I need mind-blowing books about parenting!
January 10, 2012 11:03 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for parenting books that blew. your. mind.

I'm teaching a parenting class in the next few weeks, and I'm looking for parenting books to bulk up my already decently-researched experience on childcare. I am especially interested in books that clear up common misconceptions and/or go against the grain of standard parenting assumptions.

I recently read Nina Planck's Real Food For Mother and Baby and was pleasantly shocked to read that while many pediatricians and parents believe that kids should eat starchy cereals, breads, crackers, etc., research says that this diet sets kids up for obesity and poor eating habits.

Other examples are How To Get Your Kid to Eat (don't pressure with "one more bite," let kids decide when they're done eating, don't use desserts as a reward), Nurtureshock (praise effort, not ability), Brain Rules for Baby (self-explanatory), Happiest Baby/Toddler on the Block and Pink Brain, Blue Brain.

Details: most interested in books that deal with newborns to 4 or 5 years old at the oldest. I am not looking for useful but too-specific material, such as The Explosive Child or books on autism and ADHD.
posted by zoomorphic to Education (27 answers total) 139 users marked this as a favorite
Jean Liedloff, The continuum concept: in search of lost happiness

posted by Namlit at 11:07 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Unconditional Parenting
posted by AlsoMike at 11:15 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seconding Unconditional Parenting.
posted by mattbucher at 11:17 AM on January 10, 2012

It isn't a parenting book in the sense of being a manual or how-to, but Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent definitely fits the 'blew your mind' bill. It completely changed how I view parenting, especially the many examples of parenting practices from different cultures.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:18 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Parenting from the Inside Out
posted by judith at 11:23 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I found Our Babies, Ourselves by Meredith Small to be pretty interesting. It's an attempt at a broad-overview, anthropological look at parenting.

Some of it is problematic (there's some nonsense that verges on Noble Savage, like when Small insists that in all her travels in Africa, she has never heard a baby cry... although that kind of stuff is much more of an issue in The Continuum Concept, a book I think is really awful and full of axe-grindy, pseudoscience untruths) but the basic idea it's presenting, that the human infant arrives primed to "expect" a certain environment, and that changing that environment is fine (humans are adaptable) but may be setting up a lot of work for you, is thought-provoking.

I like Nina Planck's work, but some of her stuff heads into Traditional Foods/Weston A. Price territory, some of which I do think is research-based, and some of which isn't. So I think you have to be careful to take all of those authors with some salt on the side. If you're interested in this kind of nutrition info, Traditional Foods by Sally Fallon is interesting, but... kinda loopy.

Another book I like is Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott. If you were yourself raised in a gentle way, this may not be a very mind-blowing book for you, but if you come from a background that values compliance, discipline, authority, etc, it can really shift your thinking.

I recently read and (mostly) liked The Good School, only the early chapters of which fall into your age range. As the parent of a kid who will eventually head to preschool, it was useful in a Nurtureshock way to see the state of the evidence on what science knows about education collected.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:27 AM on January 10, 2012

1-2-3 Magic.
posted by Runes at 11:36 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is an old book but - How to Raise a Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor.
posted by cda at 11:45 AM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

What is your expected audience? (Are they learning the basics of newborn care? Were they court-ordered into parenting classes? Are they just interested in putting an intellectual dimension to parenting?)
posted by palliser at 11:45 AM on January 10, 2012

I don't have a recommendation above all the books mentioned (I've read most of them), but I'd recommend never buying any of them. Borrow them from someone, or a library, or, better yet, just read some reviews online. Most, if not all, can be boiled down to a few really short and easy things. I don't really understand how most of these authors even got a book out of these ideas, especially 1-2-3 Magic. They could all be summed up in a single blog post and you wouldn't miss a thing.
posted by Blake at 11:46 AM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

