20 Parenting Books Later, and This is What I Remember

Apr 14, 2016

Last Sunday, we were sitting in church, and Clark didn't get to put his little plastic sacrament cup back in the tray like he wanted to. It was basically the end of the world for him. Instead of covering his mouth though or telling him to be quiet or rushing him out of the chapel, I whispered in his ear, "You wanted to put the cup in the tray. It was your cup, and you wanted to do it. You didn't want mommy to do it. You wanted to do it." Within seconds, his cries had stopped and he was back to his normal self.

A tantrum had been narrowly avoided, and as I was thinking about it, I realized that in that moment, I'd applied the one piece of advice I remember from when I read The Happiest Toddler on the Block: Narrate what they're thinking. Most of the time, they just want to know someone knows why they're so mad, so just say it for them again and again and again.

Over the past eight years, I've read my share of parenting books. Most of them completely motivate and inspire me while I'm reading them (and for maybe a couple of weeks after), and then I promptly forget everything except for maybe one or two takeaway messages. (And sometimes, sadly, even with books I liked very much, I really do forget the entire thing. It's mom-brain at it's finest.)

Today I thought it would be fun, or maybe depressing, to see what has stayed with me from some of the books. In each case, I haven't looked back at my review, which surely would have helped me remember a lot more (and sometimes, it was very tempting to take a quick peek, but I'm a girl of my word).

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp
To sooth a crying baby, try one (or several) of the five S's: Swing, Swaddle, Shhhh, Suck, and . . . dang it, I can't remember the last one!

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth
Put your baby to bed earlier, and he'll sleep longer.

Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood by Jim Fay and Charles Fay
When you want your child to do something (for example, leave the park), give him a choice, "Would you like to leave now or in five minutes?"

The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp
Your toddler is like a little caveman. When he is upset, mimic his words/feelings in short, primitive sentences.

Parent Power by John Rosemond
There should never be any question that it is the parent who is in charge. 

The Parenting Breakthrough: A Real-Life Plan to Teach Kids to Work, Save Money, and Be Truly Independent by Merrilee Browne Boyack
It's the parents' responsibility to teach their kids how to work and to raise successful adults out of them. This is best accomplished through an organized plan. (For example, at three, teach them how to get dressed; at seven, teach them how to use the microwave; at twelve, teach them how to schedule appointments, etc.) I modified the plan she outlined in the book to fit our own family, and we still reference it every year.

Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children by Lenore Skenazy
My kids won't die if they eat cookie dough.

Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Healthy and Confident Eater by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett
It is better for babies to learn how to handle real food at six months when their gag reflex is at the front of their tongue rather than at nine months when it has moved farther back. Cut up food into stick shapes at the beginning for early success.

Screamfree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool by Hal Edward Runkel
Be very careful not to label your kids, especially when they can hear what you're saying. You might think they don't have a natural inclination towards ______, but if they hear you say so, they most certainly won't. (Full review here)

Bringing Up Geeks: How to Protect Your Kid's Childhood in a Grow-Up-Too-Fast World by MaryBeth Hicks
If my parents were to write a parenting handbook, it would be this book. (Full review here)

Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
Kids don't need to eat a snack fifty times a day. One snack, that's it. It's okay for kids to be hungry before meals. (Full review here)

Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax
Most active boys do not have ADHD and do not need to be medicated. Boys are active because they're boys. Video games should be severely limited or avoided altogether. Boys thrive on competition. (Full review here)

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
Validation! Also, I'm terrified to have teenagers. (Full review here)

Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman
It is not bad to feel mad or sad or scared. Those emotions can be a catalyst for growth and change. (Full review here)

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Basically the same book as Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child but easier to read and with more practical, hands-on tips. Reflect back your child's feelings rather than force them into a different emotion: "I can see you're feeling angry right now. Why don't you go take a break in your room?" Not, "Get into your room, and don't you dare come out until you're happy!"

