This parenting gig is hard. It is certainly not for the faint of heart. Each stage brings new joys and new challenges…and just when you think you have it all figured out, our kids go and grow up on us.
Since I first found out I was expecting our first child, I have relied heavily (at times, too heavily) on parenting books. I have read all of the books I share below (and many, many more that are probably also wonderful…I just can’t remember them all). :)
Just a little background if this is your first visit to this site…I am Jenae, wife and mom of three children (two boys, ages 8 and 6, and one girl, age 2). Before staying home with my kiddos, I taught first grade and received my Master’s degree just in time to resign from my teaching job to stay home with my firstborn. :) I am a Christian and my ultimate goal for my kids is to love Jesus and love others. Therefore, my parenting (and my life) are framed through this worldview. Not all of the books I share are written from a Christian perspective, but many are.
I have divided the parenting books that have impacted me most into four sections: Babies, Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Elementary-Age Kids. Keep scrolling down to find each category.
Now, onto the books…
First off, I feel like I need to preface that every parent must figure out what works best for her when it comes to having an infant! This is such a touchy subject…I almost just skipped right to toddlers instead of opening this can of worms. Our family thrived on a loosely structured routine with our babies and they are happy, loving, intelligent well-adjusted kids now at 8, 6, and 2 (who have all been relatively good sleepers). Whether you choose to embrace attachment parenting or whether you are a rigid scheduler, we each must do what is best for our individual babies/families and there should be no judgement on either side. Honestly, the newborn phase is simply about trying to survive (and even thrive) without sleep and trying to enjoy those baby snuggles as much as we possibly can. Time passes so quickly and these tender months are gone before we know it! What I wouldn’t give to snuggle my newborn babies again!
Three out of four books that impacted me in regards to babies are about sleep…which is an indication of what I obsessed about for the first several months of their lives. :)
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child from the American Academy of Pediatrics
This book needs to be in the home of every single home with a newborn! I used this reference book on an hourly basis at times! My dad is a family physician and gives this book to the parents of all of his newborn patients. It is a wonderful resource for just about everything you can think of.
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg
This was one of my favorite newborn books and I felt like it provided a middle-of-the-road approach to establishing a routine while also emphasizing bonding with the baby. There are a few cooky things about the book, but overall it was a great read (I read it while pregnant with my oldest and wrote notes to give to my husband–because that is what you do as first-time parents). ;)
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth
I don’t remember much of this book beyond the fact that I liked it and it has a very healthy, balanced approach toward sleeping and infant development (hello, sleep deprivation!)
Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam
I know I am going to take some flack for including this book. I thought about leaving it out altogether to avoid any controversy but that seemed dishonest as this book did have a big impact on me as a new mom. I think most people who are vehemently opposed to this book haven’t actually read it and think it advocates for moms to let their kids cry for hours on end (which is most certainly not the case) or who have an issue with the author himself (who I honestly know nothing about). I read it at the recommendation of several moms that I have the deepest respect for and look up to as mentors. In the end, it was a little bit more rigid of a structure than what we found worked for our family, but we applied many of the principles, especially the cycle of Eating, Wake-Time, and Sleeping. I especially like the emphasis on protecting and nurturing your marriage while having a newborn at the beginning of the book.
The toddler years are so much fun! Our kids say the funniest things and their little personalities develop so quickly. Kids learn a ton during this age and their minds are sponges, adding new words to their vocabulary every single day. The toddler years, however, can also make you feel like you are going to lose your ever-loving mind (or at least pull out all your hair). A few tantrums, meltdowns, and whine fests peppered here and there threaten to steal some of the joy of these precious years. These books are some of my favorite for the toddler years!
Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic
Every mom of toddlers needs a copy of this book! I read it years ago but am getting ready to re-read it again because I remember what a breath of fresh air it was. This book isn’t a parenting how-to. It’s not full of developmental theories or practical tips for getting your child to mind. No, this book is about encouragement for a battle-worn mother. And the author knows a thing or two about being battle-worn. Rachel Jankovic is the mother of five young children (including a set of twins) all under the age 5. Whew. And I thought I had my hands full. :) This book is about learning to embrace these sometimes stressful years. It’s about thinking of our role as a mother as our mission in life, our pastoral duty. This book encourages us to refuse to get caught up into the chaos of life with young children so much that we forget that these children of ours have souls, emotions, and feelings that need nourishing. The chapters are super short and can be read in 5-10 minutes (perfect for nap time or if you actually get to use the bathroom alone). :) Read more of my thoughts on this book here.
Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood by Jim Fay and Charles Fay
If you’re looking for a book that has practical tips for dealing with specific issues with toddlers to 6-year olds…look no further! Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood is a wonderful tool for parents of young children! Now, I’m not saying that I agree with everything in this book , but it is definitely worth reading and applying! There are so many great tips in this book, like giving your child choices and validating their interests. You can read more about my thoughts on this book here.
