I knew almost nothing about parenting before I had my first son – held him in my arms after he was born – let the newness of each other steep over the first few weeks. (And this despite my paid employment working with children, my university education focused in childhood development and being the oldest of four – *ahem*.)
Thankfully I didn’t let myself think I knew everything, and instead listened to my heart and mind. ‘Parenting is a journey.’ These words are often used, because they are oh so true. I am joining up with Sarah Bessey in listing ten parenting books – some are my favourites – often referenced, some I no longer reference but am thankful for because they first clued me in to other parenting options. Like Sarah I too love to read everyday and have since I have been able. One of my favourite simple pleasures are chatting with other’s about what they have been reading – in person or on-line. I also love borrowing/lending books – most of my favourites are currently lent out so the only ones pictured here are the ones I love so much that I have two copies – one to lend and one to always have on hand.
This isn’t a parenting book? I know. But I learned when my second was born and I was struggling in many, many ways that parenting well isn’t so much about the kiddos at all. It is about me. You know those fruits of the spirit? They come in very handy in parenting and starting my day connecting with God through the liturgies and prayers in Common Prayer is one way to make sure I am more open to being spirit filled. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control? Best parenting tools out there.
This book holds my top place in returning to while disciplining my kiddos. Dr. Neufeld is a Canadian clinical psychologist who is well-known for his work in childhood development and aggression and violence in children. There is a lot of theory type writing at the beginning of this book (which being a childhood development junkie, I adored) but if you are looking for the Cole’s notes, look for chapter 16 – Discipline That Does Not Divide. This chapter is parenting resource gold starting with ‘Use Connection, Not Separation To Bring A Child Into Line’. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone looking for parenting growth. Dr. Neufeld has resources for parents with any age of children, from toddlers, to teens and I appreciate his focus on the whole life of the child, rather than just an age that needs to be managed. (For the non-readers out there, Dr. Neufeld also has a DVD by the same title, but I find Dr. Neufeld to be a more captivating writer than speaker.)
Another often referenced and lent out volume. Alfie Kohn approaches parenting by assuming that children need to know they are unconditionally loved – that this is a basic need and how to parent while meeting that need. I appreciate how Kohn looks at the long-term development of children and their relationship with their parents. He delves into how parenting is a relationship – not something we are ‘doing to’ our child, that we really need to be ‘working with’ and how to go about that change in paradigm. One of my ‘do not miss out on’ no matter the age or stage of your child parenting books. (For the non-readers out there, a DVD by the same title is available, but as most book to movie adaptations, there is missing material.)
Nonviolent Communication is not specifically a book for parenting, it is for any and all relationships we are in, including the one with oneself. It believes that naming another’s or our own observed behaviour, our feelings about that and the underlying need (being met or not being met) is life changing because we all want to be understood and connect with each other. It certainly has been life changing for me. I hope to write more about this sometime, but the most powerful things I have taken as a parent from this book (and courses) is that as a parent I regularly need self-empathy because sometimes parenting can suck the life from you and to be understood is powerful and recharging. Secondly, often using nonviolent communication with my kids (saying something like ‘Are you feeling upset because you were having a fun time and don’t want to leave?’) totally changes my kids behaviour (perhaps crying or yelling) without changing the situation (we are still leaving…).
This is one of those books I don’t reference personally anymore. But it was the first book I read on why one might use gentle discipline. I have the friend to thank who gently suggested this book that opened my mind to a whole different parenting style – one that doesn’t rely on threats, punishment or rewards. It is one I still loan out all the time to people who might be wondering how they can parent without spanking.
Like everyone else in the world (I kid but not really) Soule Mama was one of the first blogs I read. Her first book is my favourite, because in my opinion it contains what makes her blog so special. She doesn’t preach at you about her convictions and issues close to her heart, she just goes about living a way of life that respects other people and the earth and makes it look beautiful and inspiring. Creative Family gave me a gift back – the gift of believing that I was creative and my kiddos could stay that way too. Often return to this book for inspiration in our family life.
David Albert is my favourite homeschooling author/speaker. He is a gifted story-teller who shares his wisdom and joy in learning through a collection of essays. This title wasn’t the book (in fact it wasn’t any book at all) that convinced me to try out homeschooling for our family, but it is the book I return to for re-inspiration by sharing someone’s sheer glee for the passion to let other’s learn. Having met and chatted with David Albert in real life, I can honestly say he is a genius in regards to learning and a fascinating person involved in many social justice issues. A gem not to be missed for any homeschooling families. (My David Albert runner-up: What Really Matters.)
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding: La Leche League International (I have the seventh edition shown in the picture, only because my copy of the newest edition, the eighth is lent out.)
Not only does this edition touch on almost everything a breastfeeding parent could want to know, it plants the seeds for responsiveness in parenting, gentle and loving discipline, eating whole foods and a relaxed family life. This book is one of my go to shower gifts for first time moms. Breastfeeding changes how mother’s mother and how healthy baby and mom are going to be in the short and long-term, so I appreciate how this book shares information with mother’s that they deserve to know and make choices about.
I read Simplicity Parenting only within the last year or so. I include it here because it is a good summary of some of the ideas I gleaned from other sources over the years including Irresistable Revolution by Shane Claiborne, soulemama blog, my waldorfy friends, Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, Wild Play by David Sobel. (See how I am sneaking in extra books like that – tricky book lover!) Less things, more outside play, less (or no) electronics are some of the ideas touched on in this volume. All of these things add to a happier mama too (less time spent cleaning/organizing, less time spent working to earn things, more in sync with my social justice and environmental values.)
This was my go to, do I need to be worried about this or not bible for my kiddos during the first two years. A thorough text on development, illness, parenting gently and even has sections on pregnancy and birth. A good pregnancy read to expand one’s horizon’s beyond ‘What to Expect’ type books.
Want to read:
I haven’t read this yet because I don’t have little babies anymore. And as you can see from my list, I haven’t found many Christian parenting books that are on my top ten list. (Frankly most turn me off just from the synopsis, many leave me cringing at the poor families [children and parents] who trust those authors and others leave me swearing and ranting. Please do not judge God by the prominent available Christian parenting literature.) But I have read that this book is different in many places and I have enjoyed both Megan and Laura’s blogs for several years. I hope to read, then share with my church friends who are expecting or parenting their first little ones in hopes to give them the true freedom to parent in love, that it took me a while to find.
My favourite inspiring and beautiful collection of birth stories.
An interesting look into elimination communication. If you read this book it ups your crunchy parent factor by about 100. Did parts of this with all three of my kiddos. It was another way to make them more comfortable as babies and it sure doesn’t hurt they were all independently going to the bathroom (and dry all night) well before two.
I don’t like this entire volume but do appreciate the chapter that shares honestly the research on the well documented harmful effects of leaving infants/toddlers to cry unattended. (Many scientific medical textbooks call leaving babies to cry it out alone child abuse due to these well documented but rarely shared with parents research studies.) I believe that being armed with the research on both the negative effects of crying it out and the benefits of babies being parented to sleep until they grow out of it should be shared so parents can make informed decisions. Withholding information to avoid negative or guilty feelings is hurtful to both children and parents in the long run, so I appreciate that Sunderland shares in such an honest, yet helpful way.