Raising a Reader: A Mother's Tale of Desperation and Delight by Jennie Nash
A mistreated book is not worth freaking out over. (Full review here)

Calm and Compassionate Children by Susan Usha Dermond
Get a pet. (Full review here)

Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men by Meg Meeker
Your son should never ever ever question your love for him. Never. (Full review here)

MotherStyles: Using Your Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths by Janet P. Penley
I am an ISTJ. I can't come up with imaginative ways for my kids to eat their food or get ready for school. But I can make a long list of summer goals, check them all off, and have fun doing it. (Full review here)

Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
Taking the time to have one-on-one, weekly interviews with your children will go a long way in raising productive, successful, faithful adults. (Full review here)

This list represents hundreds of hours of reading. I can remember forcing myself to painstakingly read every word of The Power of Positive Parenting by Glenn Latham, and you'll notice that it didn't even make the list because I couldn't remember a single thing from it. That's sad. It almost seems like it's not worth all the time and effort if I'm just going to forget it all anyway.

But here's the thing: Reading is as much an experience as a memory. As I read each of these books, they influenced and shaped me. Some of that influence was retained as a tangible phrase that I could apply in tricky parenting situations, but some of it actually changed who I was, and that is harder to measure.

Which books have shaped you as a parent? What are some of your mantras in moments of crises? Do you have any fail-proof tips you use to calm a screaming toddler or to get your kids to stop fighting? Please share!

And bonus! Here are a few other parenting books I've read that didn't make the list because they were so memorable I couldn't remember anything. Oops.


  1. I really enjoyed this post--this was a fun idea. I wish I had a better memory for parenting books!

  2. Super fun post! Have you not read Nurture Shock? That was a fun parenting book I read a few years ago, although all I remember from it is that you can screw up your kid from praising them too much. Reading through the bits of advice you remember was fun, although seeing it all laid out like this was also a little depressing (I don't do that, I didn't do that, ooh, I should probably work on that...). I've got some reading to do!

    1. Yes, I've read Nurture Shock, but it's been such a long time, I couldn't remember anything (and I couldn't even link to a review because I read it before I started blogging). But of course, now that you mentioned the effect of praise on kids, I can remember that. Was there also a chapter on giftedness? I've actually thought about that a lot because I remember the book talking about how schools should wait to test for giftedness until third grade (which is where we're at right now with Aaron because our district retests everyone prior to third grade for the gifted programs). So I guess I actually do remember something from it!

  3. What a great idea for a post! I liked "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child" but skimmed some of it and remember liking the ideas but maybe not how it was written so I'm thinking I should check out "How to Talk so Kids Will Listen...". Do you feel like you remember books better since you started this blog (without taking a peek at the review, of course)? Just curious.

    It's interesting that you've forgotten most of "The Power of Positive Parenting" that one along with "Bringing up Geeks", "Nurtureshock" and "Protecting the Gift" are the ones that have been the most memorable for me. I looked over my list and remember really loving some of the parenting books but not remembering much from them now.

    1. I don't know that I necessarily remember books better just off the top of my head (although probably?), BUT having the reviews definitely helps me recall a lot of things that would have been lost otherwise. That's why I purposely didn't let myself look at my reviews for this post because I know I would have remembered so much more if I had.

      I know! I remember liking The Power of Positive Parenting (although it felt long), and I wish I could remember it.

  4. Pleasantly surprised to see that you read The Parenting Breakthrough by Merrilee Boyack! I just read that one a couple months ago. I really liked it. It was so *actionable* I've found myself repeating the mantra "we are raising independent adults" to myself and to my husband and to my kids. I knew I needed to revamp our chore system, and I feel like it really empowered me to do so and it's working great. I'm also using her advice about allowance and earning money with the kids. Loving that, too! I guess I should review the book, eh? I mentioned it a bit in one of my posts: http://www.evereadbooks.com/2016/02/my-kid-reads-too-much-one-important.html But it really deserves it's own post now that I'm finding it so helpful.

