“If there were one way to do this, there would be one New Baby Owner’s Manual.” – A labor and delivery nurse, to my husband, just after our first child was born
Whenever I find myself in a new situation, or up against a new challenge, pretty much the first thing I do is run and find a book to help. Over the years, I’ve gotten really good at discerning which books will help and which won’t. Also, around when the children were born, I gave myself permission to start a book – and not finish it. Or, to scan quickly to see if it will work for me, or even to pick the chapter that sounds most interesting from the table of contents and go right to that chapter.
Between working toward my degree in human development, my graduate degree in early childhood education, and questing as a mom for that perfect Owner’s Manual, I have read a lot of books. The books I want to introduce you to today have been the most influential books in my parenting life; they’re funny, they’re thought-provoking, they’re anxiety-reducing, and if you want to have a better relationship with your kids you need to read them:
How Lincoln Learned To Read by Daniel Wolff – we all know about the achievements of great historical figures such as Ben Franklin, JFK, Elvis Presley. The genius of this book is that we get to find out how they got to be the adults they became, how they learned what they needed to know. I still look into this book when I have a big decision to make about Max or Jay’s education. Click here to listen to my podcast interview with author Daniel Wolff; we discuss the book and how our society is shaping kids “for a future that no longer exists.” Plus Daniel gives the best piece of parenting advice I’ve ever heard.
Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish – this renowned book has helped millions of parents figure out how to stop sibling rivalry. Often the solutions given seem counterintuitive, but they are explained – both in print and in comics – so that you feel like a parenting ninja even just a chapter or two in. If you would like children who feel like they are on the same team, if you want a family life that includes laughter, friendship and love, you need this book.
Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein – when her young daughter considers every moment wasted that is not spent dressing as a Disney Princess or playing with pink toys, the author decides to look into gender identity in young children, and how marketers take advantage of it. The result is a hilarious and truly frightening tale which includes a run-in with a Bratz doll in an airport, and a discussion of how Miley Cyrus’s journey from innocent cutie to brash slut is impacting your daughter’s growth and development. Even if you have no girls, you have to read this book.
Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy – how young is too young for a kid to have some independence? The author makes a really persuasive case for letting even quite young children do things that frighten us, like letting them use the stove or bike to the park on their own. With chapter names such as “Know When to Worry – Play Dates and Axe Murderers: How to Tell the Difference” and “Ignore the Blamers – They Don’t Know Your Kid Like You Do” this book will have you feeling better about all the great things in store for your children. I talk about how this book helped me relax when Max and Jay were young in episode 005 of We Turned Out Okay; Lenore Skenazy saved my life with this book.
You Just Don’t Understand! by Deborah Tannen – the author’s background in linguistics and communication, combined with a warm and supremely readable writing style, make this a must-read book for anyone who communicates with anyone. Reading it will give you insight into more than just parenting, but all our relationships, and may very well start you off on a Deborah Tannen book binge… You’re Wearing That?!? will probably come in really handy when your kids are teens.
I’ve been trying to decide if I should recommend that you read The Fabulous Five in any particular order, and have come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t. We are all at different points in our parenting, with different worries and different needs. The Fab Five are each quite practical, but about different things, so I think what you should do is read the one that grabs you right now first – and then come back to the others. I love my hard copies and return to them again and again, but if you would rather listen to them in audio format, or try-before-you-buy by getting them from the library, go for it!
The time you invest in reading these books will come back to you a hundredfold, in improved relationships with your kids and in your enjoyment of them, and of your life.