Yana Blog > #emotions, #parenting

Parenting Books

What are you favorite parenting books/articles/methods?

Here are some that had the most influence on my parenting:

1. How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk - aka the Parenting Bible. I've bought and given away or had the book "borrowed" many times.  It talks about the importance of the emotional side of parenting: how to listen with full attention, not minimize kids' feelings, get cooperation without coercion or punishment, and encourage kids to become independent and responsible.  I cannot say enough good things about this book; if you are going to read one parenting book, this is it.  

It's chockfull of real life examples you can relate to, and has easy cartoons that shows ineffective vs. effective ways of parenting, see below.  It's very help for sharing even with spouses that are against parenting books!  And I confess I see a lot of myself in the cartoon on the left, and I'm still working on being the parent on the right more often.  Yes, it's like chess, it's easy to explain the rules but not so easy to master.  It takes a lot of practice to overcome our natural instincts of wanting to lecture, blame, coerce, and resorting to rewards and punishment.


2. Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think

Just ignore the first part of the ill-chosen title, and focus on the second. This book by an economist and dad of three talks about half of how our kids will turn out is genetics, so good job parents already!  Then circumstances account for 40%, and parenting only about 10%. (That's of course assuming we do pretty good parenting, which most of us do.  If you're aiming for your child to be Tiger Woods, this may not apply.)

For most parents I've spoken to, this is hard to believe.  Yet it is based on solid research with twin studies that show twins reared apart are far more alike than adopted kids that grew up in the same family.  When they are younger, the kids are more likely to do as you trained them, but when they get older, their nature takes over.  We have little control over even how often our kids will brush their teeth.  Only in a few areas like politics or religion do we have some limited influence.  

Here's the real dig for me: the real lasting impact of parenting?  Turns out it's how the kids remember you.  Yes, they'll remember if you're warm and loving or harsh or overly permissive.

So if we have to force kids to do a lot of things "for their own good", we might want to reconsider.  Kids are not blank slates when born, and we have the full responsibility to determine their fate in life.    If we listen to the science, we can all relax a bit and enjoy our kids more, especially some of us with more Tiger Parents tendencies. ;-)  Instead, we can focus our energy on making the time we spend together as parents and children more enjoyable.

For me, that means not forcing music lessons on my kids until they actually want lessons, have free weekends instead of classes so both the kids and me can relax, try fun activities that we both enjoy together, and teaching them chores and good habits so they can help out around the house and learn practical skills useful for adulthood.  

3. Atlantic Article on Anxious Child: I just came across this article during the past winter and it's already changed the way I parent, especially for my daughter.  The central point is that today's parents try so hard to protect their kids from harm or unpleasant experiences that create more problems.

I remember asking the pediatrician why my daughter only wants to eat carbs, and got the answer I didn't want to hear: because I enable her.  He was right, when my daughter didn't want to eat meat, we'd make mac and cheese and get her some protein a different way.  Yes, we have made it too easy for my daughter to just eat carbs.  

But it's not until I read the Atlantic Article that I realized it's not just picky eating or fear of dogs itself that's the problem, but how we  protect our kids from facing these discomfort that can lead them to become more fearful and anxious.  This is particularly a problem for girls, who in American culture aren't asked as often to "toughen up."  Even my daughter agrees she has a lot of fears.  We could encourage kids to face their fears, learn to deal with discomfort.  Not in a harsh way, but gently encouraging and persistent, and with some positive reinforcement:  "Come on you can try a bit." or "Look you did it!"

So when my daughter wanted to skip the meat in her bowl, I ask her to confront her fears and try to eat some.  Instead of crossing the street when we see a dog, we walk right by and hold her hands.   This really works by the way: my daughter will now eat shrimp most of the time (still needs a reminder or two) and about half the insides of dumplings.   The other day she even ordered chicken wings!

4. Non-Violent Communication: This book also is a bit of misnomer... which parent would think they communicate violently??

This is the best book I've come across on interpersonal communication.  The Jackal style is where we judge and make demands.  More effective is the Giraffe style, where we communicate with compassion, on feelings, observations, needs and requests.   

In our family, only my daughter is a Giraffe, the rest of us, all first-borns, typically communicate in Jackal style.  The latter is a language of impatience and anger.   More than how you say things, it's probably about dealing with that impatience and anger, and have more peace in our heart.  That's not easy when you're a busy working parent, having too much to do and too little time.  

This book is probably the most difficult for me to implement, yet I know how important it is to try still.  When I raise my voice at my son, having to tell him for the third time to go to bed or get off the screen, he would startle or look at me with surprise and sometime say that it sounds "kinda mean".  I don't want to be mean to my kids: I want to be able to do better.  

It's a long journey... and the toughest job.  Parenting really brings out the best and worst in me.    

I have probably another 5-10 parenting books on my book shelves, but I've not read that all or most of them to the end.   Some of them addresses specific aspects of parenting that has come and gone for our family.  The ones I can recommend include

  • Sibling without Rivalry - best book on sibling rivalry.  
  • Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby - Sleep training for back when my kids were babies.

  • How about you? What are some of your favorite parenting books?

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