    1. Oh yes, it's such a good one!

      You know why I think I remember the pet bit from Calm and Compassionate Children? Because we read it for my education group, and one of the moms actually got a dog for her kids after reading it! I think I didn't even know about that when I wrote my review, but I think it's funny also that that's what has stayed with me and not any of the other great things in the book. ;-)

  5. p.s. Also found it funny that you didn't mention getting a pet in your full review of Calm and Compassionate Children. But I think maybe we should get a pet.

  6. My favorite parents books are "parenting books" but a few memorable paragraphs in books like Steven coveys book 7habitd of highly effective people and all the piano practicing books I have been devouring to help my piano students. They each have one of two pages that are really focused on parenting and because it isn't a deluge of information...and I take notes on every self help book I read...I have been able to really wrap my mind around all the details in the book very clearly and try to use them. Loved your list. I can't wait to get two of them and read them.

    1. That's actually why I included Little Men at the end of my list. Even though it's a novel, it had so many powerful parenting lessons for me in it. Parenting books definitely don't have to be labeled as such to make a big impact!

  7. Really want to read Free Range Kids. Own Bringing up Geeks and it is fantastic. Also own Last Child in the Woods and love it, my take away is how important time outdoors is for our children. give it another chance :-)

    1. I think you'd like it, Erin! Also, just because I couldn't remember anything specific from Last Child in the Woods doesn't mean I didn't like it (although I think I did feel like it was fairly repetitive). I actually liked all of the books I listed at the end, but for one reason or another, they didn't stay with me in a long-term way.

  8. I'm glad I'm not the only one who reads a parenting book and loves it, but then forgets most of the book within a few weeks :) I read If I Have to Tell You One More Time... a little while ago and I loved it but all I can really remember now is to turn everything into a positive and to spend one on one time with your kids each day.

    1. Haha, yes! Glad you can relate! That book sounds very good and like something I could use right now!

  9. My favorite parenting book is "Boundaries with Kids" by Cloud and Townsend, but the only specific thing I remember is that we're supposed to have some. ;)

    Loved this list!

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Karen, and for your kind comment!

  10. I live in MN which is the Mecca of Early Childhood and Family Education for academics-- it's a world center for it. There's a highly revered researcher named Mary Sheedy Kurcinka who wrote little book called "Raising Your Spirited Child" that was a game changer for me. I was having a difficult time getting my head around the (delightful and difficult) behavior patterns that one of my kids started to exhibit as a toddler, and intensified over time. This book helped me understand the separate facets that make up a personality (I think there are 7 that are commonly defined in academic circles), and identify what the specific trouble spots were that we were experiencing rather than just feeling like EVERYTHING WAS CRAZY AND OUT OF CONTROL! So now I understand some insightful things about my son, like he has strong negative first reactions to almost everything new, he has a difficult time with transitions, and on average his mood is more intense than most kids. This has become so helpful because I can anticipate points that will be difficult for him, and guide him through how to deal with things that are uncomfortable. As he has gotten older he's become more independent at navigating things with a steady head because we've had many years to practice life skills that are really specific to his personality needs. Great book for us!
    Also, Stephen R. Covey has been a great model to me for learning empathic listening- a parenting skill that was not intuitive to me but has been key for connecting with our kids as individuals. The audio versions of his books are highly impactful to me because you get to hear his own inflections and emphasis. The original 7 Habits, and 7 Habits of Successful Families are books that my husband and I revisit.
    The audio of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen... is great also because there's so much real emotion that goes into difficult parenting situations that the reader portrays and models so well.
    The Susan Cain book Quiet isn't a parenting book, but it has become like an owner's manual for understanding one of my kids.

    1. These are all amazing suggestions, Jayne, and it's so inspiring to hear about how you've sought out ways to help and support and love each of your kids. I've been meaning to read Stephen Covey for YEARS, and this might just be the push I finally need! And I agree that Quiet is an amazing glimpse into the life of an introvert and can help with understanding children and adults alike.


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