Parenting books line the shelves of every bookstore- some helpful and others lacking in anything useful. As our first baby became a toddler, I was drawn to the idea of Positive Parenting as a natural extension from our attachment parenting days with him as a baby. I also love that the ideas of Positive Parenting are grounded in science and child development, as opposed to the “that’s just how we did it in my day” type of advice. If you’ve become interested in the idea of Positive Parenting and helping to introduce more calm into your household, check out this list of the Positive Parenting Books You Need in Your Life!
I will mention now while these books will help bring peace and calm to your household that does not make it an easy transition. As with most things worth doing in life, hard work is required but it is soooooo worth it!
I have read these books as I came across them, but I’ve tried to list them here in the order you would find the most helpful if you are reading as a new reader. No time to read? Check out my Positive Parenting Cheat Sheet. It’s kind of like the Cliff Notes- it might not get you an ‘A’ but it will definitely help you pass!
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Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn
This one is really a manifesto for loving and guiding our kids without strings attached. He goes in depth into the idea that we can discipline and guide without punishment. This may sound like crazy talk to those who are convinced that children need to feel bad in order to learn, but the science shows quite the opposite. This is definitely more of a philosophical book that lays the foundation for this style of parenting rather than a how-to manual.
I like that this book also has this DVD version of a talk given by Alfie Kohn based on the concepts in the book. It’s nice if you are short on time or want a partner/spouse to see the concepts but they don’t/won’t have time to dedicated to reading the book.
‘Hold On to Your Kids’ by Gordon Neufeld
Rather than the instruction manuals I list farther down, this book shows you the importance of continuing to build a strong bond and pathway of communication with your children as they age. Duh, seems simple, right? Not so fast.
Especially in today’s social media age, it is more challenging than ever to be able to hold onto this connection with your kids. This was actually one of the books that influenced my decision to homeschool. Dr. Neufeld shows that you don’t have to just go with the flow, and you can fight to maintain the connection you and your kids both need.
So after reading those two books you might be thinking, “Ok, I’m sold on this whole positive parenting concept, but how in the world do you implement these ideas? How do I know what to do!?!” I’m glad you asked… more books. : )
‘Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids’ by Laura Markham
Dr. Markham has an an easy to read style, and focuses on making changes in yourself so you can both radiate and demonstrate calm in order to help teach it to your child. We expect so much from our kids, but if we really look at ourselves, we aren’t always exhibiting the patience, respect, and calm we expect/demand from the kids. This doesn’t mean kids ‘get away’ with behaviors. Rather, she shows you how to get results without being rude, belittling or shaming your kids.
She also has an amazing website at AhaParenting.com that gives answers to common parenting questions.
My husband and I took her online class and enjoyed it. The hard part is making time for the homework (something to work on that week, rather), but being in the class that includes group phone calls and a Facebook group really helps to keep you motivated. Never underestimate the power of having a group of people all in the same boat to help keep you accountable and encourage you.
She also has a new workbook for parents to go through as an additional step to creating change in your own habits. I know for me personally, I need all the help I can get when trying to change bad habits.
‘Playful Parenting’ by Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D.
‘Playful Parenting’ is a real how-to guide on parenting with joy. You may even consider reading it at the beginning of the list if you just need some ideas how to integrate play into your day. We get so caught up in our adult seriousness all the time that we forget how to play and have fun!
This book invites you to remember how to play, and while it may be challenging at first to step back into the imaginative world of your child, you will find it gets easier with practice. And your children will blossom from the extra attention. It is basically shows you how to lighten up!
‘Listen’ by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore, M.A.
‘Listen’, in a nutshell, is about listening without judging; a concept that is sometimes a whole hell of a lot easier to say than do. She advises having both a listening partner to vent about parenting challenges to them (and they just listen without trying to solve it), and you as a parent listening to your child without judgement.
I’ve heard it said that men in general tend to want to solve the problem when people tell them their troubles, but I’m a definite ‘I want to solve it’ type of person. I also personally think it’s better to have a listening partner that is not a spouse. It’s hard for me to not take certain things personally or be able to not offer advice with a spouse.
Wipfler gives ideas on how to listen to your kids without placing judgement or diminishing them. Sometimes, just feeling as if you are ‘heard’ is enough to be able to move on without distress.
Patty Wipfler can also be found at the Hand in Hand Parenting website
‘How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk’ by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Faber and Mazlish were both students of Dr. Haim Ginnot, a child psychologist. They’ve combined what they learned from him as well as their own experience and research into not just this book, but several others.
This book has a conversational style and they readily admit where they, too, have made mistakes. So it’s not a holier-than-thou approach to parenting. They also include cartoon sample conversations of exactly how to communicate. Other books are available specific to teenagers, too. Think of it as Google Translate, but for kids!
‘Discipline Without Distress’ by Judy Arnall
Not sure what to do about a specific situation? This book has you covered!
If you have more than one child, then you are probably all too aware that behavior situations are not linear, but rather exponential as you add kids to the family. The following two books help to sort through the hot mess of sibling relationships and how to not screw it up.
‘Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings’ by Laura Markham
This is the sibling version of her first book, and is definitely a complement to it rather than a standalone title in my opinion. She covers some of the highlights in it from the first book, but having a foundational understanding of where she is coming from with her teaching is really helpful when reading this second version.
Specific tips for how to handle individual disagreements with kids are especially helpful. The old advice of ‘just let them sort it out’ is not only outdated, but can be extremely harmful to the kids and family harmony.
‘Siblings Without Rivalry’ by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Multiple stories are included in this book largely about ways that parents screwed up the kids. I’ll admit that this one is harder to read, because you get the full effect for how we as parents can really make sibling relationships worse.
There are lots of tips to help parents, but I did occasionally feel as if, “holy cow, there are so many ways to mess this up.” However, the first step to correcting any issues is to admit they are there and begin to work on them. And, some of the family stories are so messed up, you are at least likely to think, “I’m least I’m not as bad as those last few!”
‘Parenting Illustrated with Crappy Pictures’ by Amber Dusick
All the other books are enjoyable but they have a more serious tone. When you just need to know you are not alone, you need this book. Written in ‘crappy’ cartoon drawings, you can even read a few pages while you hide in the bathroom and feel better. She’s positive, kind, and above all, funny!
I also have the following parenting books in my to-be-read queue, so stay tuned- I’ll update this post as I read them:
Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel, MD and Mary Hartzell
The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegal, MD and Tina Payne Bryson Ph.D.
No Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegal, MD and Tinay Payne Bryson Ph.D.
Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson Ed.D.
The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland
The Explosive Child by Ross Greene
Gentle by L.R. Knost