Top Ten Parenting Books According to a Mother of Three

“Help me!! Help me!! Please Now!! Stop Her!!”

Sorry, that was just my husband. That’s what happens every time we go into a bookstore and he sees me shoot like one of Ygritte’s arrows straight to the self-help section of the store. Don’t get the Game of Thrones reference? How about we just say that I gravitate to the self-help section like Homer Simpson gravitates to beer, or “I Love Lucy’ to anything that can get her into hot water with Ricky.

I will admit it–I LOVE self-help books. Even more, I LOVE self-help books on parenting. For me, as a stay-at-home mom of three, there is something empowering about feeling like you are working towards perfecting your “craft”. There is a momentary “high” that I get when I pick up a new tip on how to deal with my kids and their ever changing personalities. Of course in 90% of situations, by the time my child is acting up, my “high” is gone and I completely handle the situation wrong (or like a bat-S**t crazy lady!). Still, I think it is admirable that my good intent is there, don’t you?

Since the birth of my first child in 2011 to the birth of my third in 2016, I have accumulated numerous books on parenting. I have compiled them down to a list of my top ten. I encourage any of you, possibly some self-help book addicts like myself, to peruse them at your leisure. Accompanying the titles is a brief description of their substance/content.

1. Raising Happiness by Christine Carter

This one may be my top pick; however, it is one of the very first parenting books I read–not including the “What To Expect” books–so there is some bias. This book has been referred to as an “encyclopedia of wisdom” when it comes to the “task of raising joyful children”. This book tackles the misconception of the “perfect” parent and provides you the encouragement you need to teach your kids the skills they need to be happy; ideally, and in turn, you become happier in the process. Carter hopes to convince you that happiness is not a destination, but rather is a skill that you need to teach yourself and your children. Carter further discusses how parents can show happiness to their children by way of modeling optimism and practicing gratitude. I feel as though we all can agree that, more then ever, the world needs more good-hearted, strong and peaceful people–maybe this book can help us to raise some of those.

2. Smart Parenting for Smart Kids by Eileen Kennedy-Moore and Mark. S. Lowenthal

This book teaches you how to encourage your “smart child” to develop as a whole person. It discusses some of the challenges our children face: (1) their desire for perfection, (2) fear of failure, (3) dismay for lack of immediate gratification, (4) struggling to deal with authority figures, (5) awkward social interaction and (6) poor self-image. It also encourages us as parents to steer clear of the inaccurate belief that because our child has “so much potential” they are predestined to have these impressive accomplishments. Instead, the authors want us to understand that our child’s potential is not one dimensional; potential is not an end point, but rather a capacity to grow and learn. I would say for you to read this book if your goal as a parent is to raise a happy, healthy, productive and kind child.

3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen R. Covey

A strong sense of family is more important these days with all the crazy and tragic events that have been happening around the world. This book reinforces the idea that “strong” families “don’t just happen, but need the combined energy, talent, desire, vision and dedication of all their members”. Covey teaches us to remember that understanding, support and enthusiasm amongst family members is the foundation for a “functional” family. Covey further notes that being proactive is a key ingredient for successful parent-child relationships. Covey asks for all to consider that “when you raise your children, you are also raising your grandchildren”. Mediate on that one for a bit.

4. Raising Human Beings by Ross W. Greene

“Raising Human Beings” is about raising thoughtful and resilient children. This book helps to inspire and empower parents to teach their kids to problem solve and be empathetic. One of the main focuses of this book is on the parent/child “partnership” and its importance in your child’s development as a positive individual. Greene reminds parents that we cannot simply push our children to become who we want them to be. However, if we are going to “push” them, then we need to push them to be who they want and are meant to be. Parents are further encouraged to stop merely modifying their children’s behavior, but rather to partner with their child by way of having discussions with them and helping them solve their own problems. If you want to parent in a way that betters both you and your child, this is a must read.

5. The Awakened Family by Shefali Tsabary

Another book by the New York Times best-selling author, Shefali Tsabary, tackles the challenges of parenting and how these difficulties can be a great opportunity for your own personal spiritual awakening. Tsabary notes that once her readers have been “awakened” and become “conscious parents” they can encourage a spiritual vision for their child and teach them how to care for their body and their soul. Tsabary’s stated goal of the “The Awakened Family” is to is to take you on a journey through your parenting fears and have you come out on the other side fully present. It is through the parent’s newfound consciousness that they are able to cultivate  a successful and  thriving relationship with  their child based on a greater sense of calm, ultimate compassion and wisdom, through experience. As a parent, I know that I need to raise my own level of maturity and presence and this book provides me with the support to do that.

