiger mother, I found this account of one woman’s very strict and demanding parenting philosophy to be fascinating. According to this book, Eastern-style parenting is much more strict in general than Western, and this author argues that she is so strict and demanding because she knows her children to be strong and resilient, rather than fragile and helpless (as she claims many Western parents believe their children to be). I don’t agree with all of her strategies, but I had to admit she had a point–many of the parenting books I’ve read DO make it seem like children are incredibly fragile and liable to be “ruined for life” if too much responsibility and too many expectations are heaped upon them, so it was refreshing to hear a different take. I also liked how the author herself came to some very important realizations when her second child didn’t respond nearly as well to her demanding parenting as her first child did.
Books I’ve Read Part Of:
The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
I was so sure I’d love this book (based on the glowing reviews I’d read from several people with great taste and from having read the introduction in a bookstore) that I requested that my husband buy me a copy of this last Christmas even though I hadn’t read it yet, something I almost never do anymore. Although it’s taken me all the way until very recently to actually finally start it, I’m definitely liking what I’ve been reading so far, especially as the book does a great job balancing out the scientific research behind their theories with many practical ways to actually apply that research. Already, I’m finding that I’ve been much better at helping my oldest (who’s 3) to process big emotions and experiences than I was before, and I’ve just barely touched the tip of the iceberg with this one. Update: I’ve now finished this, and it earned every one of its five stars fair and square. I frequently think about the concepts I learned from this, and I’m forever trying to put them into practice!
Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
Admittedly, this is one of only seven books I’ve abandoned in the past three years, but I think I’m going to give it another shot (especially as I’ve used a certain quote and section from it multiple times over the years). I gave this one up because it was super slow reading and I had significant issues with the tone used in it, but I have heard enough trusted people toot this book’s horn that I’m willing to give it another shot now that I’m a bit older and more established as a parent (and not so sensitive to books that take a condescending tone). This book is all about how paring down and simplifying can drastically help children to be better able to navigate their emotions and the world around them (because they aren’t so overwhelmed by excess stimuli).
Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki
There are a lot of parenting things I feel like I can figure out on my own without the need for books (like getting our kids on a good schedule, helping them to be better sleepers, etc.). But potty training? I was TERRIFIED of potty training. Although I read Glowacki’s info online rather than from her book, I’m sure there’s a lot of overlap, so I feel like if I ever did read the actual book, it would be repeating all the same information. Thanks to her help, I had my oldest potty trained (during the daytime, anyway) in about 3 days, and although they were a pretty awful 3 days, it was worth it to not feel like we were dragging out the potty training and having to do it over and over again. She’s definitely a good resource, although once again, there is definitely some judgy-ness going down in this.
Books I’m Planning to Read:
How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life With Children Ages 2-7 by Joanna Faber
Faber is much more well known for her original book (How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk), but I feel like this version written especially for the younger set might be more applicable for me at this stage in my life (and if I enjoy it as much as I think I will based on others’ reviews of it, I’ll probably read the other one at some point, too). Like most parents, I often find that I’m repeating myself over and over again, and my hope is that this book might give me some ways I can sound less like a broken record day after day.
There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather: A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids by Linda McGurk
A couple years ago, I came to my own startling conclusions about how important outside time was every day for both my daughter AND for me. Ever since, I’ve been curious to dive more into the interplay between time spent outside and well-being. One reader of the blog whose taste is very similar to mine (hi, Kirby!) recommended this one over How to Raise a Wild Child (which I’m also looking into) because it spent more of the book in practical application and less trying to convince you of why being out in nature is important. As I’m interested in both, I’ll probably end up reading both, but I’ll start with the practical first. Update: I finished this in the dead of winter, and I immediately started sending my kids outside in the snow more often! I loved this one, and I found it full of inspiration and tips for getting your kids outside in all kinds of weather (as well as why it’s important).
Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman
I actually checked this out at the same time I picked up French Kids Eat Everything, but I never got too far into it before it was due back. I’ve always found it fascinating how different cultures encourage different parenting techniques, and I think there’s a lot to learn from each other. A lot of bloggers have listed this one as a great parenting read (and it seems like it would be a little more readable in general than some of the more research-based ones here), so I’m planning to get it again soon, when I need a bit of a lighter pick. Update: While parts of this did bug me a bit, there were other parts that really struck me, like how cultural things you might not even be aware of contribute to things like babies not sleeping through the night. Fascinating book, with lots to think about.
Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry by Lenore Skenazy
I’m glad my friend Katie recently reminded me of this title she’d recommended to me ages ago since it’s something I think about a lot. I think a lot about the balance between giving my children independence and letting them do things for themselves and keeping them safe, and I know I tend to be an overprotective parent, for sure. I’m hoping this title will help ease up some of my fears by reminding me of all the good that can come from just letting our children figure things out alone! Update: This is the book I didn’t know I needed. I didn’t realize how much of my parenting had been driven by fear — mostly due to all the tragedies and weird accidents that are continually splashed across headlines — until I finished this. While it’s still REALLY hard for me to let go and let my kids be a little more “free range,” it’s also been really good for both of us.