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15 Insightful Parenting Books That Help Your Kids Start off a Healthy Life

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15 Insightful Parenting Books That Help Your Kids Start off a Healthy Life

It wasn’t that long ago when the only resource that parents could reliably turn to were books. Nowadays, flipping through a book may not be most parents’ first instinct when looking for parenting advice.

Instant access to blogs, websites, and forums provide multitudes of answers and “expert opinions,” which can either be helpful or contradicting and overwhelming. Books are still a valuable resource when it comes to parenting. Just because information is printed in a book does not mean it is infallible.

However, it is much easier to find reliable reviews and criticisms of published works from reputable sources than of websites or blogs.

The following parenting books discuss topics about parenting that start at conception and cover all the way to young adulthood.

Whether you are looking for advice about disciplining your toddler, how to parent your spirited child, or cross-cultural parenting techniques, you will find everything you need in this list:

1. Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong – and What You Really Need to Know, by Emily Oster

    Parents are able to influence the development of their child the moment they are conceived, through factors such as the mother’s diet, the home environment, and secondhand smoke.

    There are countless activities that pregnant women are told can have a positive or negative impact on the baby, from eating sushi to prenatal yoga. But which of these are based on scientific evidence and which are just hearsay?

    Expecting Better delves into these widespread pregnancy beliefs and produces statistics and facts that spell out the actual risk associated with each. The book is laid out by in chronological order, from conception to delivery, and describes many of the most common worries that expectant mothers have.

    The overarching message of the book is that there is no right or wrong answer for anything when it comes to pregnancy.

    Get the book here!

    2. The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby’s First Year, by Alice Callahan

      This book addresses many of the questions that new mother have about their babies in the first six months of their lives. Many controversial topics are addressed, such as vaccines, breastfeeding, and sleep.

      The author has a PhD in nutrition and writes in detail about the types of food to introduce to your babies early on to meet all of their dietary needs. A variety of scientific studies are used throughout the book to serve as support for the author’s opinions, and Callahan also explains how the average person can discern the validity of studies and their claims.

      Get the book here!

      3. No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame, by Janet Lansbury

        As a new parent, it can seem like your tiny baby grows into a toddler overnight, and a new element of parenting is suddenly required – discipline. Not only are your little ones gaining mobility and independence, they are also developing their own personalities and trying to figure out how to navigate this confusing world.

        As an RIE teacher with over 20 years of hands on experience helping parents and their toddlers, Janet Lansbury is an expert in this field. This book is compilation of her most popular and widely read articles that she first published on her own website.

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        The articles cover a wide range of topics, including tantrums, hitting, boundaries, and more. If you are struggling to find effective ways to discipline your tenacious toddler, this book might be just what you need.

        Get the book here!

        4. Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

          All kids are NOT created equally. Some children are born with a natural tendency to be more strong-willed, and it is not at all a reflection of the way they have been parented. However, it does make parenting a more difficult task and can often leave parents feeling like they are doing something wrong.

          This book recognizes that these children need a slightly different approach and give parents strategies on how to deal with challenging situations, such as bedtime, mealtimes, sibling rivalry, school, and more.

          Rather than viewing the intensity of these children as obstacles, Kurcinka teaches parents how to re-frame their thinking to see the positive components of their behavior. It’s crucial that parents try to understand why their children are behaving the way they are and this book gives you tools to nurture challenging kids successfully.

          Get the book here!

          5. Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times, by Zoe Weil

            Living in a society where senseless violence and animosity have become the new normal, the task of raising a kind and loving child can seem almost impossible. But what the world needs now, more than ever, are compassionate people who care about the environment, other living species, and all people.

            Weil advises parents on how to guide their children towards living a more humane life, but most importantly, living their own as a message and an example. All age groups are included, from the early years all the way to young adulthood, and activities, important issues, tips, and more are discussed for each.

            The four elements that Weil emphasizes in raising human children are providing information, teaching critical thinking, instilling reverence, respect, and responsibility, and offering positive choices. Being kind is not synonymous with grand gestures. The little things people do on a daily basis will make the biggest difference.

            Get the book here!

            6. The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, by Daniel J. Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson

              When your children decide to throw tantrums because you wouldn’t let them ride in the shopping cart standing up, are they doing that just to embarrass you in public and make you look like an incompetent parent?

