If you’ve ever been to your local bookstore looking for a good parenting book you might have been overwhelmed by the number of books there are on the topic. So how do you know which ones are the best, which ones apply to your need, or most importantly, which books are written by reputable sources?
Here are six books on parenting that I highly recommend:
1. “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success” by Julie Lythcott-Hiams
This New York Times best-seller was written by a former dean of Stanford University and speaks to the over involvement of parents in their children’s lives. She talks about how we ended up in a culture that is so focused on kids’ safety and risk prevention, often for reasons that have been misinterpreted or blown out of proportion, that many kids are growing up with increased anxiety, an underdeveloped sense of self-confidence and a lack of independence.
This book will give you pause to reconsider many accepted parenting practices from today while encouraging you to raise kids who are prepared to face the world with competence and confidence.
2. “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.
This one is a game changer for (a) success, (b) the way we think about ourselves and our abilities and (c) how we raise and praise our kids. Many people think that it is talent and/or IQ that leads to success. In truth, how we think about or to what we attribute our successes, struggles and failures may be even more important than innate talent, intelligence or skill level. Dweck, a psychologist, and researcher from both Stanford and Columbia talks about “growth” and “fixed” mindsets.
In “Mindset,” you’ll learn how best to praise kids (reward effort which is something we can regulate, not intelligence) and help them to adjust their thinking to build motivation and a belief in themselves.
3. “1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12” by Thomas W Phelan, PhD
This is a classic and I think one every parent should have in their toolbox. Why on earth does counting to three even make a difference for kids? Well, kids respond exceptionally well to limits and knowing that they have just ‘til a count of three to either start or stop doing something is ideal. Phalan has also written complementary books for parenting toddlers and teens, and I have used his books as the basis for many parenting presentations over the years.
One of the things I love is his explanation for what to do about a variety of push-back techniques that kids employ such as arguing, testing and negotiating.
4. “Scream Free Parenting” by Hal Edward Runkel
Hal Edward Runkel speaks directly to parents about parental anxiety and how this is the biggest obstacle to calm confident parenting. He encourages you to think about your thoughts, feelings, and behavior first before you even deal with your kids. What assumptions are you making about your kids and how are you managing your emotional reactions? And you don’t have to be a screamer to benefit from this one.
If you enjoy this one, I’m sneaking in another that follows along some similar lines: “Parenting with Love & Logic” by Foster Cline & Jim Fay.
5. “Why Do They Act This Way: A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen” by David Walsh, PhD
After hearing Walsh speak about ten years ago, I became a huge fan of his. With great stories, he interweaves what we know about how kid’s brains work (in understandable language) and how this and other factors leads them to act the ways they do. He is the founder of the internationally renowned National Institute on Media and the Family and released a revised, fully updated version of this book with all updated information in 2014.
If you want to understand what makes teens tick, this is the one for you.
6. “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
I first read this book when I was a day camp counselor in New York in the 1990s and was trying to communicate better with my campers. Using cartoons to illustrate parent-child dialogues, this book gives you a bird’s eye view of what your kids think about what you say. By reading this book, you will truly understand that what you say and don’t say matters and how you say things matters even more.
There is a teen version of this one too, and I recommend you read one or both. They accomplish in their book much of what I attempt to do for families in therapy.