Five Books that Changed My Life as a Parent

parenting booksI felt like I was a really good parent…before I had actual children. 

I considered myself particularly qualified by my 10 years as a Nanny, a home-school teacher, and pre-school teacher, and had developed a pretty sophisticated and well-researched parenting philosophy. It is no question that the time I spent nurturing, observing, and helping those little minds develop impacted and aided my parenthood, but this mom gig is a whole other animal.

I figured out pretty quickly after my oldest was born that theory and practice are quite different. I needed tools. I needed actual concrete scripts and ideas for how to handle breakdowns, tantrums, developmental tumbles and leaps, and everything in between. I also quickly figured out that parenting was going to force me to take a look not just at my child, but at my own unresolved issues from childhood that were playing into my walk as a mother.

So I started to read. I went back to my former research, and I read some more. Over the years I have read enough parenting books that I should probably have a degree in modern parenting philosophy. Even so, there are only a few that stand out as “playbooks” for me; meaning these are the books I go back to over and over again because the application of the principles therein has made a profound difference in my family’s life.

Here are my top five parenting books:

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids
Laura Markham 

In this book the author addresses the importance of being a calm parent, and not a reactive one. It is a quick read and the author’s tone is informal and pleasant. She walks her readers through what calm parenting looks like and gives us real tools for developing a strong emotional-regulation muscle. I listened to it in the car during drop offs and errands and then when I got home I read the book to solidify the points in my head. It was a fun and fruitful strategy for me. If you struggle with anger, frustration, and in particular, yelling, this book is for you. She also has several other books all of which are excellent as well.

Playful Parenting
Lawrence J. Cohen 

I love being with my children in every way; talking to them, listening to them, caring for them, and being a loving presence in their lives but getting down on the floor and playing? This one is hard for me. When we play, we join them in the work of childhood and gain access to their inner lives. This access is crucial to a child’s feeling connected and to good behavior. I was relieved to know that being a playful parent doesn’t mean I need to be playing with my child ALL the time, just SOME of the time. Through the principles in this book, I learned to make play a time of deep and meaningful observation and discovered a more joyful and fun style of mothering.

Parenting from the Inside Out
Daniel J. Siegal, M.D.

This one is probably one the heftiest of the parenting books I’ve read. It’s more clinical and thorough but is as profound in its power to bring about awareness, healing, and change. I like to recommend this book to first-time parents and to pregnant moms because it is well suited to a longer study, maybe dissecting a chapter a month or so over the course of pregnancy. It asks us to look at the things inside of us that shape our emotional makeup and our reactions. This is a truly excellent foundational study. To complete a reading of this over time is likely one of the best moves a new parent, or any parent really, could make.

Hands-Free Mama
Rachel Macy Stafford

This book has stayed on my nightstand for four years. There is rarely a week that I do not consult it (or another of her books). Rachel Stafford’s profound work regarding learning how to let go of distractions and be truly present in one’s life has shaped my mission as a mother more than anything else I’ve ever read. I get tears in my eyes every time I see that faded and worn book peeking out from the ridiculously tall pile of reading next to my bed as I remember the relief and direction it gave me just a few years ago when I was floundering in anxiety and distracted parenting. 

The Attachment Parenting Book
William Sears, M.D.

This is the very first book I read cover to cover as a pregnant mom and I found it so incredibly helpful to understanding the intuitive things I had already believed but didn’t know how to categorize when it came to my parenting philosophy. Dr. Sears is one of the foremost authorities on attachment parenting. His book discusses, in easy and every-day terms, how breastfeeding, baby wearing, co sleeping, and listening to your intuition contribute to forging strong emotional bonds with your children. I referred to this book a lot when my daughter was young and it is an excellent manual for those pursuing a gentle or natural-parenting philosophy. His blog is also very helpful and has an extensive search function for finding help with specific questions!

Happy reading! 

Lauren resides in Oklahoma with her husband and two children. She is a birth worker and an aspiring writer. In her spare time, she loves to work out and spend time perusing old and new bookstores.

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