The other day my six-year-old listed what she has learned from her parents:
- Hold your shirt-sleeve in your hand when putting your jacket on, so your shirt-sleeve stays down.
- Ask a parent before pouring bubble bath in the tub.
- Tell the truth when Dad asks who farted.
I don’t know what this list says about my parenting skills, but I do know that parenting is hard. I have nearly seven years and three kids worth of experience and I’m still struggling majorly to find my parenting groove. Half the time I have no clue what the right thing to do is. Half the time I feel so overwhelmed I just want to curl up in a ball and go hide behind the couch. Half the time I want to be the one throwing tantrums. (I mean seriously, don’t I deserve a turn?)
It’s also hard to come by good parenting advice. I’ve had my desperate moments of wading through countless parenting books and magazine articles, searching for answers and coming up mostly empty-handed. But in between those desperate moments, I’ve discovered a few gems. And in this post, I want to share with you the few parenting books that I have actually found helpful. These are books that have been so eye-opening that I feel they have made a real difference in my parenting and improved the relationships we all have with each other at our house.
By rough estimation, I read 99.9% of all books ever written about babies when I was pregnant with my first child. And by rough estimation, 99.9% of them contributed nothing but worry. (OMG! She was supposed to be able to stack five blocks this week and I’ve only seen her stack four!!! Should we call the doctor?)
If I were to do it all over again, I would spend the vast majority of my pregnancy watching reality TV and eating junk food for two. And I would only read ONE book about babies – The Happiest Baby on The Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp.* Karp’s techniques are easy to implement, and like magic, they work. Happy baby, happy parents. I think this book should be handed out to all new mothers as they push you out in the wheelchair after giving birth in a hospital. “Congratulations Ma’am. Here are your flowers and balloons. And here is your copy of The Happiest Baby on The Block.”
Toddlers And Kids
I know this is different for everyone, but for me, babyhood was a breeze and the parenting shit didn’t hit the fan until the kids were around two and a half. I can no longer shove a boob in your mouth to calm you down. You have made it abundantly clear that you have a very well-developed will. You have made it abundantly clear that you have zero ability to reason. What am I supposed to do with you?
For this phase, the techniques I have found most helpful can be found in Listen: Five Simple Tools to Help You Meet the Everyday Challenges of Parenting by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore. If you are looking for a gentle and loving approach to parenting, but not quite sure how to implement it in practice (when you are dead tired and the kids are running around the house like mad), then this is your book.
I don’t have teens yet myself, but I wanted to include one very though-provoking book that mostly focuses on the teen years on this list. The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids by Madeline Levine is a great reminder to all parents of what really matters: maintaining a meaningful connection with our kids and supporting their developing sense of self – not material achievement or external rewards.
How Kids Are Different
Whether I was fully aware of it at the time or not, as the pregnant me was reading all those baby books, I was picturing little mini-me’s in the back of my mind the whole time. And I was pretty shocked when my kids showed up with three very distinct personalities – different from my husband or me and different from each other.
One issue with different personalities is that they lead to personality clashes. The other thing is that it’s harder for a parent to know how to help when a kid has a very different personality from the parent’s. Two books that have really helped me sort all this out are Nurture By Nature: Understand Your Child’s Personality Type – And Become a Better Parent by Barbara Barron-Tieger & Paul Tieger and The Developing Child: Using Jungian Type to Understand Children by Elizabeth Murphy.
How Parents Are Different
Kids come in many varieties, but so do parents. MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths by Diane Eble & Janet Penley questions the “perfect mother” myth and helps parents (dads too!) identify their unique strengths and struggles. This is a very encouraging book with tips on how to deal with your personality type’s parenting pitfalls.
Now this turned out to be a fairly scant list and I would love to add to it. What parenting books would you recommend and why? Please add your opinion in the comments below. 🙂
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