              Not at all!

              They are simply adjusting to their rapidly developing minds and coming to terms with their desires and the parameters within which they must live. They are allowing their emotions to take over because they are not equipped to tackle the situation in a more rational manner.

              Siegel, a neuropsychiatrist, and Bryson, a parenting expert, teamed up to decode the complexities of the young developing mind to give you 12 strategies to transform challenging emotionally driven reactions into opportunities to help your children cultivate healthy development and productive behaviors for life.

              Get the book here!

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              7. Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, by Rebecca Eanes

                There are too many parenting books out there to read them all! Which ones are worth reading and which techniques are the most effective?

                Eanes does not claim to be a parenting “expert” but rather, a real mom, fully entrenched in the joy and hardships of parenthood. This book is the culmination of the parenting techniques she learned that actually worked for her family throughout the years, repackaged in an easy to ready format.

                The first half focuses solely on the parent and provides many tips on how to work on our response and emotions and increasing self-awareness before engaging with our children. She also includes many suggestions, techniques, and discussion questions to help you move from theory to practice.

                So often, children are punished for being human. They are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones, or bad attitudes. Yet, we adults have them all the time. None of us are perfect. We must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves.

                Get the book here!

                8. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

                  It can be easy for parents to yell and lash out when their kids are having a meltdown for seemingly frivolous reasons. However, it’s important to remember that young kids need to be heard and understood, and they are expressing themselves in the only way they know how.

                  This book helps parents to navigate the complicated but fragile methods of communication with their children that will tremendously impact their behavior and development.

                  It’s crucial that parents acknowledge the feelings that their children are feeling and show them that they understand, before setting out to try to resolve the issue. Their feelings are valid and important and need to be expressed.

                  Another point that is emphasized is to make correcting behavior about the behavior and not about the child. Changing the way parents talk to their children will lay a much stronger foundation for communication and improve the parent-child relationship tremendously.

                  Get the book here!

                  9. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, by Kim John Payne

                    A growing trend towards minimalist living has many families purging their closets, downsizing their homes and going against the consumerist culture that advertising and the media promotes. This mindset can also be applied to parenting.

                    Children do not need packed schedules full of activities or toy boxes filled to the brim. They also don’t need their parents to worry and obsess about their every move. To help parents adopt this more simplistic mindset, Payne gives suggestions such as streamlining your environment, establishing rhythms and rituals, scheduling breaks, scaling back on media, and lessening parental involvement.

                    Don’t overwhelm your children with too many choices and then step back to allow them to grow into the people they are meant to become more independently.

                    Get the book here!

                    10. Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, by Dr. Laura Markham

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                      They say that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. This mantra is true in many facets of life.

                      Parents have a better chance of fostering deep, genuine relationships with their children if they use techniques that focus on love, compassion, empathy, and gentleness, rather than fear, strict rules, and discipline.

                      Markham guides parents to get in touch with and master their own emotions, so that they can parent with empathy, open communication, and healthy limits, encouraging children to be self-disciplined and accountable for their own actions.

                      “What matters most: Stay connected and never withdraw your love, even for a moment. The deepest reason kids cooperate is that they love you and want to please you. Above all, safeguard your relationship with your child. That’s your only leverage to have any influence on your child. It’s what your child needs most. And that closeness is what makes all the sacrifices of parenting worth it.”

                      Get the book here!

                      11. NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

                        In contrast to typical parenting books, this book contradicts many commonly held beliefs about what is best for children and uses current social science studies as evidence for a new way of thinking.

                        For example, several studies showed that kids who are commonly threatened with punishment lie more frequently and get better at doing it. Another chapter talks about the fact that when white parents don’t talk about the issue of race or bring attention to it, kids tend to form their own (racist) opinions about people who look different from them.

                        Although some claims are lacking in details and specifics about how to tangibly apply it parenting practices, there is a lot of useful and surprising information to be gleaned from this book.

                        Get the book here!

                        12. Playful Parenting, by Lawrence J. Cohen

                          According to Cohen, kids misbehave because they feel disconnected from their parents and not heard. They act out in order to get attention, even if it is negative attention.

