15 Insightful Parenting Books That Help Your Kids Start off a Healthy Life

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It wasn’t that long ago when the only resource that parents could reliably turn to were books. Nowadays, flipping through a book may not be most parents’ first instinct when looking for parenting advice.

Instant access to blogs, websites, and forums provide multitudes of answers and “expert opinions,” which can either be helpful or contradicting and overwhelming. Books are still a valuable resource when it comes to parenting. Just because information is printed in a book does not mean it is infallible.

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However, it is much easier to find reliable reviews and criticisms of published works from reputable sources than of websites or blogs.

The following parenting books discuss topics about parenting that start at conception and cover all the way to young adulthood.

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Whether you are looking for advice about disciplining your toddler, how to parent your spirited child, or cross-cultural parenting techniques, you will find everything you need in this list:

1. Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong – and What You Really Need to Know, by Emily Oster

Get the book here!

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Parents are able to influence the development of their child the moment they are conceived, through factors such as the mother’s diet, the home environment, and secondhand smoke.

There are countless activities that pregnant women are told can have a positive or negative impact on the baby, from eating sushi to prenatal yoga. But which of these are based on scientific evidence and which are just hearsay?

Expecting Better delves into these widespread pregnancy beliefs and produces statistics and facts that spell out the actual risk associated with each. The book is laid out by in chronological order, from conception to delivery, and describes many of the most common worries that expectant mothers have.

The overarching message of the book is that there is no right or wrong answer for anything when it comes to pregnancy.

2. The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby’s First Year, by Alice Callahan

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This book addresses many of the questions that new mother have about their babies in the first six months of their lives. Many controversial topics are addressed, such as vaccines, breastfeeding, and sleep.

The author has a PhD in nutrition and writes in detail about the types of food to introduce to your babies early on to meet all of their dietary needs. A variety of scientific studies are used throughout the book to serve as support for the author’s opinions, and Callahan also explains how the average person can discern the validity of studies and their claims.

3. No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame, by Janet Lansbury

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As a new parent, it can seem like your tiny baby grows into a toddler overnight, and a new element of parenting is suddenly required – discipline. Not only are your little ones gaining mobility and independence, they are also developing their own personalities and trying to figure out how to navigate this confusing world.

As an RIE teacher with over 20 years of hands on experience helping parents and their toddlers, Janet Lansbury is an expert in this field. This book is compilation of her most popular and widely read articles that she first published on her own website. Advertising

The articles cover a wide range of topics, including tantrums, hitting, boundaries, and more. If you are struggling to find effective ways to discipline your tenacious toddler, this book might be just what you need.

4. Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

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All kids are NOT created equally. Some children are born with a natural tendency to be more strong-willed, and it is not at all a reflection of the way they have been parented. However, it does make parenting a more difficult task and can often leave parents feeling like they are doing something wrong.

This book recognizes that these children need a slightly different approach and give parents strategies on how to deal with challenging situations, such as bedtime, mealtimes, sibling rivalry, school, and more.

Rather than viewing the intensity of these children as obstacles, Kurcinka teaches parents how to re-frame their thinking to see the positive components of their behavior. It’s crucial that parents try to understand why their children are behaving the way they are and this book gives you tools to nurture challenging kids successfully.

5. Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times, by Zoe Weil

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Living in a society where senseless violence and animosity have become the new normal, the task of raising a kind and loving child can seem almost impossible. But what the world needs now, more than ever, are compassionate people who care about the environment, other living species, and all people.

Weil advises parents on how to guide their children towards living a more humane life, but most importantly, living their own as a message and an example. All age groups are included, from the early years all the way to young adulthood, and activities, important issues, tips, and more are discussed for each.

The four elements that Weil emphasizes in raising human children are providing information, teaching critical thinking, instilling reverence, respect, and responsibility, and offering positive choices. Being kind is not synonymous with grand gestures. The little things people do on a daily basis will make the biggest difference.

6. The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, by Daniel J. Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson

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When your children decide to throw tantrums because you wouldn’t let them ride in the shopping cart standing up, are they doing that just to embarrass you in public and make you look like an incompetent parent?

Not at all!

They are simply adjusting to their rapidly developing minds and coming to terms with their desires and the parameters within which they must live. They are allowing their emotions to take over because they are not equipped to tackle the situation in a more rational manner.

Siegel, a neuropsychiatrist, and Bryson, a parenting expert, teamed up to decode the complexities of the young developing mind to give you 12 strategies to transform challenging emotionally driven reactions into opportunities to help your children cultivate healthy development and productive behaviors for life.

Get the book here!


7. Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, by Rebecca Eanes

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There are too many parenting books out there to read them all! Which ones are worth reading and which techniques are the most effective?

Eanes does not claim to be a parenting “expert” but rather, a real mom, fully entrenched in the joy and hardships of parenthood. This book is the culmination of the parenting techniques she learned that actually worked for her family throughout the years, repackaged in an easy to ready format.

The first half focuses solely on the parent and provides many tips on how to work on our response and emotions and increasing self-awareness before engaging with our children. She also includes many suggestions, techniques, and discussion questions to help you move from theory to practice.

So often, children are punished for being human. They are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones, or bad attitudes. Yet, we adults have them all the time. None of us are perfect. We must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves.

