Parenting Book Recommendations
The Explosive Child by Ross Greene, Ph.D.
Some children are easier to parent than others. Some children have very challenging behaviors and require much more of our parenting skills. Some people call this “parenting plus” or “expert parenting.” Parents with a child like this often feel like they have tried everything (rewards, time-outs, loss of privileges) and nothing is working. This can be very frustrating and challenging. Dr. Ross Greene has extensive expertise in working with children who are difficult to parent. He found that many of these children face challenges with self-regulation and flexibility. Things like “switching gears” (including changes from one activity to another or from their point of view to someone else’s), tolerating frustration, controlling impulses, organizing and planning, are much harder for them than for most other children. These children often have “meltdowns” or temper tantrums that can become very violent and overwhelming. Somehow, standard rewards and consequences that work fine for most kids seem to ineffective in preventing these tantrums.
Dr. Greene created a Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) approach to address the needs of these “explosive” children. A central tenet of his CPS approach is that children do well if they can. According to Dr. Greene, these children are not manipulative or coercive, they just don’t have the flexibility and skills needed to handle frustration that most other children have. Just as dyslexic children need extra help with reading, these children need extra help with flexibility and frustration tolerance. The Collaborative Problem Solving approach is designed to help parents learn how to avoid meltdowns with skills they can teach their children for being more flexible. The Explosive Child is well written, engaging, and very useful for helping you better understand your child and how to help him or her. Importantly, you can benefit from using Collaborative Problem Solving with your child, even if he or she is not “explosive.”
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
This book is considered a classic among the virtually countless parenting books on the market. Authors Faber and Mazlish take their wealth of experience as mental health practitioners, mothers, and parenting experts and create this extremely useful book. Although How to Talk… has been in print for many years now, its utility has in no way diminished over time. It seems particularly useful for parents of toddlers and children. You might be tempted to quickly read the whole book through within a day or two, but it would be best to focus on one chapter at a time and then try to implement some of the strategies described before moving to the next chapter. The authors organized the chapters in a workbook-like fashion to encourage you to practice the skills that you are learning. Also, they use many illustrated vignettes to demonstrate how to use the parenting/communication skills. Like any other skill, refining the language and strategies that you use with your kids definitely takes practice. This book will undoubtedly expand your repertoire of effective parenting and communication skills.
SOS! Help for Parents by Lynn Clark, Ph.D.
We consider Dr. Clark’s SOS! Help for Parents a must-read for parents of young to pre-teen kids. Dr. Clark draws upon 20 years of practice as a psychologist, his own experiences as a parent and research on what works with kids, to provide helpful behavioral strategies for parents. Among the many useful topics, Dr. Clark makes a concerted effort to explain the proper use of a time-out. Time-out, when used correctly, is a powerful tool to help manage children’s behavior. As Dr. Clark points out, when parents claim that time-outs are ineffective, it is most likely that they are not implementing the technique properly. This has been our experience as well. We encourage you to read this book carefully and focus on certain strategies to try out. Attempting to implement too many new strategies at once can be overwhelming and confusing for both parents and children. If there are two parents, both you and your partner should implement strategies in a consistent manner for the greatest likelihood of obtaining positive results.
SOS! Help for Parents and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk work well in conjunction together. SOS! Help for Parents focuses more on behavioral strategies and How to Talk… focuses more on communication strategies. Together, they cover the basics quite well.
Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Jon & Myla Kabat-Zinn
In this book, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the key figures in bringing mindfulness to the western world, and his wife Myla, tackle the task of parenting. No parent escapes the very trying realities of being a parent, and Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn acknowledge this truth. But whereas so many books and experts focus on the difficulties of parenting, Everyday Blessings focuses on the joys as well …the “everyday blessings” of parenting.
Although there are some ways in which the Kabat-Zinns encourage the reader to relate to their children that could be considered mindfulness exercises, the strategies are quite universal. For instance, Everyday Blessing’s asks its readers to imagine the world through the eyes of a child while considering the importance of apologies. We recommend this book for any parent, not just those who have an interest in mindfulness.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.
This is a wonderful book if you want to help your child or teen be more successful in school (or at sports, music, art, or any other skill), less afraid of failure, and more engaged in the learning process. According to Dr. Dweck, there are basically two ways to think about intelligence and talent. First, you might think about it with a “fixed mindset,” where you believe that you have what you are born with and that’s it. Or second, you might have a “growth mindset”, where you believe that intelligence or a specific talent is malleable and can change as a result of hard work. Neuroscientific research in the past two decades has found plenty of evidence for the growth mindset. This research purports that our brains change constantly as a result of our actions and our experiences. Dr. Dweck has found in her research that the way adults (parents and teachers) talk with children about intelligence and talent has profound effects on the mindset they develop. She demonstrated with her research that children who have a growth mindset are more successful at mastering new academic skills than children with a fixed mindset. Dr. Dweck found that children with growth mindsets more readily take on new challenging tasks, have more fun figuring out new strategies to solve problems, are less afraid of failure, learn more from failure, and end up performing better than children with a fixed mindset. This book contains many practical tips and strategies to help foster a growth mindset in you and your child or teen.
Reviving Ophelia, Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher
Although this book was published more than fifteen years ago, it is still a very relevant topic today. The book tackles the questions why, despite all the advances of feminism, girls are still falling prey to depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. This book discusses the roles of sexism and “lookism” (the idea that girls and women tend to be valued primarily for the way they look) as expressed in the media and in society in general. This creates an environment that is detrimental to a girls self-conception. Mary Pipher discusses practical ways parents can challenge the assumptions of sexism and lookism. In doing so, parents can arm their daughters against these pressures by helping them recognize and critically evaluate them. This book is a must-read for parents with adolescent and preadolescent daughters.
Raising Happiness, 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents by Christine Carter
One might think that it is an impossible task to raise happy children: Isn’t happiness something you are born with, like a character trait? Christine Carter proves that parents can do much to improve the happiness of their children as well as their own. She gives many practical suggestions and tips for developing positive emotions such as optimism, faith, and confidence. Her advice is pragmatic and based on scientific research. Moreover, parents are encouraged to do the best they can and to welcome mistakes because they can learn from them. They are also encouraged to take good care of themselves. This book can be an inspiration for parents with kids of all ages.
For Parents and Teenagers: Dissolving the Barrier Between You and Your Teen by William Glasser, M.D.
In this provocative and accessible book, Dr. Glasser introduces his Choice Theory within the first two chapters and then uses case studies to illustrate how it can be used to assist parents in their relationships with their teenagers who are experiencing various types of difficulties (e.g., depression, drug addiction, anger, anorexia, conflict with their parents). His case studies are fascinating, which make Dr. Glasser’s book an enjoyable, compelling read. Although you might not agree with everything Dr. Glasser proposes, he provides a philosophical approach as well as numerous practical suggestions that can help parents and teachers improve their relationships with teenagers. Moreover, the approaches within this book can be applied to improve any of our relationships such as those with coworkers, friends, and romantic partners. (Note: This book was formerly titled Unhappy Teenagers, an unfortunate title choice.)