Reading Lately: Parenting Books Pt. 1

November 27, 2017

For a long time, I resisted reading parenting books. With a background in early childhood education, and over a decade of childcare under my belt, there was this large, stubborn know-it-all part of me that thought: I got this. That familiar pride took over, the kind that didn't want to open up to change or admit that maybe there was something more I could learn. That same pride has followed me my entire life, and I've known it long enough by now to see that it's equal parts pride and fear. Fear of failure. Fear of change. Fear of finding out and admitting there's so, so much that I don't know. But of course, once I gradually leap over that self-imposed hurdle, I reach the other side and wish I had opened myself up to change sooner because I'm always the better for it.

That being said, I don't think that reading parenting books necessarily makes me, or anyone, a better parent. But I know that when I tap into any resources that offer support for growth and opportunities for self-reflection - whether it's a biography, magazine, movie, podcast, or talking to a close friend - I feel better equipped to take on life, to see things from a new perspective, and grow. It doesn't just help me as a parent, but as a friend, a wife, and person.

These are some parenting resources that have helped me face the daily challenges of raising and living with a little person and helped me better shape my own parenting philosophies. They're core titles that I'll reread again and again through my parenting experience to remind myself of what's important to me.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne honestly somewhat changed my life and how I parent (which is why I often quote or reference it). Although I had studied Waldorf education within a classroom setting, reading about how to apply those same philosophies to home life with a child was a whole new take on parenting for me - one that encouraged us to slow down in a world where we feel the need to push our children to every milestone. It really addresses how complicated our lives and parenting has become, how to preserve our children's childhood by not losing them to busy-ness and over-scheduling, and how we can filter out the unnecessary distractions to focus on what is really important to us. It also aligns very well with a minimalist, slow-living lifestyle (I've half-jokingly referred to as the parenting companion to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). It's a truly beautiful book and one that I've lent to friend after friend after friend knowing that simplifying our lives is a reminder we could all use.
"As parents, we're the architects of our family's daily lives. We build a structure for those we love by what we choose to do together, and how we do it... You can see what a family holds dear from the pattern in their every day lives." 
“We are connected by this thing we do together. We matter to one another. In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime... Saturday morning pancakes.” 

The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Sandahl is a beautiful book that examines some of the key principles that embody the Danish way of parenting, and how the Danes live in general which makes them the happiest people in the world. I found this book so inspiring, and reenergizing to read as a parent, with so many insights on how to foster an authentic, positive, connected relationship with my daughter.

The six principles outlined in the book spell P-A-R-E-N-T.
Play is essential for development and well-being.
Authenticity fosters trust and an "inner compass."
Reframing helps kids cope with setbacks and look on the bright side.
Empathy allows us to act with kindness towards others.
No ultimatums means no power struggles, lines in the sand, or resentment.
Togetherness (hygge) is a way to celebrate family time, on special occasions and every day.

Each section provided so many insights - the reframing and authenticity sections were especially impactful for me.
“The language we use is extremely powerful. It is the frame through which we perceive and describe ourselves and our picture of the world.” 
"Rewrite your child´s narrative to be more loving. Make a list of your child´s most negative qualities and behaviors and write them out as sentence. Try focusing on the positive side to your children´s behavior so they feel appreciated for their uniqueness rather than labeled negatively.”
“By not being authentic, you undermine your child’s ability to sense what is true and false."

The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson is based on real neuroscience research, focusing on a parenting approach that addresses how our brains work. Which may sound pretty advanced, but it's presented in a way that any parent can understand and apply to their everyday life with a child. Because admittedly, a toddler or preschoolers logic or emotions isn't always easy for us to understand - but becomes so much more manageable with the insights in this book.

One of my favourite quotes early on in the book is:
“As children develop, their brains "mirror" their parent's brain. In other words, the parent's own growth and development, or lack of those, impact the child's brain. As parents become more aware and emotionally healthy, their children reap the rewards and move toward health as well.” 
This concept of growing as a parent along with our children is one that I take to heart. If we want our children to be emotionally healthy, we need to invest in ourselves as well - to constantly be seeking improvement and growth from whatever sources we can. Whenever I read parenting books it also takes me back to my own childhood, realizing skills that didn't develop because of how I was taught to cope with them - but that it isn't too late to retrain my brain.

'Sometimes parents avoid talking about upsetting experiences, thinking that doing so will reinforce their children’s pain or make things worse. Actually, telling the story is often exactly what children need, both to make sense of the event and to move on to a place where they can feel better about what happened."
"When a child is upset, logic often won’t work until we have responded to the right brain’s emotional needs."

From the same authors, there is also No-Drama Discipline (which I'm about halfway through), which gives insights into which discipline is appropriate for which ages, how to connect with your child instead of simply react to their behaviour.

Kids are worth it! by Barbara Coloroso was the first parenting book that I ever read. It was for a paper I wrote in college, focusing on a section about the three types of parenting (Authoritarian, Permissive, and Authoritative). That chapter alone had such a profound impact on me - in fact, it sort of unraveled me for a while after I read it and revisited my childhood, bringing back so many memories, and some traumas. 

This book made me realize how important it is for us to understand our history, to question why we do the things we do as parents (Is it because we actually believe it's the right way? Or that's what we knew growing up?) to try to escape cycles of behaviour passed on through generations. This book offers parents the tools they need to be the parent they want to be. Coloroso is such an incredible writer, with such respect and understanding for children at all ages.
"When we use punishment, our children are robbed of the opportunity to develop their own inner discipline-the ability to act with integrity, wisdom, compassion, and mercy when there is no external force holding them accountable for what they do."
If you have any favourite parenting books, feel free to leave the titles in the comment section. I'm always on the hunt.

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