Einstein Never Used Flashcards by Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff
I actually listened to this book as audio book (I wouldn’t recommend this…it would be much better to have actually read it because it gets a bit technical in some areas). This is an excellent book on brain development and the importance of play! This book, although not that “practical”, really changed the way that I thought in terms of early childhood education…and that is saying something considering I have a degree in it! I breathed a big sigh of relief after
reading listening to this book…and it majorly takes the pressure off of trying to push our kids too hard.
The preschool years are the bridge between toddlerhood and school-age kids. Our kiddos need lots and lots of time for free play but they also need to begin learning to follow directions and pay attention for longer periods of time in preparation for school. These are the years when there personality seems to solidify and they begin to think about others besides just themselves and their needs. The preschool years are the most tender years, in my opinion, when it comes to teaching kiddos about Jesus (which is why many churches offer preschools).
Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas
This is a great book for any age, but I read it for the first time when my oldest was a preschooler. It really helped me understand the need for roughhousing and loud, boisterous play. There are three sections: The Way of a Boy, The Mind of a Boy, and the Heart of a Boy. The first section is the one most applicable to the preschool years. If you have a son, this is definitely a book to buy and keep to read and various stages of his life!
(PS- I’m sure there are other equally fantastic books for parents of preschool girls, but we are not quite there with our Little Lady so I can’t share any from experience!)
Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman
I read this book years ago when I saw it at the library and was intrigued by the title! Just this past spring we went through the Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours video series at our church. It is a great book filled with lots of practical suggestions for reality-based discipline (the term coined by Kevin Leman that just basically means using natural consequences whenever possible). Unlike most parenting books, Dr. Leman has a great sense of humor that makes this a pleasure to read!
Okay, this is a shameless, shameless plug for my eBooks…#sorrynotsorry. :) They aren’t really parenting books, but they have impacted me nonetheless so I am including them…and I think they are a great resource for your child’s preschool years. I Can Teach My Child to Read was written 3 years ago (!!!) and I just recently finished Getting Ready for Kindergarten that I co-authored with Becky from YourModernFamily.com. You can find both books here.
We are just beginning the tween years with my oldest (how is that even possible?!?!). Honestly, from this point on I am pretty much scared to death of this parenting gig (but then again, I think i have always been scared). How in the world do we navigate through all of the temptations our culture has to offer and still raise kids who have integrity, character, love God, and think of others ahead of themselves? Is this even possible? Here are some books that have been an encouragement to me:
Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch
This is my favorite (nonfiction) book that I have read in at least the last 2 years. I have adored Kristen’s blog for years (WeAreThatFamily.com) and I nod my head in agreement with nearly every post she has written, so I knew I would love this book! Kristen’s heartfelt words are written from a mom still in the trenches, but with teenagers who have modeled character traits of integrity and selflessness despite the crazy culture we live in. Kristen is the first to admit that she makes mistakes (and so do her kids). This was especially pertinent to us, as we live in a pretty affluent zip code yet we want to raise our kids to be hard workers and not to feel as if they are “owed” anything, no matter what their friends and classmates might be getting. Each chapter ends with practical suggestions of what you and your kids can do to show gratefulness rather than entitlement.
Six Ways to Keep the Good in Your Boy by Dannah Gresh
A friend of mine gave me this book a while ago but I didn’t read it until recently because of the words “tween” and “teen” in the title. I thought I had plenty of time before the “tween” years until I recently read that “tween years” technically start around 8! Don’t let those words scare you off…this book is perfect for parents of elementary-age boys. Like Wild Things, this will definitely be a book you want to keep and refer to as your son ages. This book is all about equipping your son to embrace His call from God and stand against the cultural pressures that threaten him. Dannah addresses topics such as why boys need to play outside, how reading (good) books makes him a leader, what role a mom plays into his entrance into manhood, and tips to keep him unplugged from impurity. I’m finishing this book now and will then be passing it along to my husband to read as well.
(PS- My friend Rachel says Six Ways to Keep the “Little” in Your Girl by the same author is equally as wonderful).
Cleaning House by Kay Wyma
I read this book a few summers ago and it has great insights into having children help with household chores. The subtitle for the book is, “A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement”. Yes, entitlement again. I think this is going to be one of the most difficult issues in raising American kids in this time period! My kids were a little young to begin implementing some of the suggestions in this book when I first read it, but I just got this book back after loaning it to a friend, so I think it is time to peruse through it again and begin implementing!
The Digital Invasion by Hart and Frejd
This isn’t really a parenting book, but every parent, teacher, coach, and even adult needs to read it. The research in this book is startling regarding what all this technology is doing to our brains. Crazy, crazy stuff, I tell you! I ordered this book a few years ago after my husband and I had noticed personality changes in one of our children from spending too much time on the iPad (which led me to write this post). We haven’t banned iPads, wii’s, or the TV, but we have been consistent with our screen time rules (shared in the post) since reading this book two years ago. In addition to entitlement, this might be at the top of the list on parenting challenges in the tween and teen years! Our kids aren’t the only ones who struggle with this, my husband and I both have a hard time being separated from our phones/computers.
Whew. This post literally took me several hours to write. There are so many great books!
What is your favorite parenting book???