I’m so thankful for the plethora of written material from those who have gone before me and took the time to share their wisdom of how to parent children in this age. My list represents some variety of philosophies – some secular, some spiritual; some more liberal, some a bit more conservative — but generally keeps to a similar world view of the role of a parent.
1. The Five Love Languages for Children, Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. M.D.
Expounding upon their bestseller The Five Love Languages (it’s still on the NY Times bestseller list), this readable book helps parents discover their child’s unique way of expressing and receiving love as it corresponds with their communication style. It enables the parent to meet their child where he or she is. Like its predecessor which educates adults about their own love languages, this book gives parents tools for knowing their children better and “filling up their love tanks”.
2. Good Families Don’t Just Happen: What We Learned from Raising Our 10 Sons and How It Can Work for You, Catherine Musco Garcia-Prats and Joseph Garcia-Prats, M.D.
Yes, they’re a good Catholic family. This is one couple’s insights on the inevitable conflicts, crises, and sacrifices that all families encounter with helpful examples for the readers to create their own “good family”. They really do have 10 boys!
3. Can I Have A Cell Phone For Hanukkah? The Essential Scoop on Raising Modern Jewish Kids,Sharon Duke Estroff
Though I’m not Jewish, I thought this was a fun read. By chance, I happened to meet the author on the sidelines of a soccer field, she with her family and I with mine, cheering on our sons. We struck up a camaraderie about parenting from Jewish and Christian perspectives and found lots of commonalities, but I was curious to further explore some of the peculiar cultural issues inherent in the Jewish community and went out and bought her book. Her writing style is humorous and insightful, and balances old traditions with modern lifestyles in an entertaining approach.
4. Parenting with Love and Logic, Teaching Children Responsibility, Foster Cline and Jim Fay
A great book on breaking free of typical parenting traps like nagging, getting angry, and shaming children, and instead allowing natural or imposed consequences of children’s personal choices to do the teaching. It frees the parent to be less emotionally enmeshed in their children’s behavior, choices and attitudes but still remain lovingly connected with them. The first half of the book is more explanation of the author’s philosophy while the second half is chapter after chapter of practical tips.
5. A Mother’s Heart: A Look at Values, Vision and Character for the Christian Mother, Jean Fleming
The author shares her hopes and frustrations about motherhood and clearly provides support and respect for the role of motherhood. This book seems aimed at stay-home moms who may often feel frustrated with the repetitive tasks, same tired conversations and tremendous difficulty of raising children with spiritual character. She encouragingly teaches mothers how to be engaged spiritually, gain appreciation for the child’s strengths and weaknesses, and be “all there” as a parent in a time of busyness and constant activity.
6. Making Children Mind without Losing Yours, Dr. Kevin Leman
The author of the very interesting Birth Order Book, Dr. Leman is a very funny writer but has great insights on discipline (again, consequences rather than punishment is his modus operandi) and finding a healthy balance between extremes of authoritarianism and leniency: authority. A great read.
7. Boundaries With Kids, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
The authors of the original ground-breaking book Boundaries, have expounded on the concept of learning to take responsibility. In Boundaries, the reader learns how to take ownership for his or her own feelings, attitudes and behaviors rather than using blame, manipulation, guilt, anger, etc. to avoid it. In Boundaries with Kids, the focus is on teaching children to take responsibility through parenting actions like setting limits within a loving context, cultivating a sense of thankfulness, understanding cause and effect (“sewing and reaping”) of actions, and other character-building qualities.
8. Kids are Worth It! Giving Your child the Gift of Inner Discipline, Barbara Coloroso.
Ms. Coloroso is a former nun who later left the convent, got married, had kids, taught school and is an internationally acclaimed speaker and author. Her specialties include instructing parents and teachers on how to educate children in a context of honor and respect, give them skills to think for themselves, and learn from both their successes and failures. I’ve heard her speak several times and have walked away with many terrific ideas to work with.
9. The Blessings of a Skinned Knee, Wendy Mogel, Ph.D.
Another fabulous book geared toward Jewish families though I highly recommend it for everyone! Dr. Mogel is a psychologist and formerly a nominal, nonreligious Jew who rediscovered her faith in a meaningful way. Using her extensive studies and understanding of Jewish faith traditions from the Talmud, she weaves her philosophy into her suggestions for practical parenting. Her message strongly encourages parents to step up to the plate to raise compassionate, self-reliant and ethical children.