Today we’re talking favorite parenting books for parents of young kids. This post contains affiliate links.
Finally! We’re talking about parenting books.
I have dedicated a good portion of my free time in the last few years to listening to audiobooks and parenting books always seem to work their way into my library holds. That said, I wanted to wait and write this post until I’d read every parenting book on my list. I wanted to wait until I’d noted down my favorite takeaways from each book. I wanted it to be long and comprehensive and awesome.
But I also wanted to start somewhere and give you a place where I keep a running list of my favorites. So, let’s talk parenting books.
Do I think you need to read parenting books to be a good parent? No.
Are they helpful in becoming a better parent? Absolutely.
Good intentions are important in parenting but I love learning from experts and the research when it comes to the best ways to use my good intentions. We can all agree we want to raise good, kind, successful kids, but what is the most effective way to do that? Do we insist on kindness and punish them when they’re not? Do we teach only by example and hope they’ll get the hint? Parenting books are great ways of codifying your own parenting philosophy and giving you insights into your children’s development.
Here are a few of the parenting books I’ve read over the last few years and I hope to keep adding to this list. I’ve separated it into books I’ve loved and books I haven’t (although if I don’t like something I will often not finish it so you won’t find a lot on the list).
Favorite Parenting Books for parents of young kids
What I loved:
This is my ALL TIME favorite parenting book. The first section is dedicated to regulating yourself as a parent. It focuses on the idea that we cannot give or teach what we don’t have and so we need to start with ourselves if we want to raise healthy, emotionally resilient kids. The second section deals with fostering connection, focusing on the underlying concept that we cannot expect children to listen to parents with whom they don’t have a good relationship. The final part is on coaching not controlling and it reminds me of Dan Siegel’s philosophy on discipline – how our goal isn’t just good behavior in the moment but the ability to make good decisions on their own down the road.
This book is for anyone looking for a more peaceful, connected approach to parenting. I don’t remember a ton of specific tips to use in situations but the overall philosophy is SO important and helpful. This is a book I plan to re-listen to each year that I have kids at home.
This book is phenomenal. If you read one from this list, please let it be this one. I finished it the first time and immediately started it over again. I laughed. I cried. I got so many practical takeaways and felt seen as a mom. Dr. Becky does a fantastic job explaining the why behind her recommendations and helps you understand what is really happening inside your child’s brain when you respond in certain ways.
It is like the whole-brain child meets peaceful parent happy kids with a lot of excellent storytelling thrown in. I listened to this one and loved it.
Every parent should read this book. If you’re only going to read two books on here, make it Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids and this one (or “No Drama Discipline” by the same author). This book spends less time telling you exactly what to do in parenting situations as it does describing what is happening inside your child’s body and brain as they grow.
Instead of saying “do this when your child has a tantrum,” Dan Siegel explains what happens in your child’s brain when they are having a tantrum and the approaches that are effective. I found this book more helpful than others because instead of just telling me what to do, it told me WHY to do it. And realistically, if I forget what it told me to do, I can remember what is happening in my child’s brain and be better equipped to make my own decision about how to respond.
This is another very favorite of mine. Dan Siegel is just fantastic when it comes to understanding children and helping them grow into well adjusted adults. I’m working my way through a physical copy of this one again so I can share the concepts with Ben along the way and forgot how much I like it. Dr. Siegel starts with explaining that the goal of discipline (which really means “to teach”) is two fold: to have children behave well in the present and to give them the tools needed to make good decisions on their own in the future. If you’re looking for an approach to discipline that raises emotionally intelligent kids, this is a really good one.
This book has so many practical tips and strategies to employ with your kids. Not a lot to say about it but its a good read with some great examples.
I shared a lot of tips I got from this book in this post on “how to encourage sibling relationships” but I LOVE this book for parents with multiple kids.
Other Books I liked:
- The Yes Brain
- No Bad Kids
- It’s Okay Not to Share (this is fantastic!)
- It’s Okay to Go Up The Slide (this runs together with the first one in my memory but a great one for older toddlers and up)
- Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool (my husband recommended this one after listening to a podcast on it and it is my #1 rec to read while pregnant to help make all those decisions in the first year or two)
Books I didn’t really care for:
People swear by this book but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The general concept is that attention is a reward for children and so when you respond/react to bad behavior, you are rewarding it.
A simplified summary is ignore behavior you don’t want to continue and reward behavior you do want to continue. Yes, this is true… but I didn’t like how this book seemed to skip over the reason kids act out.
It stands in stark contrast to Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids which talks about responding to the underlying cause of behavior instead of the behavior itself (so if you’re child is acting out because they are tired and hungry, respond to the need of being tired and hungry instead of the tantrum).
Just because a kid is capable of behaving well doesn’t mean they’re capable of behaving well all of the time and this book doesn’t focus on giving your kids to tools to deal with the big emotions that often lead to negative behavior.
The second half of this book talks about rewarding positive behavior and I liked this part, but the first part of the book left me with such a bad feeling. I plan to revisit this one at some point but my first listen didn’t do much for me.
I love the recent instagram stories Ralphie of Simply on Purpose did about ignoring junk behavior because it illustrated ignoring the behavior but not ignoring the child. Skip this book and just go watch her IGTV on “how to ignore the junk.”
I really like the parenting philosophies and the research laid out in this book…I just don’t love the winding, chatty, lots of talk about “writing the book” part of this book. Good messages. Not as good delivery. That said, a book-loving friend recently told me she really liked it, so if you’re looking for more of a personal story around the research, this might be for you.
Still on my list:
- Parenting with Love and Logic (bought the physical copy of this one)
- 1-2-3 magic (super hesitant about this one but plan to read it at some point)
- Brainstorm (for teens)
- The Happiest Toddler on the Block
- Unconditional Parenting
- The 5 Love Languages of Children
- Christlike Parenting (I’ve started the hardcopy of this one but need to get past the first chapter)
I’ve read a few books geared at interacting with babies which seem to fit into a different category than “parenting books” but I wanted to add them here.
This book is all about the importance of talking to you children and if you don’t have time to read the whole book, at least go read my summary and takeaways in this post.
This is the one book I read before Lincoln was born and it gave great insight into their developing brain and what we can do to foster it (spoiler: it has a lot more to do with creating a safe + loving environment than the newest “academic” toys).