A Few of Our Favorite Parenting Books

Eliza Clark
March 12, 2009

Being the parent of a small child is nothing if not perplexing and ever challenging.  Just when you think you've got the routine down, that little one decides to grow and change and test you -- so you need some new tricks, fast!  Where do you turn?  How do you figure it out?

Keep reading, and we'll share with your our SavvyPicks for some of the wisest, most practical and most inspiring parenting books we've found among the thousands that populate library and bookstore shelves.  Whether you are looking for a clever solution, a morale boost, or simply a fresh perspective, you'll find it among these brilliant pages.

Practical Wisdom for Parents: Raising Self-Confident Children in the Preschool Years by Nancy Schulman and Ellen Birnbaum.

Regular readers of Being Savvy know that we turn to this book all the time!  What would we do without it?  There is really no other book that delves into the nitty-gritty of a preschooler's existence in today's world like this one.  The authors are long-time preschool teachers and parents as well, and their experience and hard-earned wisdom is evident on every page.  From the ins and outs of finding the right preschool and helping your child thrive in this first school setting to toilet-training, playdates, family time and on and on -- this book has you covered.  The approach to each topic is admirably balanced and thorough, and aimed to promote children's (and parents'!) self-confidence and happiness through these precious early years.  Just the helping hand we all need!

The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogul.

Here is perfect book for the start of a new year.  It offers any parent of any faith the chance to step back and reexamine the big picture of parenting.  What profound goals do we have for ourselves, our children, our families?  Can our success as parents really be measured by our kids' grades and other such  "achievements"?  As a psychologist who came to deem psychology inadequate in addressing the modern malaise of overachieving families, Mogul brings Jewish teachings to bear on everyday parenting questions.  The answers she gleans can help any family with common issues such discipline, meals, chores and overscheduling.  But more profoundly, Mogul offers a blueprint for developing a joyful, relaxed and confident attitude toward our children, with a focus on raising them to be good and resilient people rather than just to get good grades and jobs.  We all sense, inchoately, that family life with children is a marvelous gift -- Mogul shows us how to live this life as a blessing and a spiritual calling each day, a true gift in and of itself.

Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen.

There's no doubt about it: discipline is by far the most confounding task demanded of all of us involved in raising children.  New parents tend to feel their way through as situations arise, veering between permissiveness and punitiveness with mixed success.  This classic guide provides the rudder and charts the balanced course we've been looking for.  The emphasis is on mutual respect between parents and children, on viewing mistakes and misbehavior as opportunities for growth, and on discipline as a means of encouragement and a sign of love.  Nelson's tips on natural and logical consequences for behavior and on developing responsibility in kids are indispensible.  There are so many good ideas here to carry us through as children get older, including family meetings and a lovely way to get in tune with your child's experience every night before bedtime.  Don't go through the journey of parenting without this guide!  And for the special challenges of the preschool years, see Nelsen's Positive Discipline for Preschoolers.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

We know many parents who will say that if there is one and only one parenting book you should read, this is it.  And it's hard to disagree.  Communication is at the very heart of our relationships with our kids, yet many of us have only the most fumbling sense of how to speak with them effectively when it matters most.  This book is a true teaching tool, with scripts, cartoons, and hands-on exercises to help parents truly absorb its lessons of respect, acknowledging emotion, restraint, listening, and giving praise and recognition.  These practices can help sustain a harmonious and close household from the early days with preschoolers all the way through the teen and college years.  You may find yourself taping some of the book's bits of wisdom to your fridge  -- and your family life will be the better for it!

Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents by Betsy Brown Braun.

In this sanity-saving volume, Betsy Brown Braun offers parents practical, hands-on wisdom for responding to many of the most frustrating and puzzling moments we deal with on a day-to-day basis. Don't we all wonder how to respond when our preschoolers don't listen, whine and talk back, refuse to eat dinner, use potty-talk pretty much incessantly, fight with their siblings and on and on? And couldn't we all use some help figuring out how to talk to the little ones about hard topics like illness or divorce?

Braun's answers are just right, and you'll feel like a far more confident and competent parent within minutes of picking up this book. What could be Savvier, we ask, than an expert who is willing to write a tough script for you?!

Child of Wonder: Nurturing Creative & Naturally Curious Children by Ginger Carlson.

How do we love this book? Let us count the ways.

For the way it is packed with insights and ideas. It inspires parents to be creative without being preachy or rarified.

For its breadth. It gives dozens of concrete suggestions and ideas for every single topic it covers. And it covers every single area of a child's life, including dress-up, math creativity, prewriting games, messy fun, organized fun, private spaces, shared games, inside play, outside exploration, cooking. Those are only the highlights. Seriously.

For the amazing resource lists it gives for every single area -- picture books, websites, activity books, all carefully chosen and often little-known. (You know we love a good list.) It is a book that teaches, shows, suggests, and leads to more, better, keener parenting, in an immediate and a lasting way.

For its idea of "yes days." Brilliant. And doable. Today.  For its idea about a back-and-forth journal, even with prewriting kids. For its guidance on creating an organized and lively creative space. For its tips on tents and why little ones thrive in them.  And more! Don't miss this gem.

The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule.

The wonderful SouleMama's new book is just the inspiration we are looking for to help us bring a spirit of creativity into our homes. This book is a hopeful guide, whether you think you are already inclined to be creative or perhaps a bit more skeptical. There are lots of activity books out there, but we've not seen another one that starts out with a powerful link between gratitude and creativity. And there may be nothing we wish to cultivate in our little ones quite so much as gratitude. We were sold.

After showing you how to learn from your kids (rather than thinking that you need to teach them how to do x, y or z), Amanda glides through sections arranged like rituals themselves -- gathering, playing, living, connecting. She reflects on the art produced by preschoolers with a digital camera. She tells you how to make a joy jar (a lock for next year's Mother Day gift for a grandma -- thank you!). She makes it sound eminently possible to introduce your children to embroidery and knitting, and she backs it up with photos of her own children doing the work. No band-aids in sight.

This is serious, soaring stuff. And it also looks fun and delightful for all. And striking in its simple richness of style and approach. Savvy, we say.

From the Parents

Similar Articles

The Savvy Library

From the educational to the whimsical, our Savvy editors help you explore your world. You can search our 1977 articles by keyword, subject, or date.