As a child and adolescent psychiatry fellow, many parents ask me about books that I would recommend for them to read. So, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite books for parents over the years.
Many of these are not books I’ve stumbled upon on my own, but are books that parents themselves have generously shared with me, or former supervisors have recommended. I hope that you enjoy these often life-changing books for their varying perspectives, ideas, and tips on parenting!
Parenting is definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach, so these books are just one of many ways to think about parenting. It’s most important to find the right resources (may they be books, online or with the help of trusted clinicians) for you and your family! These books are also all available on Amazon.com and through other sellers.
1. Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More Than Grades, Trophies, or “Fat Envelopes” by Levine Madeline, PhD
One of my favorite psychiatry supervisors told me that if I read one book about having children, this should be the one. And, she wished that she had read it even before she had children. In terms of book recommending, that is a very strong book recommendation from someone I admire! After reading it, I can see why. It’s a book about opening your perspective on what it means to be successful and to raise successful kids.
2. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish and How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
This is a book that has been recommended to me from countless parents to share with other parents with whom I work! If you are looking for a practical guide to improve the every day communication with your child, this is a great how-to book. There is also a teenage version, which is also well-liked and read!
All parents can use these ideas to improve the everyday quality of their relationships with their children. It’s also very readable with cartoons, pictures and special highlighted tips throughout it.
3. Defiant Children,: A Clinician’s Manual for Assessment and Parent Training by Russell A. Barkley PhD ABPP ABCN
This is a book meant as a guide for therapists and their patients who would like to engage in the gold standard for reducing child aggression and anger outbursts in the home, which is called “Parent Management Training.” I do think that if one doesn’t have the ability to engage in these time intensive sessions (usually once weekly for one hour for several or many months), it can be useful for parents to read about the cycle of at-home aggression and how to stop it. There are easy-to-use strategies for how to give effective commands to a child, how to do a time-out and how to start a reward system in the home for good behaviors. A manual like this always works best when you have a therapist or clinician to trouble shoot with you and your family, but some of the strategies are so invaluable to parenting that it can be worthwhile to review the “standard-of-care” for behavioral change in kids if that kind of commitment to a training course is not possible.
4. Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon
If you want to dive into the deep end and are looking for a beautiful and intellectual read, then this is your book. It follows families who reflect upon parenting their children and the meaning they have made of their lives in doing so. Written over ten years with interviews from hundreds of families, the author considers an important point: “How people who love each other must struggle to accept each other—a theme in every family’s life.”
5. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
This may seem like a mistaken inclusion, but it was my recent acquisition at a “White Elephant” gift exchange party and included an inscription, “may we each re-read this during the holiday season to remember how to treat vulnerability.” This book is not necessarily about parenting but it is about some of the essentials in all parent-child relationships. If it you have never read it before or read it a long time ago, it is worth a first read or re-read. The author writes about how positive relationships foster the growth of a child (or a piglet). Anyone who is vulnerable, children and adults alike, can learn to see their unique gifts as others appreciate and believe in them.
Sara Pawlowski, MD, is a child and adolescent psychiatry fellow at the University of Vermont Medical Center.