Parenting… It is life-giving, and it is exhausting. While easy to compare and feel overwhelmed in parenting decision making, parenting often creates unexpected community and conversation with others through shared experiences. Kids teach us so much! We, at in All things, want to provide helpful resources to encourage you in this brief, poignant season of caring for children. Whether you are a brand-new parent, a parent of teens, or somewhere in between, these parenting recommendations from in All things editorial board members are sure to inspire and assist you on this journey.
Sarah’s Recommendation, (As of this writing, my child is 9 months)
My least favorite piece of advice I received when pregnant was, “Enjoy your sleep now, because you won’t get much of it once the baby arrives!” I love to sleep. Since so many people told me I’d likely never sleep well again, I worried about my child’s sleep patterns even before he was born – that I’d have weeks of sleepless nights and that his lack of sleep would cause him to have developmental issues.
It turns out that I didn’t need to worry so much. My son is almost 9 months old now, and he has consistently slept eight to 10 hours almost every night since he was four months old.
This didn’t happen overnight, and it took work; I credit Precious Little Sleep: The Complete Baby Sleep Guide for Modern Parents by Alexis Dubief with giving me a solid understanding of what it takes to help my son develop healthy sleep habits.
The book includes great advice that has stuck with me over the last year, including these five tips for parents of infants:
- – You are the best parent for your child.
- – Helping your child develop healthy sleep habits is one of the best things you can do for them.
- – Every child, like every adult, is unique. It’s tempting to compare your child to others, but it’s best if you don’t.
- – Remember that being an emotionally healthy person includes “feeling a multitude of emotions (over time or even, sometimes, all at once!) recognizing they are normal and healthy, and being able to cope with all of them” (112).
- – Things change. Don’t get too used to any stage of life.
In her book, Dubief talks through how to utilize techniques “that will safely and significantly encourage your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep,” how to recognize when your child is overtired, how to teach your child to sleep, how to wean your child off of night feedings, how to recognize sleep setbacks, how to establish a good nap schedule, and much more.
Her writing style is cutesy and clever—funny but, at times, a bit much. Regardless, this book gave me confidence to know that my son would learn how to sleep and that I’d eventually sleep again.
Kayt’s List (as of this writing, my children are 7 and 5):
- 1. No Drama Discipline by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne-Bryson – my favorite book on discipline, reframes the conversation about discipline by using misbehavior as opportunities to help children build the skills they lack. Drawing on neuroscience research and a whole brain approach, this book (as well as these authors other books, The Whole Brain Child, The Yes Brain, and The Power of Showing Up, provides constructive and practical insights to help parents use discipline to build a relationship with their children.
- 2. The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker – not strictly about parenting, this book encourages you to think intentionally about the purpose of your living space and the stuff that fills it. Thinking about your physical space this way can build and provide clarity in relationships with your children and others. (Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne focuses on this from a specifically parenting approach as well).
- 3. How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber – a book about talking so your kids will hear you. This book, focusing on little kids (2-7), but there is also a version for older kids, provides constructive ways to communicate effectively with your children and make space for them to communicate (effectively) with you also.
- 4. The Explosive Child by Ross Greene – provides insightful, compassionate, and practical insights for parents whose kids respond to routine problems with disproportionately large (and often violent) reactions (one might describe them as explosive). This book gave me empathy for myself as a parent and the techniques presented in this book have literally changed my life.
- 5. Audiobooks & Kids podcasts – are our family go-to for the car. We love our library’s audiobook app, Libby and a couple of our current favorite podcasts are “The Reading Bug” and “But Why?”
Donald – (As of writing, my children are 9, 6, and 5)
- 1. Exploring the Bible Together – One of the more important things you can do with your kids is develop rhythms of reading through Scripture together. David Murray’s book provides one of the better reading plans I’ve encountered, catching many of the highlights of Biblical theology in readings that are short enough to handle before bed. The questions included were also more helpful than many in similar books I’ve considered.
- 2. More Than a Story – Of the various story Bible approaches that I’ve seen out there, this is one of my favorites. My kids took to it better than some others that I’ve picked up over the years, and it’s pretty solid.
- 3. The Storm-Tossed Family – Moore’s book reads breezily, but there are good stories and reminders throughout that help to situate the family in the broader context of God’s family. I really appreciate Moore’s honesty and sensitivity in both sharing his embarrassments and failings while also being careful not to make his experience come across as normative for all families. This is rare in books that have an urgent moral call at their center, like this one does.