6. 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child, Second Edition by Jefferey Bernstein

Read this book if you have a child that is challenging;  be it all the time, or just occasionally. This book will help you to reign-in the tantrums and all around negativity– both yours and your childs. The book reminds parents that we need to understand our child and not take their defiant behavior as a personal attack against us. Bernstein’s advice to parents is to give up any old way of thinking and overacting and rather focus on a new approach and sticking to the changes. Bernstein reminds us that it is not about “winning the war” with your child and encourages the parent to continually stay calm, firm, empathetic and non-controlling. I will note that although it is suggested that you read this book in ten days, I did not. Still, I found it extremely helpful and often refer to it when working through situations with my children.

7. The 7 Secrets of Successful Parents by Randy Rolfe

Although I am fully aware that there has got to be more then seven secrets to be a successful parent, this book is clearly a beneficial read for a parent who is seeking an inspiring and practical guide on raising good kids and “succeeding” as a parent. Rolfe suggests that if both you and your child believe and agree that you are both growing together in this parent-child relationship journey, then you can have a positive relationship. The book reminds us that as parents, we will make mistakes; but, try not to make the same mistake twice. It also encourages parents to have the goal of getting your child to be thinking, when you correct their behavior. The outcome should not always be a “time-out” or a punishment, but rather that your correction makes them think about what they are going to do differently in a similar situation in the future. Rolfe tells us to unconditionally show respect and kindness to our children and that although we do need to draw boundaries, we need to do so with love; constantly reaffirming the child’s importance. With chapters on the “secrets” of (1) Faith, (2) Attention, (6) Listening, (7) Letting Go, (8) Modeling, (9) Expression and (10) Celebration, your reading of this book is sure to ensure that you will grow as a parent and as a human being. I would remark that it is my opinion that the advice offered in this book can easily be translated to adult interactions/relationships as well.

8. Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky

Having been called a “must-read for everyone who cares about America’s Fate in the 21st century” by a PBS NEWSHOUR correspondent, this book is sure to be a valuable resource for parents. “A Mind in the Making” teaches the seven essential life skills of: (1) focus and self-control, (2) perspective taking, (3) communicating, (4) making connections, (5) critical thinking, (6) taking on challenges and (7) self-directed, engaged learning. Galinsky contends that children need life skills and that we, as parents, need to possess these skills that we want to instill in our children. Filled with suggestions, life-skills game ideas and exercises for the parent, it is highly likely this book will not disappoint you.

9. One Mind At A Time by Mel Levine

All children are different and all children have strengths and weaknesses. “One Mind At A Time” is a book that helps parents identify their child’s learning patterns and provides guidance and suggestions on how to strengthen abilities and work around any perceived or actual weaknesses. The book discusses the different ways of learning, how attention works and  how memory works. It further delves into our language system, sequential ordering, our motor system, higher ways of thinking, social thinking and much more. Although this book probably requires more focus and word-for-word reading than some of the others, I think most will find it to be interesting and beneficial.

10. Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

Would you consider you child intense? Sensitive? Perceptive? Persistent? Energetic? If you answered “yes” to all, or most of these, then you would probably find it beneficial to read this book. Kurcinka reassures parents that although your “spirited” child may be challenging you and overwhelming you constantly, there is hope. “Raising Your Spirited Child” helps you to understand your child’s temperament; which is typical more to an extreme then other children. Parents are encouraged to use positive labels when describing their child and are coached through successful ways to cope with your child’s tantrums and “blow-ups”. The book further ecourages “principled negotiation”; finding solutions to problems that allow for both you, and your child, to feel a sense of dignity and personal power. If this quote from Sue, a mother of three, who is referenced in the book, sums up one of your children, you will enjoy this book: “This was a person who had come into my life. A real person, not a robot to be programmed, or a blank slate to write on, but a person, who in his own way talked to me and told me what he liked and what he hated–usually in a very loud and demanding voice“.

So there is the list. An exhausting list, yes, because parenting is exhausting and HARD. It can be so rewarding and fulfilling, but at the same time super-challenging and physically and emotionally draining. For me, what has worked to balance out this dichotomy of extremes is reading through parenting self-help books. Sometimes I read the whole book word for word and sometimes I merely peruse the book for chapters or portions of it that pertain to me and what parenting dilemma I am presently struggling with. But, something I always do is read with a pen. I underline, highlight, “star” and even rewrite important things I’ve picked out of the book. For me, this helps when I want to refer back to the book on a particularly “bad” day, but don’t want to have to reread it; instead I merely see what I wrote about that particular topic.

Maybe you are into parenting books like me and maybe you are not; either is perfectly fine. What I do hope is that if you are interested in “bettering” your parenting by way of the advice of some experts, then considering checking out the aforementioned books. And, if you happen to here a man shouting for “help” while you are at the bookstore, just disregard–its probably just my husband because he lost me in the self-help section once again. 

Happy reading!

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