                          The best way to connect with kids is to speak the language they know best – playing. Frequent physical constant and being willing to play the fool are two key strategies that are emphasized in the book. Kids are made to feel foolish so often in their lives, when they are constantly being told what to do and being corrected.

                          When the tables are turned, kids are able to see their parents in a more relatable light.

                          Get the book here!

                          13. Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential, by Eileen Kennedy-Moore & Mark S. Lowenthal

                            For kids who can be categorized as gifted or bright, different parenting techniques may be required in order to help these children achieve their highest potential, without feeling pressured.

                            The four essential components of smart parenting are laid out: a compassionate ability to view the world through our children’s eyes, the confidence to set judicious limits, a commitment to turn toward our children more often than away, and faith in our children’s ability to grow and learn.

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                            In additional, seven fundamental challenges are addressed in great detail: tempering perfectionism, building connection, managing sensitivity, handling cooperation and competition, dealing with authority, developing motivation, and finding joy.

                            If these are topics that resonate with you, this may be a helpful resource to help you help your kids succeed.

                            Get the book here!

                            14. Beyond the Tiger Mom: East-West Parenting for the Global Age, by Maya Thiagarajan

                              After the massive success of the honest and confrontational book describing strict Chinese parenting techniques in practice, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, a massive debate was ignited, comparing Eastern and Western parenting styles.

                              Which approach is better and more effective? Why do Asian students do so well in math and science?

                              Thiagarajan is uniquely qualified to address these questions because of her personal experience growing up in India, and teaching in both the U.S. and Singapore. She explains the advantages and pitfalls of both methods of parenting and gives specific tips in a “How To” section in each chapter to aid Asian and Western parents in education and development both in and out of the classroom.

                              Get the book here!

                              15. The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline, by L.R. Knost

                                Many parents who are currently raising young kids did not grow up in a household where gentle parenting took place. Yelling, corporal punishment, and threats were commonly used means of discipline for many decades.

                                Knost presents an alternative way of parenting – a gentle way – that is still as effective, if not more so. She explains the importance of treating children as people, with respect and one-another-love (Golden Rule).

                                This book is centered around the implementation of the three C’s of gentle discipline – Connection, Communication, and Cooperation.

                                Some suggestions for tools that parents can utilize in the place of yelling or aggression in include: prevention, remind and redirect, silliness, modeling, and teaching empathy.

                                “Yelling silences your message. Speak quietly so your children can hear your words, not just your voice.”

                                Get the book here!

                                Final thoughts

                                Being a good parent is a complicated and difficult challenge to take on.

                                Many of us are still holding onto to mistakes that our parents made with us when we were kids, vowing not to do the same to our own children. But no parent is perfect, and everyone will inevitably get something wrong.

                                These books are here to provide some guidance in tackling this impossible task. They have helped countless other parents in helping to communicate, understand, and relate to their children, so it may be worthwhile to give them a chance.

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                                Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                                More by this author

                                Katie Lemons

                                Parenting Blogger and Full-Time Working Mom

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                                Last Updated on October 7, 2021

                                Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

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                                Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

                                In today’s chaotic world, having family time isn’t always easy. It can get pretty hard to coordinate schedules, especially if the family is large. Life demands that we work, attend school, nurture friendships, hobbies, etc. All of those things are extremely time-consuming and important—but so is spending time with your family.

                                Why is family time so important? Because we all need love and support, and a good, strong family can provide that regularly. For children, spending time with their family helps shape them into good, responsible adults, improve their mental health, and develop strong core values.

                                There are many positive effects of spending time with your family. My family and I, for instance (and this includes grandchildren as well), meet every Tuesday night for dinner and games. My older son and I take turns cooking. This gives all of us a chance to try some new recipes. After dinner, we play games. And without fail, they inspire competitiveness and laughter. As family night has evolved, the grandkids have invited their friends over as well, creating the need for more chairs but also expanding our circle of fun.

                                Aside from the obvious fun and games, there are other reasons why spending time with your family is paramount. In this article, I will provide you with multiple reasons why spending time with your family regularly is a win-win. And then, I will lay out some ways on how to do it.

                                Let’s get started, shall we?

                                Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important

                                Here are six reasons why it’s important to spend time with your family.