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

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It can be easy for parents to yell and lash out when their kids are having a meltdown for seemingly frivolous reasons. However, it’s important to remember that young kids need to be heard and understood, and they are expressing themselves in the only way they know how.

This book helps parents to navigate the complicated but fragile methods of communication with their children that will tremendously impact their behavior and development.

It’s crucial that parents acknowledge the feelings that their children are feeling and show them that they understand, before setting out to try to resolve the issue. Their feelings are valid and important and need to be expressed.

Another point that is emphasized is to make correcting behavior about the behavior and not about the child. Changing the way parents talk to their children will lay a much stronger foundation for communication and improve the parent-child relationship tremendously.

9. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, by Kim John Payne

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A growing trend towards minimalist living has many families purging their closets, downsizing their homes and going against the consumerist culture that advertising and the media promotes. This mindset can also be applied to parenting.

Children do not need packed schedules full of activities or toy boxes filled to the brim. They also don’t need their parents to worry and obsess about their every move. To help parents adopt this more simplistic mindset, Payne gives suggestions such as streamlining your environment, establishing rhythms and rituals, scheduling breaks, scaling back on media, and lessening parental involvement.

Don’t overwhelm your children with too many choices and then step back to allow them to grow into the people they are meant to become more independently.

10. Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, by Dr. Laura Markham


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They say that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. This mantra is true in many facets of life.

Parents have a better chance of fostering deep, genuine relationships with their children if they use techniques that focus on love, compassion, empathy, and gentleness, rather than fear, strict rules, and discipline.

Markham guides parents to get in touch with and master their own emotions, so that they can parent with empathy, open communication, and healthy limits, encouraging children to be self-disciplined and accountable for their own actions.

“What matters most: Stay connected and never withdraw your love, even for a moment. The deepest reason kids cooperate is that they love you and want to please you. Above all, safeguard your relationship with your child. That’s your only leverage to have any influence on your child. It’s what your child needs most. And that closeness is what makes all the sacrifices of parenting worth it.”

11. NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

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In contrast to typical parenting books, this book contradicts many commonly held beliefs about what is best for children and uses current social science studies as evidence for a new way of thinking.

For example, several studies showed that kids who are commonly threatened with punishment lie more frequently and get better at doing it. Another chapter talks about the fact that when white parents don’t talk about the issue of race or bring attention to it, kids tend to form their own (racist) opinions about people who look different from them.

Although some claims are lacking in details and specifics about how to tangibly apply it parenting practices, there is a lot of useful and surprising information to be gleaned from this book.

12. Playful Parenting, by Lawrence J. Cohen

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According to Cohen, kids misbehave because they feel disconnected from their parents and not heard. They act out in order to get attention, even if it is negative attention.

The best way to connect with kids is to speak the language they know best – playing. Frequent physical constant and being willing to play the fool are two key strategies that are emphasized in the book. Kids are made to feel foolish so often in their lives, when they are constantly being told what to do and being corrected.

When the tables are turned, kids are able to see their parents in a more relatable light.

13. Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential, by Eileen Kennedy-Moore & Mark S. Lowenthal

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For kids who can be categorized as gifted or bright, different parenting techniques may be required in order to help these children achieve their highest potential, without feeling pressured.

The four essential components of smart parenting are laid out: a compassionate ability to view the world through our children’s eyes, the confidence to set judicious limits, a commitment to turn toward our children more often than away, and faith in our children’s ability to grow and learn.


In additional, seven fundamental challenges are addressed in great detail: tempering perfectionism, building connection, managing sensitivity, handling cooperation and competition, dealing with authority, developing motivation, and finding joy.

If these are topics that resonate with you, this may be a helpful resource to help you help your kids succeed.

14. Beyond the Tiger Mom: East-West Parenting for the Global Age, by Maya Thiagarajan

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After the massive success of the honest and confrontational book describing strict Chinese parenting techniques in practice, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, a massive debate was ignited, comparing Eastern and Western parenting styles.

Which approach is better and more effective? Why do Asian students do so well in math and science?

Thiagarajan is uniquely qualified to address these questions because of her personal experience growing up in India, and teaching in both the U.S. and Singapore. She explains the advantages and pitfalls of both methods of parenting and gives specific tips in a “How To” section in each chapter to aid Asian and Western parents in education and development both in and out of the classroom.

15. The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline, by L.R. Knost

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Many parents who are currently raising young kids did not grow up in a household where gentle parenting took place. Yelling, corporal punishment, and threats were commonly used means of discipline for many decades.

Knost presents an alternative way of parenting – a gentle way – that is still as effective, if not more so. She explains the importance of treating children as people, with respect and one-another-love (Golden Rule).

This book is centered around the implementation of the three C’s of gentle discipline – Connection, Communication, and Cooperation.

Some suggestions for tools that parents can utilize in the place of yelling or aggression in include: prevention, remind and redirect, silliness, modeling, and teaching empathy.

“Yelling silences your message. Speak quietly so your children can hear your words, not just your voice.”

Final thoughts

Being a good parent is a complicated and difficult challenge to take on.

Many of us are still holding onto to mistakes that our parents made with us when we were kids, vowing not to do the same to our own children. But no parent is perfect, and everyone will inevitably get something wrong.

These books are here to provide some guidance in tackling this impossible task. They have helped countless other parents in helping to communicate, understand, and relate to their children, so it may be worthwhile to give them a chance.


Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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