On nutrition and eating, anything by Ellyn Satter. I've mentioned her a lot on AskMe in response to questions about how to get kids to eat, or how to keep kids off junk food, or other questions about regulating kids' diets. Basically, the idea is that parents' role is to decide what foods will be available and when, with a variety of kinds of food, including new foods and favorite treats. Kids' job is to decide whether to eat, which of the items offered to eat, and how much to eat of which item. There is no arguing over eating particular foods at particular times, no food as reward or rewards for eating, and no requirement to eat anything specific. Everyone I know who has adopted this philosophy says that it has worked miracles, and that their kids eat a wider variety of healthier foods than they did when eating was a battle.
posted by decathecting at 11:46 AM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Superbaby! I loved loved LOVED this book.
posted by Happydaz at 11:54 AM on January 10, 2012

I'm a huge fan of Barbara Coloroso. Her books are more about parenting older kids but I read her book Kids Are Worth It! when I was pregnant and it gave me a lot to think about in terms of what kind of parent I wanted to be.
posted by atropos at 12:21 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What's Going on in There: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life.
posted by peep at 12:25 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is kind of the opposite of what the other suggestions are, but I liked The Three Martini Playdate as a counterbalance to remind parents that they are people too and it is ok for them to have wants and needs and not always put Jr. first.
It's not a guide on how to ignore your kids, just how to have a balanced life in a way that is responsible.
posted by rmless at 12:34 PM on January 10, 2012

Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids: 7 Keys to Turn Family Conflict into Cooperation by Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson! At first it comes off a little preachy because it says you shouldn't ever do things that most parents consider well within the normal range of discipline, but it provides some great food for thought and tools for treating your child with respect and teaching your child to treat you and others with respect. The approach really does cut down on conflict -- when you stop ordering your kids around and start really listening to them, at first it seems to take more time and cause more aggravation, but in the long run your kids are much more cooperative because they know you care about their thoughts and feelings.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:46 PM on January 10, 2012

I'd recommend Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn, as well.

Also, Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen

This book was great for learning about those extra cranky and fussy period of baby: The Wonder Weeks by Hetty Van de Rijt and Frans Plooij

And I loved Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel (good even if you're not Jewish!)
posted by sabh at 12:54 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I came here to recommend The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, but sabh beat me to it. A great read.
posted by 4ster at 1:13 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Thirding Blessing of a Skinned Knee. Best all-around parenting book I've read so far.
posted by defreckled at 4:15 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

William Sears ATTACHMENT PARENTING and anything else by Sears (I'm surprised nobody else has mentioned him).
posted by DMelanogaster at 5:20 PM on January 10, 2012

Surprised no one has mentioned Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth. It's popular for its advice of "sleep begets sleep", i.e. the more a baby naps during the day, the better he/she will sleep at night. This contradicts conventional thinking but in my experience it was true.
posted by yawper at 8:13 PM on January 10, 2012

The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child, which has great advice even if your child doesn't seem especially "defiant." Kadzin also published a terrific series of parenting articles on Slate a while back.
posted by azure_swing at 8:53 AM on January 11, 2012

...maybe I'm not the right person to be answering these books, because my god I hate most parenting books, but as a new father Be Prepared: A Practical Guide for New Dads was a great read.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:09 AM on January 11, 2012

I enthusiastically recommend Nurture Shock, although it isn't a classic parenting book. It really goes into the science behind kids' brain development and it taught me a lot.

For instance, my inclination is to rave, "You're so smart!" which is in fact really destructive to little kids. This book taught me why saying, "I am so impressed with how dedicated you were to figuring out that math problem" is a lot more meaningful (and effective).
posted by ohyouknow at 11:59 AM on January 11, 2012

Oh my goodness. Someone needs to read before they post. Sorry.
posted by ohyouknow at 11:59 AM on January 11, 2012

How to Raise an Emotionally Intelligent Child is fascinating not just for what you learn about children, but what you end up learning about yourself. It's a great primer on how not to repeat the mistakes your parents made.

Protecting the Gift (by the same person who wrote mefi fave The Gift of Fear) really changed the way I looked at threats and security... and when you become a parent, you are suddenly super aware of threats in a way you weren't before.
posted by selfmedicating at 9:49 PM on January 13, 2012

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