                                1. Provides the Opportunity to Bond

                                When you spend time together as a family—talking about your day, your highs, your lows—it fosters communication. As parents, it gives you the chance to listen to your children, to hear them out, to learn about what’s going on in their world. It also provides you with the opportunity to use life situations as teaching moments.

                                Before our Tuesday night dinner/game nights, my family used to see each other pretty regularly but not consistently, especially the grandkids. Our family night changed all that. Now, it’s guaranteed that the grandchildren, along with some of their friends, will be there. Not only do I get to find out what’s been happening in their lives, but they also get to know us better. It’s creating memories they can treasure forever, as well as modeling the Get-Together tradition for when they eventually have families of their own.

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                                “Spending time partaking in everyday family leisure activities has been associated with greater emotional bonding within families.”[1]

                                2. Teaches the Value of Family

                                Taking the time to be with your family lets your children know they are valued—that spending time together is a priority. I know that in today’s world, both parents are busy as both usually working. What better way to let your children know they are loved than by carving out time each week to spend with them?

                                According to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., “words like honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage are core to centuries of religious, philosophical, and family beliefs. Use them and others to express and reinforce your family values. Teach children the behaviors that flow from these principles. Use quotes to ignite meaningful dinner conversations and encourage kids to talk about these values.”[2]

                                3. Enhances Mental Well-Being

                                Spending that quality time together gives your children a safe platform in which to express themselves, ask questions about things that are bothering them, or talk about their day and things they’ve learned. I know that my 9-year old granddaughter can’t wait until it’s her turn to talk about her day. She usually goes on and on and has to be stopped to give everyone else a chance to talk about their goings-on.

                                “Research shows the quality of family relationships is more important than their size or composition. Whoever the family is made up of, they can build strong, positive relationships that promote wellbeing and support children and young people’s mental health.”[3]

                                For children, having the opportunity to seek advice from parents they trust—as well as being able to have a sounding board and help with problem-solving—is priceless. In addition, being able to voice their opinions and be heard—and to feel like what they have to say matters—is an esteem-builder. All of these can have a very impactful positive effect on their well-being.

                                4. Helps the Child Feel Loved

                                How do you think a child feels knowing their parents want to spend time with them—talking, sharing experiences, playing games, listening to them? It will make them feel as though they are important, and a child that feels important is happier and more apt to thrive. Setting aside chores or work to spend time with your children demonstrates that they’re essential—that they matter. What a gift to give your child!

                                “If a child has your undivided attention, it signals that they are loved and important to you. This can be further nurtured by experiencing joyful activities together, as it demonstrates that you want to spend time with your children over and above all of the daily demands.”[4]

                                5. Creates a Safe Environment

                                If you regularly spend time with your children, you are also creating an atmosphere of trust. The more trust they have, the more likely they are to share with you what’s going on in their world. As they get older, you’re going to want to know. Negative influences can show up at any time, but if you’ve always been there for your child, they are more apt to come to you and ask for your advice.

                                Spending time together generates familiarity and feelings of being supported. When a child feels safe and comfortable, they’re more likely to open up. This is one way to get to know your child and know what’s on their minds. Are they okay? Do they need your guidance? If so, how?

                                6. Reduces Stress

                                This is significant. We all suffer from stress at one point or another in our lives. Spending time with family helps alleviate that stress. It’s an opportunity to talk things out, get feedback, and maybe brainstorm for a solution to the problem that is causing the stress.

                                According to Brandy Drzymkowski, “During the holidays, your closest five people probably shifts to family and friends. You may even get to see loved ones who live far away. Good news! This can actually help lower your stress levels. Studies show ‘face-to-face interaction…counteracts the body’s defensive ‘fight-or-flight’ response.’ In other words, quality time spent with loved ones is nature’s stress reliever.”[5]

                                So, now that you know some of the benefits, what are some ideas for making family time happen?

                                How to Make Family Time Happen

                                Here are four things you can do to make family time happen and spend more time with them.

                                1. Family Dinners

                                This, as I said above, is a wonderful way to spend time together. While you’re having dinner, you have the chance to discuss things that are going on in your lives—the ups, the downs, and everywhere in between. It’s like having a buffer against life’s challenges.

