Here are the parenting books I read in 2008, sorted into two categories:
Books that Made me Say "Enh"
These are books which were pretty useful but didn't change my world view or particularly affect my parenting style.
- Curious Minds ed. by John Brockman
- Toilet Training the Brazelton Way by T. Berry Brazelton and Joshua Sparrow
- Children: The Challenge by Rudolph Dreikurs
- Parent Talk by Stanley Shapiro and Karen Skinulis
- Your Five-Year-Old: Sunny and Serene by Ames and Ilg
- The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron
- Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
- The Money-Tree Myth by Gail Vaz-Oxlade
These are the books which either blew me away with their insight or actually changed how I view my role as a parent.
Breaking The Good Mom Myth: Every Mom's Modern Guide to Getting Past Perfection, Regaining Sanity, and Raising Great Kids by Alyson Schafer is about democratic parenting, the notion that kids are actually much more competent than they are given credit for, and that we must give them more responsibility to allow them to grow into competent and independent adults. (This philosophy also says that we should allow our children to experience the consequences of their decisions, which has unfortunately led to people using "consequence" as a euphemism for "punishment". If there's a point, some folk are bound to miss it.)
This book changed how I parent; I used to fret so much about how to get them to tidy their rooms, how to get them to dress appropriately outside, how to get them to play nicely together. Schafer points out that you can't really "get" kids to do things, but you can treat them like human beings, explain the situation, help them make their own decisions and then live with them. The problem, of course, is that you have to live with their decisions too, but as long as you remember that your kids are not in fact tiny extensions of yourself, that's usually not really a problem. The nice thing is that once something is your kid's responsibility it's no longer yours! Hooray! - Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn. I was led to this book by the Schafer book, which is a bit ironic because Kohn tears a strip off the democratic parenting crowd for their euphemistic "consequences" and their apparent lack of sympathetic support for little kids. Anyway, this book is about how rewards (praise, stickers, grades, incentives, commissions, bonuses) are actually counterproductive in parenting and in business.
Kohn is brilliant and very compelling and has led me to fundamentally change my parenting style. I now almost never praise the girls and never reward them, and I am very conscious of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation in myself as well as them. Absolutely everyone should read this book, whether parents, teachers, employers, managers, or anyone else. - Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion by Dale McGowan is a collection of essays about raising children in a household without religion or other superstition. I was casting about for support in this area when I discovered this book, apparently the only one on this topic. It's a great book, interesting and funny and insightful. - The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love and Healing by Bruce Perry is a book about how the development of children who have undergone extreme trauma can teach us about normal mental development. It is fascinating, inspiring and at times grueling. Another must-read for anyone who has or works with children.