Every week PJ Parenting writers weigh in on parenting issues large and small and you have the opportunity to share your insights in the comments section below. We’d love it if you’d join us for a cup of coffee and some great conversation!
Question: Which parenting books have been most helpful to you?
Jamie Wilson: I think the best ones for me were the ‘What to Expect’ series, starting with What to Expect When You’re Expecting. They were simple but not dumbed-down, gave you the straight facts, and kept things simple and in chronological order. They also have a very good index section, so it was never hard to find specific topics (like what preeclampsia really is!)
Megan Fox: Books? What are those? I have vague memories of books back when I had time to read them. I was probably pregnant with my first and reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting. And then I had a baby and the books collected dust. I still bought them and read a chapter here or there and I remember reading something about always being consistent — and then someone puked shrimp from the top bunk. These days we use books as leaf presses and I haven’t read much that didn’t end in “…a quiet old lady whispering hushhhhhh…” But since we’re talking children’s books now, my favorite book (that has brought me much needed solace in the wee hours of the morning is Go the F*@# to Sleep! The best version is on YouTube narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. Because, honestly, doesn’t anybody around here need some cotton picking shut eye?!?
Tricia Lott Williford: My very favorites are the ones that give me quick and practical advice. We’re talking tips that are tangible, findable, usable and proven. I need something to implement, stat.
I have loved (and resource often!):
Parenting with Love and Logic, by Foster Cline and Jim Fay
Boundaries for Kids, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Have a New Kid by Friday, by Kevin Leman
Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, by Kevin Leman
Bethany Mandel: This is the best book on infant sleep:
I am a big fan of Montessori and I love this book:
Susan L.M. Goldberg: I actually haven’t read a single parenting book and don’t intend to. When we first brought the little guy home we’d be Googling every cry and strange behavior, only to get flooded with information from both experts and mom forums that wound up making no sense or being irrelevant to our situation. Eventually I learned that my best resources are my mother and mother-in-law as well as aunts and other family members and friends who are parents.
In fact, in speaking with my parents and in-laws I quickly realized I was learning more about relating to my son than I ever could from a book. Why? Turns out that my kid got his quirks from his parents. Why spend time re-inventing the wheel when I could just ask these experts how they handled the issue way back when?
I also have the good fortune of having family members with dyslexia who taught me early on that everyone speaks their own language. Sure, my son is a combination of the two of us, but he is also his own unique person…who just doesn’t communicate the way I do. So, instead of studying books, I study him. Turns out he’s pretty straightforward in his own way, no translation required.
Parenting is exhausting enough. Why add additional voices to the mix if they get in the way of your ability to directly communicate with your child?
Jamie Wilson: Susan, you make a very good point. More behavior than the experts like to admit IS inherited. I found it much easier to deal with my youngest son’s autism when I figured out that he inherited many of his bizarre behaviors from me. Not a single book on autism helped us (with the exception of Temple Grandin’s brilliant Animals in Translation), but that insight completely unlocked the mysteries.
Rhonda Robinson: Dr. Robert S. Mendelsohn’s book, How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor, was absolutely life-changing for me. He shed light on raising healthy children that I have carried throughout the years, and passed down to the next generation. He saved us literally thousands of dollars of unnecessary visits to the doctor and gave me the confidence to know when I needed to run to the hospital and when my children were better off at home.
Leslie Loftis: Books are complicated mainly for the reason Susan stated. They are theory when we really need some hands on experience and wisdom. That said, I did use books. I had one basic info book that outlined how much babes typically eat and sleep by age, what worrisome poop looks like, a chart called “Rash-o-rama.” That book, Baby 411, was written by an Austin pediatrician who studied with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton of the Touchpoints series, which I referred to occasionally when my mom, aunts, and the rest of my family village were not available or tapped out. (I’m also adopted, so was missing half of the genetic predisposition information that Susan and Jamie point out is quite helpful.)
Mostly, however, I read overall theories. These days there are short- and long-range parenting styles. The short-range theories — Tiger, Attached, and Helicopter — we can get from peer pressure. They soothe the present tantrum, avoid the imminent injury, and worry about the next year of school. In these theories, parenting is about attention to detail, what is going on right now, and how to get to the next step. When they think of their kid’s life at 35, they worry about what they will be doing.
The long-range theories — the Free Range, Slacker, Martinis — worry more about what their kid will be like at 35. They look less at the details than the overall progress. These parents often sacrifice some immediate “need” of their children to character building. Frustration now builds a child’s tolerance for frustration. A small injury at six helps them learn to avoid a bigger one at 16 or 26. These styles have fallen out of favor, so much so that the police often get involved. It is hard to stick to long-range thinking without some rebuttals, data, friends, backup—heck, lawyers. Hence, the books.
- The Hurried Child Written when the short-range theories exploded in the 80s, this book by child psychologist David Elkind probably started the long-range backlash. I recommend the 25th anniversary edition as it has a new foreword and chapter material illustrating how bad things have gotten and how much work there is left to do.
- The Six Point Plan If The Hurried Child explains why we do what we do, The Six Point Plan is an excellent how-to do what we do. I’ve also heard good things about Love and Logic, though I’ve not read it myself. For Christians, John Rosemond also has Parenting by The Book, which provides the scriptural foundations for long-range parenting.
- Confessions of a Slacker Mom Written by a rancher’s daughter, this is a straightforward and heartening presentation of parents of the long-range style from a lady named Muffy. My children don’t know it, but I have quoted this book at them many, many times.
- The Three Martini Playdate This one is my favorite. It is practical and very funny. Plus, I loved her appeal to liberal moms. Long range parents tend to be conservative. We are the ones who believe in higher powers and universal truths and are, therefore, less susceptible to whims of society. So this poor liberal mom was mortified to find that she fit in at Fox News. If long-range parenting is lonely for a conservative, it must be downright isolating for a liberal. She really wanted company. That was about 10 years ago now, and while her kids are now older, the problem she noticed has probably gotten much worse.
Brianna Sharbaugh: On Becoming Babywise, and all the books in that series have been a tremendous help to our family. What I love the most is it explains how to have a rhythm to your day without being a slave to the clock. Babies have to eat every few hours, so they will develop somewhat of a rhythm themselves, but the books helped me to make the most of each day and teach our son to go to bed on his own and sleep through the night (whether Mommy was home or a sitter was over).
I also love Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Give Them Grace. If teaching biblical truths will be a part of your parenting philosophy, this is an excellent read!
Next on my to-be-read shelf is Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. Vacation is 3 weeks away (with four extra
adult babysitters family members in our condo), so hopefully I’ll get to it soon!