                                Aside from that, eating dinner together has many additional benefits. Studies have shown that for kids who eat regularly with their families, there is less risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression.[6]

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                                “Our belief in the ‘magic’ of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals.” It further states, “We recommend combining food, fun and conversation at mealtimes because those three ingredients are the recipe for a warm, positive family dinner—the type of environment that makes these scientifically proven benefits possible.”[7]

                                According to Parenting NI, “children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to get involved in risky behavior. According to studies done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse via Arizona State University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.”[8]

                                As you can see, there are multiple benefits to spending time with each other routinely. You can’t go wrong with this family activity.

                                2.  Regular Movie Nights

                                This is another fun event, although, from personal experience, I have to caution that choosing a movie that everyone wants to see is not easy. So, give yourselves plenty of time so you don’t spend two hours searching for a movie, and then end up watching no movie at all because the night is practically over. Try and choose a movie before the day, if possible.

                                Afterward, open it up for discussion. Ask questions pertinent to the movie. What do you think of ABC? Should they have done that? Would you have done something differently? There are so many questions you can ask to spark a conversation and keep the night going.

                                3. Game Night

                                This is another occasion for great fun. If you have a competitive spirit, it makes it even more fun. There are numerous games out there—Balderdash, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Charades, to name a few—that can create fun havoc. All I can say is, on game nights, don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s okay if you lose the game. The fun is in being together, laughing, debating, and having a good time.

                                In addition, “Playing board games is great for children for many reasons besides the obvious; it’s fun to play games! Age appropriate games can help children to think strategically, solve problems creatively, work on pattern recognition and build simple math skills. They also help children develop social skills such as following rules, taking turns, and graceful winning or losing. Additionally, a family game night provides an opportunity for children to bond with siblings, parents and family members as well as peers. It can promote tradition building and establish a fun routine.”[9]

                                So, go find your family a game and start having fun!

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                                4. Sharing a Hobby

                                If you and one of your kids like to do the same things, do it more often. For example, my oldest son and his teenage son go on long bike rides together on the weekends. Not only do they get to exercise, but they also get to talk and look at beautiful sceneries. They’ve also incorporated cooking into their routine. They plan the meal, shop, and prepare—activities that bring them closer together.

                                Sharing a hobby is a great way to bring family members together. It bonds people in amazing ways. According to Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW, “One of the easiest and most important ways to build a child’s self-esteem is to spend time with them doing something not only that they enjoy but something that you also enjoy. There is a special magic that happens between a parent and a child when they share a mutually beloved activity. It sends the message to the child that their parents are having fun, true, honest, real fun, with them.”[10]

                                Final Thoughts

                                Spending time with the family is an investment. It is an investment in the happiness, well-being, and security of that system. It can also serve as a way to break out of the daily rut and the constant worldly demands, while at the same time, building a strong family unit.

                                Even though it isn’t always easy to find the time, finding the time is key to staying close and to providing and receiving love and support. There is no greater gift than the gift of time. That’s what we all seem to be missing nowadays. So, in giving that gift consistently, everyone feels loved and appreciated.

                                The family that takes the time to interact regularly is typically happy. They know they are part of a tribe, and that’s essential in today’s chaotic world. To know that there are people whom you can count on—people who will have your back in times of need—is invaluable.

                                Now, go and plan something plan with your family, if you haven’t already.

                                Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via unsplash.com

                                Reference

                                [1] Pittsburgh Parent: Spending Time Together—Benefits of Family Time
                                [2] Roots of Action: Integrity: How Families Teach and Live Their Values
                                [3] Beyond Blue: Healthy Families
                                [4] Esperance Anglican Community School: The importance of family time
                                [5] Brandy Drzymkowski: Spending Time With Loved Ones Reduces Stress
                                [6] Harvard Graduate School of Education: Harvard EdCast: The Benefit of Family Mealtime
                                [7] The Family Dinner Project: BENEFITS OF FAMILY DINNERS
                                [8] Parenting NI: The Importance of Spending Time Together
                                [9] WNY Children: Family Game Night- The Benefits of Game Play
                                [10] Child Therapy Boston: The Benefits of Sharing a Hobby With Your Child

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