Monday, May 5, 2014

The 15 Best Parenting Books

*Please disregard the old blog addresses referenced in this post, xo

My taste in books is all over the map, and I can devour a memoir or a well-written work of non-fiction with the same intensity as a fluffy YA series, or an addictive 50-shades type trilogy. One of my favorite topics to study is child development, and since I've had kids - more specifically, how it relates to parenting them. There are a lot of parenting book options out there  - all with differing ideas, naturally, and it can get a bit overwhelming!

There are 15 books that have stood out the most to me and keep me coming back for more. I own them all, and reference many of them repeatedly as I parent each of my three boys. I hope you find something useful from this list, too! And, hey - let me know what your favs are! I need to know what I'm missing out on!

Behavior//Emotional Development Books

Child Sense by Priscilla Dunstan
Did you know that we all have a dominant sense that we rely on to interpret our surroundings? It's different for each one of us, and knowing which sense is dominant for ourselves and our kids can help us get through to them when it seems like you just can't see eye to eye! My sense is smell/taste, my oldest is hearing/auditory, my middle is touch/tactile, my husband is visual - and I haven't quite figured out the baby's yet! But as you can see, everyone in our family is different, and it really makes a difference knowing how to cater to that! This book is so cool - I turn to it all the time!

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp
There are a lot of "mistakes" I made with my first baby, and I say it in quotes, because I was doing the best with that I knew at the time. Though I really wanted to have a firm attachment with him, I wasn't very good at it. This book and the idea of the 5 S's really helps start an attached relationship with your brand new born, and it makes it all feel so natural! It just flows from there. The theory of the 5 S's really changed parenting for me, and took away all the fear I had about parenting a newborn. This is a MUST read for any new parent!

NurtureShock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman
I was totally fascinated by the ideas in this book, and also, at times, outraged at society for veering so far from what research has proven to be beneficial just to suit our ever increasingly fast paced lives. This one is totally worth a read, and may be really eye opening for you! Some chapters certainly were for me! There's a chapter about sleep and "the lost hour" our school systems have caused, and another one on praise that I found to be incredibly important and educational. Check it out!

Living with the Active Alert Child by Linda S. Budd
I was actually given this book, and at first I was offended. I thought the giver was trying to suggest that my child was borderline ADD or something, but when I began reading it I realized that it was practically a biography of my child. The title is misleading - Active Alert children do not have ADD, and don't even appear to. They are just intense, cognitive little beings, whose emotional complexities surpass their age - which is exactly the definition of my oldest child. Reading this book shed a lot of light on who my big guy is, and how to relate to him. If you have an exceptional abstract thinker or emotional child - this is the book for you!

Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky
I'm really fascinated by a child's mind and all that it takes for an infant to develop into an adult, so this was a really good fit for me. Interestingly enough, my insurance company sent it to me for free as part of a pregnancy wellness program! I was kind of impressed that they were thinking that deeply into my child's well-being! It turned out to be a really good read - very informative and interesting! Some of the ideas in this book aligned with those in NurtureShock - they are good companion books.

The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp
To be honest, the first time I picked up this book, I was not impressed. It talks about toddlers having brains similar to Neanderthals and how we should approach them to cater to that. The thing is - my oldest did not act at all like a typical toddler. He was speaking in full sentences before he was 18 months, and he communicated and thought abstractly long before his time. Because of this, their approach to dealing with toddlers sounded like a giant step backwards for us. I decided that the ideas in this book weren't all that great, and abandoned it. However, our middle child is the most typical of toddlers, and I think some of these ideas would be perfect for him. So I'm actually currently giving this one another shot, and since his Baby version of this book was so incredibly useful for us, there's a chance it will work well with the right child!

Habits//Milestones//Physical Development Books

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Sign Language by Diane Ryan
I read this book when my first baby was only a couple months old, and started using the signs with him right away. That was probably a bit too ambitious, but by the time he was 11 months, he was signing like a champ, and he held onto many of his signs for a long time. He was still signing please when he was 4! My middle guy only used a couple of the more obvious signs, and at 2.5 only uses the sign for more. That was probably my fault, as I wasn't as diligent about it with him, but I plan to be with the baby. This book is super simple to follow and understand, and it's a great way to dive into basic sign language - the resources on this topic are endless, so this one is a really great start!

