New parenthood is equally exciting and overwhelming, joyful and terrifying. There’s no shortage of advice out there: If you search for “parenting books” on Amazon, more than 60,000 results will appear. On one hand, it’s nice to live during a time in which information is so readily available. On the other hand, how would you possibly know where to start?
There are books for moms, books for dads, books on pregnancy, childbirth, newborns, toddlers, child development, discipline and a wide array of “here’s the best way to raise your kid without permanently screwing them up.” It’s a lot. So we did some polling of our Offspring Facebook group, combined those answers with some of our personal favorites, and compiled a list that has something for everyone.
This classic “baby manual” by Penelope Leach is a solid, practical book to keep on hand. Leach tackles everything from the basics, like teething and tantrums, to the difficult, such as talking to your child about a second baby or an impending divorce. One parent in our group describes it as “non-judgmental, informative, succinct.”
“The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be,” by Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash, is the quintessential book for dads. Over 20 years old, the book is in its fourth edition and now includes sections on adoptive fatherhood, multiples, infertility and military fatherhood. Several dads in our Facebook group have read this book and then went on to read the sequels, “The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year” and “Fathering Your Toddler: A Dad’s Guide to the Second and Third Years.”
Moms can—and do—read them, too. One mom in the group offered up her take:
It didn’t try to include everything, but had a much more low-key, positive and engaging approach to new parenthood. I feel like it avoided a lot of the scare tactics and guilt-ridden language of a lot of books aimed at mothers. It presumes that you’ll try to do things right, but has a very caring message around how there are lots of ways to be a good parent. I think because it’s aimed at fathers, there’s an acknowledgment of how over the top the expectations can be.
Skip the pack of dinosaur onesies, the soft blankets and the bottle warmers and bring THIS to the next baby shower you attend:
Journalist and author Jancee Dunn wrote “How to Not Hate Your Husband After Kids” after her own post-baby marital struggles. Here’s what she told the Washington Post about her early parenting experience and how those experiences sent her on a quest to bring her marriage back from the brink:
I can remember a specific time we were squabbling about emptying the Diaper Genie. Something as everyday as that and the anger that I felt for him that he wasn’t pitching in—I was really strangled by the force of my anger because we really did have a placid marriage before that and I remember thinking, ‘Wow I could actually maybe kill him.’ I looked at my hands and they were clenching. Rationally I knew that I was reeling from hormones and lack of sleep and the fact our lives had turned upside down but I couldn’t control my anger and I thought, this is not good, I’ve never had this kind of anger before.
“The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind” sets out to explain to parents two essential things:
1. What the hell is going on in your child’s developing brain that leads to all those tantrums and generally unreasonable nature and
2. Strategies for not just surviving it but actually helping to foster healthy brain development.
The book’s authors—neuropsychiatrist Daniel J. Siegel and parenting expert Tina Payne Bryson—also wrote the popular “No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind.” One parent in our group prefers No-Drama Discipline, saying it “does a great job of summarizing the information in Whole Brain Child, while also building on it with more practical information.”
Surviving the pregnancy, baby and toddler years is no easy feat. Then again, neither are sibling arguments, homework battles, discipline and endless sports and activities. As my own son gets older, I’ve realized that parenting doesn’t necessarily get easier, it just gets different.
KJ Dell’Antonia’s “How to Be a Happier Parent: Raising a Family, Having a Life and Loving (Almost) Every Minute” came out last year and is the book we need for parenting our kids as they grow into the tween and teen years.
I can’t, in good conscience, write a parenting book list without mentioning the one that got me through a couple of intense years.
“Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent and Energetic” is the book I always recommend whenever a parent is looking for help parenting a child who is, overall, just a little bit more.
It gives practical parenting strategies and helps parents understand both our temperaments and their temperaments— and how the combination affects the way you parent. It’s also full of positive language. (He’s not stubborn... he’s tenacious.)
If all of that was overwhelming, pick up Biz Ellis and Theresa Thorn’s “You’re Doing a Great Job! 100 Ways You’re Winning at Parenting.” Ellis and Thorn host the popular parenting podcast One Bad Mother—which I also recommend—and their style is all about building up other moms (and dads), even when we feel like we’re failing. Buy this one to pair with the “How to Not Hate Your Husband After Kids” baby shower gift.