I'm a book-a-holic. There's nothing so enjoyable as curling up in an armchair, throwing a soft (hand-knitted by your sister) blanket over your lap and getting lost in the pages of a book. During the summer, while I have no mandatory reading I've read probably an average of two books per week... sometimes more (like my short fiction books) and sometimes less (hello Pillars of the Earth), but I'm always happiest when I'm journeying through the pages of a book.
I am also an Information Junkie. So... if its a book and there's something to be learned... well, lets just say I like to read non-fiction... for FUN! In this installment of Book Junkie, I'd like to share with you a list of the most influential Parenting Books I've read thus far. This is by no means an all-inclusive list. And, since a Crunchier style of parenting is more organic for me, I have been most influenced by less "traditional" approaches to parenting. So... embrace your inner hippie and let's talk parenting!
Let's start at the beginning. The books that challenge basic thoughts about parenting and can help us as parents re-examine our motivations, our expectations and our reality.
Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn is nothing if not a book that encourages a paradigm shift! While most parenting experts will encourage parents to control a child's behavior through a system of rewards ("good job!") and punishment (time out), Kohn asks us to think about our long-term goals for our children and parent in accordance with those goals.
"Are my everyday practices likely to help my children grow into the kind of people I'd like them to be? Will the things I just said to my child at the supermarket contribute in some small way to her becoming happy and balanced and independent and fulfilled and so on -- or is it possible (gulp) that the way I tend to handle such situations makes those outcomes less likely?"
Unconditional Parenting is truly an eye-opening read.... examining traditional discipline and parenting practices and then encouraging us to parent unconditionally by asking ourselves, "what do my children need, and how can I best meet those needs?"
Magical Parent, Magical Child: The Art of Joyful Parenting by Michael Mendizza with Joseph Chilton Pearce (Magical Child) encourages parents to live in the moment and re-experience the magical world around us.
"Magical parents nurture and mentor magical children while magical children challenge and encourage adults to rediscover their own magical nature."
So, let's learn from our children... remember the magic that is all around us and have some fun together!
Next, the "instruction manuals." The following books are less about concepts and more about practical application. The subject matters vary from improved communication to homeschooling with Montessori and activities to do with your children.
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish was written 30 years ago, and is still a very effective communication guide. Easy to read, easy to understand and easy to follow; this book outlines how to talk to your kids and why changing your dialogue is both important and effective.
This might not change the way you see your relationship with your kids, but it can change your relationship in some very meaningful ways.
i love dirt by Jennifer Ward includes a thoughtful and well-written foreward written by Richard Louv about how little exposure to the natural world children now get when compared to previous generations, and touting the physical and therapeutic benefits of spending time in the natural world.
Ward provides us with 52 outdoor activities for children, organized by season, each containing a section entitled "Help Me Understand" which provides questions (and answers too) for discussion during or after dirt time.
Most of Ward's activities take very little time to do and can be extremely rewarding! So, the next time your little one(s) want to go dig in the dirt, let them! According to Ward, it "stimulates creative play and problem solving"... consider Mother Nature your Head Mistress and get a little dirty!
The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule emphasizes organization, accessibility, imagination, spending time in nature, everyday rituals and celebrations. Soule includes tutorials, and activities along with a lot of practical advice and wisdom. Don't listen to Mom, let that imagination run wild!
How to Raise an Amazing Child The Montessori Way by Tim Seldin (President of the Montessori Foundation) is an engaging and informative introduction to Montessori with some activities and creative parent-problem solving ideas.
Teach Me To Do It Myself by Maja Pitamic is a well-organized book of Montessori activities. My favorite part? Most of these do not require any special supplies or equipment. Very good reference book for days when you find extra time or too few activities.
The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease includes a wonderful Treasury of read-aloud books organized by book type (Picture Books, Short Novels, etc.). Each entry includes the book title, publisher, publication date, appropriate age range, number of pages and a short synopsis. Very handy for nurturing the readers in your family!
These are the books I use most often, think of most often and the ones that contain the things I'd like to do as a parent (even if I don't always do them). These books speak to me most and are used most often in my home, in fact, they don't even have a place on the book shelf... shelving them would just be pointless!
To be fair, I have read books that are not quite so progressive.... I mean, how can you choose to dismiss something (like a parenting theory) if you know nothing about it? So, I've also read (among others) Solve Your Childs Sleep Problems by Dr. Ferber, On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo (please note that use of babywise methods has been liked to failure to thrive in babies), The Baby Whisperer by Tracey Hogg, and countless articles, blogs, magazines etc on "blanket training", so-called Christian parenting, and discipline.
Children in America are increasingly over-weight, under performing in school and showing little or no interest in the world outside their bedroom walls. Modeling controlling and sometimes violent behavior for our children is not going to help them sort through the mass of information that is thrown at them daily, or show them what it means to be a compassionate and contributory member of society, but it does withhold from them the one thing they need most from us... a safe and loving place to call home.
Let's model respect, so they know how to show it. Let's model self-discipline, so they see how to do it. And let's invest in our children so they know they are worth it. To quote some famous hippies: "All we need is love... love is all we need."