5 Psychology-Based Books To Help You Become a Better Parent

Podcasts, YouTube, Google, Amazon… The amount of resources available to parents can be completely overwhelming. Not to mention deciphering helpful from unhelpful. Well, today I am going to help you out by providing you 5 psychology-based books to parenting. 

Understanding our little ones better is the best gift we can give them as parents and child psychology is more complex than it may seem.

To be able to discern why your child makes certain decisions or feels certain things, and this understanding — coupled with your personal relationship and attachment — can result in a profound appreciation for your child’s uniqueness.

That’s why it’s essential to understand the needs hiding behind certain behaviors, how their emotions work, and how their brains mature at each stage of their development.

There are several thousand books written for parents.  Because good parenting advice is so important yet parent’s time to get the information they need can be limited, I have taken the time today to provide brief reviews of the books I believe will be worth the read.  These books are written by experts and based on sound psychological foundations and backed by scientific research.

They not only do they serve as great reads as they are easy to understand as well as written in a conversational style with real-life examples and occasional humor to present a balanced perspective.  You will find that they become great references that you will find yourself frequently referring to for encouragement and problem-solving tips.

1. Positive Discipline: The Classic Guide to Helping Children Develop Self-Discipline, Responsibility, Cooperation, and Problem-Solving Skills by Jane Nelsen.

This book describes the key to positive discipline as not punishment, she tells us, but mutual respect. Nelsen coaches parents and teachers to be both firm and kind, so that any child – from a three-year-old toddler to a rebellious teenager – can learn creative cooperation and self-discipline with no loss of dignity.

This book teaches you how to:
  • Bridge communication gaps
  • Defuse power struggles
  • Avoid the dangers of praise 
  • Enforce your message of love
  • Build on strengths, not weaknesses
  • Hold children accountable with their self-respect intact
  • Teach children not what to think but how to think
  • Win cooperation at home and at school
  • Meet the special challenge of teen misbehavior

It is NOT just “talking to your kids about their feelings”. While emotional health is extremely important and gaining skills in talking about and understanding feelings and how to respond to them (your own and others), a true Positive Discipline response does not stop there. Positive Discipline is solutions-based parenting rather than punishment. 

So, the first approach to, say, a child not performing a family task required of them (cleaning their room, say) would be—waiting until AFTER all members of the family are calm and rational—A. Validate/understand why they are choosing not to do it, B. State choices within the boundary of getting the task done, then C. If that fails, moving on to a conversation between parent and child, thinking of a solution and agreement that you then HOLD THE CHILD TO until the task is completed, regularly and on time. Being able to say, “what was our agreement?” Is not only much more likely to encourage cooperation than lecturing and yelling is (the child herself came up with the rules alongside you!), but it empowers children to understand their own power, abilities, and responsibilities, giving them that vital sense of purpose and belonging in the family.

Reading Positive Discipline helps you and your kids to feel as though you are ‘on the same side’ and as though you are improving together rather than having to have power struggles all the time with one of you coming out the ‘winner’.

The shortest message of the book is to ’empower rather than discourage’.

2. The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

While I would recommend any book written by these authors, in this pioneering, practical book, they offer a revolutionary approach to child rearing with twelve key strategies that foster healthy brain development, leading to calmer, happier children.

The authors explain – and make accessible – the new science of how a child’s brain is wired and how it matures. The “upstairs brain,” which makes decisions and balances emotions, is under construction until the mid-twenties. And especially in young children, the right brain and its emotions tend to rule over the logic of the left brain.

No wonder kids throw tantrums, fight, or sulk in silence.

By applying these discoveries to everyday parenting, you can turn any outburst, argument, or fear into a chance to integrate your child’s brain and foster vital growth.

Complete with age-appropriate strategies for dealing with day-to-day struggles, The Whole-Brain Child shows you how to cultivate healthy emotional and intellectual development so that your children can lead balanced, meaningful, and connected lives.

The authors clearly explain child developmental challenges with brain activity without deep diving into the science. If anything, reading this book makes you appreciate that our little ones can only do so much with the brain they have and it’s up to us as parents to guide them to realizing their full potential over the years.

It’s easy to read and contains useful information. They give you the background/science and then age-appropriate solutions to each problem you might encounter. My favorite is the chapter about tantrums and how to deal with them.

They present all of their material within a mainstream parenting framework. I lost count of how many times they qualified their recommendations for empathy, connection, and communication with various iterations of, ‘OF COURSE, children need to respect their parent’s authority and no means no,’ alongside the assumption that all parents work, all kids are in school, and all remaining time is spent in extra curriculars.

It’s definitely a ‘let’s make relationships better from within the system’ book.

This is such an eye-opening book that explains why children act the way that they do, and what is going on in their brains during the process.

The helpful “Refrigerator sheet” at the end of the book reminds parents of the healthiest ways to handle and guide children.

3. Parenting with Theraplay®: Understanding Attachment and How to Nurture a Closer Relationship with Your Child by Helen Rodwell and Vivien Norris 

Theraplay® is an attachment-focused model of parenting that helps parents to understand and relate to their child. Based on a sequence of play activities that are rooted in neuroscience, Theraplay offers a fun and easy way for parents and children to connect. Theraplay is particularly effective with foster and adopted children.

