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.
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.
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
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.