Take a Look, It's in a Parenting Book:

A Brief Guide Through the Reading Rainbow of Advice

By Molly Brown Koch


What if all parenting books were to suddenly vanish? What would you do? How would you feel? Not to worry, it won’t happen. With our desire to be the best parents we can be, there are and there will continue to be enough parenting books to circle the globe. Twice!


It’s nothing short of amazing that so much can be written about the little ones and how we should cope with them, raise them, discipline them, and so on into the night.


In my Family Matters column in these pages this past September, I wrote that the magic of good parenting is in you, in your compassionate and loving hearts. So, if we already have what it takes, why do we need books or experts or advice? Well, most of us are curious, some of us are insecure, and others of us want to know as much as possible about improving our skills or finding answers to specific problems. We want information, and we want reassurance.


So, if you are among the legions of parents who buy books (and read columns) on parenting, let me help steward you as you navigate your way through the maze of them to find the most helpful ones. My book recommendations come from my own favorites and parents’ reviews. I eliminated those that parents said made them feel guilty. We need support, not criticism.


A starting word of advice: beware of any author who sets him- or herself apart as the leading authority and negates the value of all other experts in the field. Trust the author who respects children and their human rights. Let your compassionate heart guide you as you look through the books in your public library or bookstore. If a book resonates with your own values, it will give you the kind of support and self-confidence we all seek and need.


The bibliographic information for each of the books in this list reflects the most recent edition of that book; in some cases I may have read an earlier edition. You can find other books I have read and recommend in the bibliography of my own book, “27 Secrets to Raising Amazing Children,” published in 2007 by Sidran Institute Press, which is based in Brooklandville.


“Got the Baby Where's the Manual?: Respectful Parenting from Birth Through the Terrific Twos,” by Dr. Joanne Baum, Mountainside Press, 2007, 253 pages Baum encourages parents to be themselves in any parenting situation. Following her philosophy of respect models the type of behavior we want and need for our children.


“Back to the Family: Proven Advice On Building a Stronger, Healthier, Happier Family,” by Dr. Raymond N. Guarendi, with David Eich, Fireside, 1991, 272 pages Psychologist  Guarendi wanted to know how children become happy high-achievers. He contacted parents of high-achievers and asked them if they ever made mistakes. The unanimous reply was, “Everyday.” But these parents were wise enough to focus on changing their methods and not  their children. They did not repeat the same methods until the kids “got it.” This is a very worthwhile book, very human, and does not engage in judgments. I loved this book.


“Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason,by Alfie Kohn, Atria Books, 2005, 272 pages Kohn, who was scheduled to give a talk in Baltimore late last month, is an iconoclast. He challenges both current educational practices and accepted discipline methods and offers sensible alternatives. In this book he makes clear that “unconditional” does not mean kids can do anything they want without taking responsibility for their behavior; rather, it means that even when they fall short, their parents will accept them and work with them instead of punishing them. Through Kohn's guidance, parents will learn how to go from “doing to” to “working with” their children. Providing the unconditional support their children need, they will help them grow into healthy, caring, responsible people.


“How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk,” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, Scribner, 2012, 368 pages All of Faber and Mazlish’s books offfer down-to-earth ways to change the atmosphere in your home. Their communication skills are effective with children of all ages. Use them and reduce the stress on yourself and your family. The authors were trained by psychologist Haim Ginott and conducted parenting groups for years. Real-life situations show how you can respect and respond to your child's feelings and satisfy your own needs. All books by Faber and Mazlish are worth reading.


“Child Behavior: The Classic Child Care Manual from the Gesell Institute of Human Development,” by Frances L. Ilg, Louise Bates Ames, and Sidney M. Baker, HarperPerennial, 1992, 368 pages As a new mom in the late 1940s, when I was also first beginning in parent education, I wanted to know what to expect, what was considered “normal,” and how to understand my child in the context of her developmental stages. Founded in 1950, the Gesell Institute of Child Development at Yale University (later renamed the Gesell Institute of Human Development) began conducting research that has continued to earn widespread respect to this day. Founder Dr. Arnold Gesell, along with Ilg and Ames, wrote a series of books, beginning with 1-year-olds, that describe exactly what parents may expect at each stage of a child's development. (Baker took over as director of the institute in 1978.) I found this kind of information extremely helpful both in raising my own children and for assuring parents their children were “normal.”


“The Emotional Life of the Toddler,” by Dr. Alicia Lieberman, Free Press, 1995, 244 pages  Lieberman’s lifelong research reveals the underlying meanings of behaviors that will help parents deal with their toddlers with understanding and compassion. This book is a must-read for

parents who want to reduce the frustration of coping with their 2-year-olds.


“The Happiest Toddler on the Block: How to Eliminate Tantrums and Raise a Patient, Respectful, and Cooperative One- to Four-Year-Old, by Dr. Harvey Karp, Bantam Dell, 2008, 336 pages Karp transforms the so-called “terrible-twos” into terrific little kids. With great humor and a gentle touch, he shows parents how to raise happy, well-behaved toddlers. It is a fun read.


“Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care: 9th Edition,” by Dr. Benjamin Spock and Dr. Robert Needlman, Gallery, 2012, 1,152 pages In the 1940s, when all kinds of conflicting theories were swirling about, Spock was the guru of parents. His advice is as timely and sound today as it was when my first child was born in 1948. Needlman adds updates on physical and moral development and new material, current issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and children and the media.


“The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting” by Dr. Laurence Steinberg, Simon & Schuster, 2005, 224 pages Steinberg’s principles are coupled with the stages of child development. This information is very helpful in knowing your child.


“How to Be Happier: Ten Tips for Being a More Light-Hearted Parent” Since it’s not possible for me to read everything written on parenting, I’ll close with a piece I have not read but have heard good things about from parents. Some parents, bless their hearts, wind up with undue stress from taking their job of parenting so seriously. They might welcome pointers on how to “lighten up.” If this strikes a chord with you, you might like this essay by Gretchen Rubin, a mother of two and author, most recently, of the book “Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life” (Crown Archetype, 2012). You can find the essay on her website, at www.happiness-project.com. BC


Molly Brown Koch is the Family Matters columnist for Baltimore's Child and works with families through her Keep the Connection Workshops. For more information on her, her book, and other works, visit her website, at www.mollybkoch.com.



Add One More to the List

I would be remiss if I didn’t add to Molly’s list of recommended parenting books her own book,

“27 Secrets to Raising Amazing Children” (Sidran Institute Press, 2007). Her ideas are deceptively simple: listen to your children, respect your children. Written with compassion, and in her distinctive warm voice, Molly shares real-life stories of parents she has encountered in her years as a parent educator, offering her own wise and loving perspective, helping to guide the reader to trust in his or her own self. To read my interview with Molly from the February 2008 issue of Baltimore's Child, go to the article archive on our website, at www.BaltimoresChild.com, and type the interview's headline into the search engine: “Keys to Amazing Children.” —Joanne Giza, Baltimore's Child co-publisher

© Baltimore’s Child Inc. February 2013