There are times when I go years between reading parenting books, and times when I feel like I need an infusion of new, helpful ideas. Here are brief summaries of my recent reading, with thanks to my dear friend Dr. M. who found and recommended to me all my favorites here. All my favorites are centered on classic positive parenting principles.
Parenting without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected by Susan Stiffelman. Read by the author. Tantor Media, 2013. Hardcover Simon & Schuster, 2010. Paperback Atria, 2012.
Your kids don’t need a parent to be a friend. They need a captain they can trust to stay calm and guide them through or around storms. That means controlling yourself and your expectations – Stiffelman frames this discussion around the Work of Byron Katie. It also means not getting into debates with your kids. She talks about how to build secure connections with your kids, which increases their desire to cooperate with you. But there’s also leading kids to the “Wall of Frustration” where you let them know that you’re there for them even as they’re not going to get what they want. It’s filled with real-life examples from different ages and family make-ups, including blended families. Stiffelman has a lot on her web site https://susanstiffelman.com/, and offers phone and internet coaching for those who need more than just the book.
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Laura Markham. TarcherPerigee, 2012.
Dr. Markham here also has an active blog and lots of articles at ahaparenting.com , a good place to start. If you’re ready to dig deeper, though, the book lays things out nicely and neatly for busy parents. It’s aimed at kids from birth through age 9, though I still found plenty of advice applicable to my 11-year-old. It’s divided into three parts. Part One, regulating yourself, talks more about controlling your expectations and digging into your own past to find out why your child’s behavior pushes your buttons. She also stresses that you can’t be a good parent unless you’re taking care of yourself – so true, so hard. Part Two talks about building connection with your child, especially building your listening skills and working daily (ideally) kids-in-charge one-on-one time with each child into your schedule. Part Three is “Coaching, Not Controlling”, and gets into hands-on techniques and how they will vary based on your child’s age and temperament.
Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings by Laura Markham. TarcherPerigee, 2015.
“I never yelled until I had two kids” says one of the mothers quoted in this book. Parenting is hard, and keeping your cool when one kid is using the other as a punching bag is even harder. Markham talks about the uselessness of time-outs, yelling, and other punishments, what to do instead, and what kids will learn when parents gently and calmly enforce limits. The introduction walks through a child spraying a sibling in the face and the limit being enforced, tested, and enforced again – three times through. Here is a parenting expert who really gets that your kids aren’t going to magically transform even if you apply their method just right! Where I’ve been deeply influenced by Alfie Kohn’s ideas, he’s strong on why you shouldn’t punish or reward and weak on what you should actually do when your kid is refusing to get in the car and you have to get to work. Markham is full of practical ideas for how to prevent sibling problems, including things like 10 reasons why siblings bicker and how to solve the underlying problems.
There is so much good stuff in here that not only have we bought all three of the books here after reading them from the library, but my biggest problem has been limiting myself to trying just a few of the great ideas at a time, to work on mastering them. Already my kids are more loving with me and with each other, and meltdowns have been reduced in frequency and intensity.
Parenting children with health issues and special needs : love and logic essentials for raising happy, healthier kids by Foster Cline and Lisa C. Greene. Love and Logic, 2009.
This is a book from the very popular Love and Logic series, the basic concept of which is parents devising punishments (called consequences) to suit each type of misbehavior. This requires a lot of ingenuity on the part of the parent, and does not work with my kids. They will instantly recognize a made-up consequence (no dessert in your lunch if you don’t finish your breakfast) as distinct from a natural consequence (you will get hungry before lunch if you don’t finish your breakfast) and become incapable of any rational action at the perceived meanness of the parent imposing the consequence. However, there are very few books out there about parenting children with serious health issues such as my daughter has. The discussions here of how to explain health issues in an age-appropriate way, and how to give more choices to kids who don’t have choices about things like taking their medicine or how much food they need to eat are very good. There’s also a nice break-down on high and low self-concept/self-esteem and what you can do to help kids with theirs, without turning into a “Good job!!!” recording. So, limited usefulness to me, but it fills a niche.
Other positive parenting books I like:
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
- Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
- The Roots of Empathy by Mary Gordon
- Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
- The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Paine Bryson