This summer I was doing research for a project I’ll be working on this year and next, and part of that research was getting the lay of the land on parenting books and information that’s out there. So, in typical Danielle fashion, I read every last parenting book I could get my hands on. I read all of them. Really, just about every last one of them. You, I’m guessing, are a more normal, sane person, who doesn’t binge on books with fearful regularity, and therefore, I thought I’d share with you parents my summation of all those books: there are two, and maybe three, that are worth your time. I know your time is valuable. You are a parent. If you have any time to read, you probably would like to read something for pleasure, or maybe in relation to your work, and not a book that isn’t going to tell you anything you don’t already know and don’t already stress enough about being a parent. Most of the books out there repeat things you already know, or take 100+ pages to say something that could have been an article-turned-FB-meme. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
I’m pretty convinced the world needs more sane parents. Well, the world needs more sane people, but parents are creating an environment in which their kids are also learning how to be people, so focusing on parents has a good trickle-out effect. (See what I did there, with the out instead of down?…) ANYway. Without further ado, here are my hearty recommendations:
The Blessing of A B Minus by Wendy Mogel. She also has a book called The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, which is geared for children rather than teens. I didn’t read it because I was in a race to conquer a large stack of books, and I figured I knew what she was going to say. However, I’m sure I’d recommend that one, too. Mogel is sane, and centered, and she provides much needed perspective for parents who, in this day and age, tend to helicopter-hover. I also personally loved all of her tie-ins to Judaism. That’s probably because, if you don’t already know, I’ve been sort of in love with Judaism since studying Hebrew for 4 years in college, but even so, they are great anecdotes and approaches that people of any faith tradition should find compelling and worthwhile. You certainly shouldn’t let that keep you from reading the book. You’d be missing out. If you want to get a taste of her style, check out her 24 tips for Overparenting Anonymous.
Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success by Madeline Levine. She shares much in common with what I liked so much about Mogel. Centered, calm, aware but reassuring. Like Mogel, she spends her time giving the reader a sense of what we’re seeking to achieve as parents, not just quick, dry solutions to common problems. She reminds us that we are creating an environment in which our children can grow, mature and succeed, and we dictate how they do that and how they determine what that looks like through what we choose to focus on, reward, encourage, and hold out of bounds. She’s not shy in telling parents how to be parents, but neither Levine or Mogel approach parenting like dictating from on high, either. We come alongside our children as their champions, but part of that means we set clear boundaries and expectations along the way.
Interestingly, or serendipitously, these happen to be the two most recent books my children’s school has suggested as summer reading for parents. After surveying the landscape, I couldn’t imagine them choosing better books. If you’re one of those parents who goes to school with me and hasn’t read them, well, you’ve heard it twice now: do it! They are worth your time. In these two books, you’ll get everything you need from all the other thirty-some-odd parenting books I read over the summer, and you’ll do it with far less eye strain.
I’ve just barely started a third book that I will possibly add to this list, and that’s The Conscious Parent by Shelfali Tsabary. I got it late in the summer and have been busy writing since school began, so it’s gotten knocked down the reading list as I’ve turned my attention to other books. But so far, so good, and the premise sounds very much in line with the kind of approach Mogel and Levine encourage so well. She encourages parents to understand why they react to their children and what triggers them, which is something I think all middle school/high school parents absolutely MUST learn to do. I usually refrain from recommending a book before I finish it, because you know you’ve read books that have started out really promising and then at the end were filled with 50% fluff? Yeah, like I said, I hate that. Tsabary doesn’t seem like a fluff person to me, so I imagine the book will finish strong. If you’ve read it, and you want to share your thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the comments.
(just a note: I didn’t get paid or asked to recommend these books. Just wanted to pass on my thoughts as someone who happened to have the time…and insanity…to research what was on the shelves. I do use affiliate links.)