- 4. The Gospel Comes with a House Key – In a world where we often want to shelter or protect our children from corruption or trauma in the outside world, this book is a needed challenge. I certainly don’t practice everything Butterfield recommends, and I’m not sure that I agree with all of those recommendations, but it’s the hard push I’ve often needed to think about the posture that my home takes toward the community around us.
- 5. The Art and Science of Personality Development – I’m allowing myself one really nerdy entry on my list. I encountered McAdam’s work through a reference in Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis (also a fascinating book). McAdams is a leading expert in personality theory, with his key contribution being that identity forms in three levels. This book summarizes those levels as actor, agent, and author, and it reflects on their development over a life. I have found McAdams’ framework extremely valuable in both understanding my own life and in trying to think about how I foster healthy development for my children.
Justin’s list (as of this writing, my children are 13 and 11):
- 1. The Whole-Brained Child by Daniel J. Siegel – Siegel takes his revolutionary work in neuroscience and gives invaluable insights for understanding how our children’s brains are developing. Erudite, accessible, and constructive.
- 2. Families Where Grace Is in Place by Jeff Van Vonderen – How do my children experience me? How do they experience our home? Is it filled with joy and with grace?
- 3. Discipline that Connects With Your Child’s Heart by Jim and Lynne Jackson – the best book I’ve read on discipline; the most important lesson is that communicating “you are safe with me,” is the foundation of communicating anything else.
- 4. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzerro – not a book about parenting, but one of the best lessons I’ve learned is that I need to pay attention to what’s going on in my heart (fear? anger?) before I can care for the hearts of my children well.
- 5. Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood by George MacDonald (fiction) – MacDonald is known for his children’s stories, but within his larger body of work there is gold for parents. Here is a bit from Quiet Neighborhood: “Do you think you love your children better than He who made them? Is not your love what it is because He put it into your heart first? Have not you often been cross with them? Sometimes unjust to them? Whence came the returning love that rose from unknown depths in your being, and swept away the anger and the injustice! You did not create that love. Probably you were not good enough to send for it by prayer. But it came. God sent it.”
Erin – (As of writing my kids are 16, 14, and 11)
- 1. Brainstorm by Daniel Siegel—Adolescence is often approached with a somewhat “brace yourself for the worst” mindset, but Siegel’s book helps us see how this developmental stage can be both refreshing and challenging. Siegel helps parents (and others who work with adolescents) navigate the complexities of the adolescent and teenage brain. I appreciate his positivity and emphasis on how the changing and developing brain of the adolescent is key in understanding their behavior.
- 2. Queen Bees & Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman—This book was recommended to me by a colleague as I was discussing with her the challenges of helping my daughter navigate friendships in middle school and now high school. I have found this book to be particularly helpful as I’ve tried to help my daughter understand the dynamics of teenage female relationships. Wiseman identifies how this social hierarchy can be identified and approached with wisdom and humility.
- 3. Mothers, Daughters, and Body Image by Hilary L. McBride—As an adolescent and teenager who struggled with her own body image issues, I wanted a different experience for my daughter. This book is based on McBride’s own qualitative research on moms and daughters emphasizing how powerful an influence mothers can have either positively or negatively on their daughters’ own sense of body image and body positivity.
- 4. Rewilding Motherhood by Shannon K. Evans—Mothers often receive the message that being a mom is the pinnacle of the female experience and that becoming a mother will “complete” them. Driven by this message, women can find themselves tired and disconnected as they chase the unattainable goal of being the “perfect” mother. Evans’ book uses Catholic contemplative practices to help women find a deeper connection to God while helping readers consider topics like work-life balance, solitude, patience, identity, and a mission for the common good.
- 5. Raising Good Humans: A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting and Raising Kind, Confident Kids by Hunter Clarke-Fields—Being a parent can be a stressful job and when you’re trying to manage busy schedules, rising societal expectations, and varying personalities, it can be difficult to keep your cool when the stress levels rise. This book teaches how using mindfulness skills can help parents avoid the reactivity sometimes caused by rising emotions. Parents who model kindness and patience to their children can help kids develop these responses as well.
This summer In All Things is light-heartedly including recommendations, tips, and joys that we would love to share with you, readers, in the format of Top Five Fridays, switching up our themes each week. Share a comment if there is a “Top 5” topic you’d like us to explore.