By providing an overview of Theraplay and the psychological principles that it is based on, parents and caregivers will gain an understanding of the basic theory of the model along with practical ideas for applying Theraplay to everyday family life.

Through everyday case studies and easy language, parents will gain confidence and learn new skills for emotional bonding, empathy, and acceptance in the relationship with their child.

The authors clearly bring the tried and tested Theraplay principles to parenting. This book gives many ideas and clear structure to help all parents provide an emotionally rich and connected parenting environment.

Written in a helpful, kind and practical way that doesn’t make you feel as though you need to be a super-parent 24/7. As the authors say, Theraplay is about giving hope and increasing joy and their book does that with bubbles, feathers and face paints on.

Parenting with Theraplay is an excellent resource for parents of children of all ages. It offers the Theraplay lenses of Structure, Engagement, Nurture, and Challenge to understand their child and to give parents specific strategies and activities to create joyful, fun parent-child interactions that have the capacity to reduce challenging behaviors. This book is also great for parents who are new to attachment parenting.

4. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish and How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages by Joanna Faber and Julie King

These best-selling classics by internationally acclaimed experts on communication between parents and children includes fresh insights and suggestions, as well as the author’s time-tested methods to solve common problems and build foundations for lasting relationships, including innovative ways to: 

  • Cope with your child’s negative feelings, such as frustration, anger, and disappointment 
  • Express your strong feelings without being hurtful 
  • Engage your child’s willing cooperation 
  • Set firm limits and maintain goodwill 
  • Use alternatives to punishment that promote self-discipline 
  • Understand the difference between helpful and unhelpful praise 
  • Resolve family conflicts peacefully 

Enthusiastically praised by parents and professionals around the world, Faber and Mazlish’s down-to-earth, respectful approach makes relationships with children of all ages less stressful and more rewarding.

There are so many examples like this — the ‘one word’ tip, the ‘describe it/don’t tell them what to do’ tip, the ‘write a wish list together’ tip… I could go on. They really work!

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk for its respectful and effective solutions to the unending challenges of raising children. Now, in response to growing demand, Adele’s daughter, Joanna Faber, along with Julie King, tailor How to Talk‘s powerful communication skills to children ages two to seven.

Faber and King, each a parenting expert in her own right, share their wisdom accumulated over years of conducting How To Talk workshops with parents and a broad variety of professionals. With a lively combination of storytelling, cartoons, and fly-on-the-wall discussions from their workshops, they provide concrete tools and tips that will transform your relationship with the young kids in your life.

What do you do with a little kid who…won’t brush her teeth…screams in his car seat…pinches the baby…refuses to eat vegetables…runs rampant in the supermarket? Organized according to common challenges and conflicts, this book is an essential emergency first-aid manual of communication strategies, including a chapter that addresses the special needs of children with sensory processing and autism spectrum disorders.

This user-friendly guide will empower parents and caregivers to forge rewarding, joyful relationships with terrible two-year-old’s, truculent three-year-old’s, ferocious four-year-old’s, foolhardy five-year-old’s, self-centered six-year-olds, and the occasional semi-civilized seven-year-old. And it will help little kids grow into self-reliant big kids who are cooperative and connected to their parents, teachers, siblings, and peers.

Lots of creative ways and examples to engage with your young kids when they are misbehaving or when you need to talk to them about their feelings.

How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen gives you lots of simple techniques for communicating with your little kid, whether you’re trying to get them to do something, get them not to do something, or just get along. It is full of real-world examples that the authors have culled from the classes they’ve done throughout the years.

One thing I especially liked is that they summarize each chapter into bullet points at the end. Something you could easily print out and tape to your fridge for reference.

5. Honey, I Wrecked The Kids by Alyson Schafer

Again, Alyson is an author I love and would recommend any of her books.

 For those who’ve tried just about everything to discipline their kids, Honey, I Wrecked the Kids explains why children today are resistant to traditional parenting methods and how only a new model for winning cooperation really works. 

Full of real-life examples, the book gives parents a deeper understanding of misbehavior and their role in it, shies away from traditional behavioral models of parenting, and offers humane, good-humored advice that will make parenting a manageable and, finally, rewarding task.

Schafer makes the book interesting and not the normal blah blah blah of self-help type books. She delivers the information in a clear and concise manner. Not only does she give you the tools to recognize why your child is ‘misbehaving, but she gives you tactics in which to deal with ‘misbehavior. This book gives you a whole new perspective on not only your children’s behaviors, but of YOURS too.

This book really helps parents understand the relationship with their kids from a new perspective, as a dance, where both the parent and the child are engaged in a dance that explains behavior. And behavior has a purpose that serves the child’s needs.

This is a book about truly “raising” your children, not about controlling them. It turns out that by empowering our children and allowing them to grow, the fights just stop happening.

So, that’s my list. What are some of your parenting book recommendations? Drop them below in the comments.

If you’re looking for some more strategies beyond books to help your child go from tantrums to talking check out my webinar how to support your children through anger, sadness, and worry using the link here

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