Five Books That Can Transform Your Parenting
One thing is for sure: When you become a parent, people start to give you a lot of advice. How to raise a child well is a topic that fuels heated debates around dining room tables at Thanksgiving, on morning TV talk shows, and in the comment sections of way too many Facebook posts. If you are struggling and in need of support as you parent, it's difficult to know where to turn when there's judgment from others around every corner.
As a counselor who specializes in providing trauma-informed parenting support and consultation based on a child's developmental history, I love working with parents and families in a nonjudgmental way so children (and parents!) can thrive. I'm frequently asked what books or authors I recommend for parents looking for more resources as they raise healthy children, and the following five are great places to start. All five are based on research on child development, interpersonal neurobiology, trauma's impact on our brains and bodies, or attachment theory. They aren't based on opinion, tradition, or ideology, but develop their ideas from observation and research.
Here are five great books that can transform you parenting (and family!):
1) Parenting from the Inside Out: How A Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive by Dr. Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell, MEd
The best place to start when working toward developing a healthy, secure parenting is by working through your own history. This may seem counter intuitive and I can imagine your response: "Do you mean to tell me that I need to think about my childhood so I can get my kid to stop melting down at dinnertime?" And the answer, to some extent, is yes. Research shows that the strongest predictor of a child growing up with a secure attachment style is having a parent who has made sense of their own history and is aware of how their upbringing impacts their parenting. Although this may not answer many of your practical questions about parenting in daily life, it provides an absolutely necessary foundation from which to build a strong, secure family.
2) The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross
Even though the cover of this book says that this is for families with adopted children, don't be fooled: The Connected Child provides some of the best explanations for problem behaviors in children, regardless of whether they came to you biologically or through adoption. It should be required reading for any family with a child who has had a difficult history as it explains (in a very readable, understandable way) the meaning behind many common problem behaviors in children. In addition to giving this great understanding of why problem behaviors exist and persist, The Connect Child provides a practical, holistic approach to helping your child get back on track toward healthy development.
3) The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson
Oh boy, do I love this book! Drs. Siegel & Payne Bryson make neuroscience easy. This extremely helpful guide to understanding your child's growing brain offers practical ways to both proactively strengthen your child's growing brain and help them get back on track when they are melting down. Several months ago, I posted an article on PsychCentral summarizing the brain basics offered in the book. You can check that out here.
Another great, practical book by Dr. Siegel & Dr. Payne Bryson is No Drama Discipline.
4) Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting by Dr. John Gottman
Emotions are hard to deal with--and are even harder for our children to effectively manage! Dr. Gottman's research on parenting and child development reveals how to coach your child on managing difficult emotions so they can thrive. This helps them develop a healthy relationship to their emotions so they can not feel as overwhelmed by them as they grow.
5) I Love You Rituals by Dr. Becky Bailey
Far too often, our ideas about parenting are focused primarily on behavior management. We get so stuck on how to control our child's meltdowns or whether we should rely on logical consequences or creative punishments that we forget that the heart of our family life exists in our day to day connections with each other. I Love You Rituals provides dozens of great, practical, and proactive ways you can share your love with your child to increase their sense of security and deepen the bond you share.