So Easy Baby Food by Fresh Baby
One of my favorite baby things to do is make my own baby food. There is something intensely satisfying about it! My oldest loved his purees and ate them excitedly for many months, while my second never wanted anything to do with them. We've just started them with the baby, and by this point, I don't really feel like I need a book to follow in order to make them, anymore. In the beginning, though, this book was a GREAT jumping off point! It also offers suggestions for combinations and seasonings to try at each age group to help expose your baby to lots of new tastes and textures within their first years, and I do love to check out those ideas! If you're thinking about making your own baby food (and I highly recommend it!), this is a great book to get you started.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth
I have mixed feelings about this book, honestly. I'm hesitant to let my babies cry it out, though I have done it. This book doesn't encourage you to abandon your children, though. It does talk about the Ferber method of sleep training, which has worked for me in the past, but not everyone is okay with using it - and sometimes I question it myself, so sleep training has taken longer with my younger two because of that (and that's okay with me). This book has a lot of information on the type and quality of sleep your child has at each age and stage, though, and I've found it to be incredibly useful to know those things.

Beyond Baby Talk by Ken Appel & Julie Masterson
It's been a while since I've brushed up on this book, so I don't remember it as clearly as the others, but I know it gave me some good insight on language development. I think I remember it being a bit drier than the others, but because I love this sort of thing, I enjoyed it and found it useful while watching my oldest learn to talk. There are some good tips for getting them exposed to language and vocabulary, too - even when they're little.

Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld
It can be a bit time consuming to follow the methods of cooking in this book, but the idea behind it is genius. If you haven't heard of this book before, the author (yes, Jerry Seinfeld's wife) uses fruit and veggie purees in her recipes to help get some vitamins and nutrition into her children's diets. There are some really yummy recipes in here, and they are usually a hit with the kids! If you have picky eaters that put up a fight when it comes to healthy food, this book has some great ideas for you!

3 Day Potty Training By Lora Jensen
This could quite possibly be the most life-changing read in this whole list. It's a very inexpensive ebook that details the method of potty training your children in only three days. And you guys - it works. It's a magical time frame! It sounds impossible or risky - but it's an amount of time that worked flawlessly for my oldest. We're approaching potty training our middle child this summer, and I have my reservations about it working in 3 days with him - he's not quite as agreeable as our oldest. But this method works, even if it's not in exactly 3 days for everyone. I totally recommend giving it a full read before attempting the method, and then keeping it handy as you go along. With ebook apps on everyone's phones, it's simple to keep it handy!

Just for Mom Books

I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids by Trisha Ashworth
I'm a sucker for a book with a cute cover, and the cupcake with its pretty pink frosting on the cover of this book drew me in. But when I dove into this book and read some true life stories of moms that had the best intentions but then realized how much life gets in the way (and that's OKAY!), I was totally sucked in. This book validates so many of our mom feelings and reassures us about other unfavorable ones (like the endless stream of mom guilt!). It's also a really fun read - I love it!

Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman
Back in the day when I had time to stroll along the shelves in the library, I bumped into this book. I was intrigued by the title, and then after reading a quote on the cover that described a "good" mom I thought, hey - that sounds like me! Well, I probably should have realized that she would go on to dispute that, or rather change the reader's perspective on that idea - but for a few seconds I was cheering that I passed the good mom test according to this author. Us Moms can be silly like that - always seeking validation. It's probably clear at this point that she touched on Mommy wars and the vast range of feelings we face as Moms, which made the book was a really satisfying one to read. I still carry this quote from the book with me:
"There is little I do as a mother that can't be criticized, not least by myself. Parenting is incredibly hard work, even without having to look over your shoulder to make sure you're doing it the way the neighbors (actual & cyber) think you should. Let's all commit ourselves to the basic civility of minding our own business. Failing that, let's just go back to a time when we were nasty and judgmental, but only behind one another's backs." - Ayelet Waldman

Gold, right?

Twice Blessed by Joan Leonard
When I was pregnant with our second baby, I had a big range of conflicting, bittersweet emotions. A lot of moms approaching the birth of their second baby can relate to the fear that they won't have the same or enough love to give the second time around, and letting your first born assume the roll of big sibling is as heartbreaking as it is thrilling. I had a hard time sorting out all of my feelings, so I turned to my old friend - books - and gave this one a try. A lot of the content is very common sense sort of stuff, but there were also a lot of great ideas for getting your first born involved in the process, and how to juggle life with a needy newborn that's not your only child. I didn't have the same feelings when the third baby came along, because...well, you live and you learn! The positives far outweigh the fears, and this book helped me get there. It would make a great gift for someone about to have their #2 - especially since the gift giving and recognition typically drops off after the excitement of a first born! Couple it with a sweet little outfit, and it's a perfect little gift!

I was NOT sponsored by any of these authors or publishers, and all of these opinions are authentically my own - but this post does contain affiliate links. If you give any of these books a try - I hope you love them like I do!

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