It is extraordinary that the most important job in the world, raising a child, is an untrained position.
-Richard Grossman, Ph.D.
When I was around 11 or 12 I found several books my Mom had been reading that caused me feelings of worry, confusion, and possibly even a little panic. The exact titles escape me, but they were on topics about children and drug use. When I realized she was reading books to understand her own child, one of my brothers who had been in a wrestling match with life since he was born, I was struck with this uncomfortable truth that parents quite possibly have no idea what they are doing.
I can’t say it was the first time I was worried. I had that emotion in the bag for years due to the stress of our family dynamics. The sad reality is that we weren’t necessarily unique in our struggles and like most parents, my parents brought with them “techniques” and philosophies they picked up from their own parents many years before. Some techniques were harmful, isolating, and frightening. Those were primarily employed by my Dad, who used fear, anger, intimidation, and physical punishment to put an end to our perceived inappropriate behaviors–behaviors I know were typical for developing children and ones he likely could have affected in a more positive way if he used communication, warmth, and connection. My Mom tended to be more gentle in her overall approach, although she used similar techniques at times and although to a much lesser degree, still contributed to the overall dysfunction that was our family.
Did my parents love us? Of course they loved us like most parents instinctively love their children, but love in and of itself will not properly raise humans and will certainly not magically create the skills needed to establish a sound foundation. Looking back, I understand why she was seeking help. She needed words, guidance, and expertise to help her navigate a world foreign to her–a world that included a son in immense pain and one who was turning to drugs for relief.
I just wish both of my parents had these tools way before crisis mode set in.
As the youngest of the family and the only surviving girl, witnessing and being a part of the struggle would impact me for years to come and lead to my insatiable appetite for reading and learning. If the theory Malcolm Gladwell proposes in his book Outliers: The Story of Success is true, that practicing a skill for 10,000 hours makes one an expert in that skill, then I’m feeling like I need a certificate! Over the past 25 years I’m sure I have easily spent 10,000 hours studying child development and parenting or what I’m comfortably transitioning to calling, “humaning: the rearing of humans”.
Here I present, in no particular order, some of my favorite books about living with and raising kids. These cover infancy to teen years. And while this list is not exhaustive by any means, they are wonderful books that will help any parent navigate child development and offer concrete ways to create wonderful, loving, respectful relationships with your children and bring peace into your homes and hearts.
HOLD ONTO YOUR KIDS: WHY PARENTS NEED TO MATTER MORE THAN PEERS
THE SCIENCE OF PARENTING
Science is in our corner. Being kind, respectful, and stable creates healthier hearts and minds.
THE PURPOSE OF BOYS
From understanding how boys differ from girls developmentally to how families can support their unique needs, this one will surely offer guidance to parents and educators of boys. While I do not personally agree with the discipline section in terms of adult imposed techniques to change behavior, there are many kernels of information to help understand boys better.
RAISING HUMAN BEINGS: CREATING A COLLABORATIVE PARTNERSHIP WITH YOUR CHILD
This is the latest book I have read. It was brought to my attention by another child advocate blogger while scrolling through her Instagram feed. This is for sure a great book for parents who are already raising tweens and teens, but one I’d recommend reading before your kids get to this age so you can be adequately prepared to handle a multitude of issues that may arise.