There’s no better way to learn about parenting than to live it. Even so, sometimes new parents want to hear from someone who’s been there and can offer them some advice for the rewarding and challenging journey of parenthood.
Fortunately, there are plenty of helpful parenting books out there that offer practical advice to support those in their quest to raise happy, healthy, and well-adjusted children. We’ve compiled a list of some best-selling parents’ books that cover a wide range of topics, from understanding healthy brain development to effective communication strategies with children. Here is our top reading list for parents in 2023 that provides practical advice and research-based insights for every stage of parenting.
1. The Whole-Brain Child
By Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
This acclaimed book delves into the field of neuroscience and provides helpful advice for nurturing a young child’s developing mind. It offers twelve strategies that integrate the latest research on brain development with techniques to help parents understand and respond effectively to their child’s behaviors and emotions.
What is “whole-brain”?
The Whole-Brain Way refers to an approach to parenting that helps parents understand how the different parts of the brain work together, and how to effectively integrate them into parenting strategies. It emphasizes the importance of understanding a child’s brain development in order to promote healthy emotional regulation, resilience, and relationship building.
Some of the strategies you’ll find in this book include “Move It or Lose It”, which encourages physical activity to shift your child’s emotional state, and “SIFT”, a framework for helping children pay attention to the sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts they’re experiencing.
2. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk
By Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Recently updated with new suggestions, this book offers strategies for parents to effectively communicate with their children. It covers topics such as handling misbehavior, resolving conflicts, and building positive relationships with children through active listening and empathy.
Collaborating with children
Central to this book’s message is the idea that you can collaborate with your children to solve problems together, instead of resorting to tactics like yelling, accusing, or shaming. The book will walk you through how to work with your children, not against them, by helping them accept their feelings and understand boundaries.
3. No-Drama Discipline
By Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
In this follow-up to “The Whole-Brain Child”, the authors offer a practical and compassionate approach to discipline that promotes healthy brain development in children. They explain the science behind discipline, including how the brain processes emotions and behaviors, and provide strategies for parents to discipline effectively without using punishments or rewards.
Discipline with empathy
It’s guaranteed that you’ll need to discipline your children sometimes, but doing so doesn’t have to be punitive. In this book, you’ll learn a revolutionary approach to discipline that prioritizes empathy, understanding, and connection.
The authors emphasize that discipline should be an opportunity for learning and growth. You’ll learn how to identify your own disciplinary philosophy, help your child navigate through a tantrum, and the 20 discipline mistakes that even the most well-intentioned parents make.
4. Simplicity Parenting
By Kim John Payne and Lisa Ross
Hoping to combat the overconsumption and frantic pace of life that has become many people’s norm, this book highlights the “power of less” when it comes to raising calm and happy children. It offers strategies for reducing the overstimulation present in your child’s life, helping them reclaim their time and attention so they can flourish.
Simplifying your child’s life
What does “simplicity parenting” look like? According to the authors, it can include things like reducing the number of toys in your home, creating a home environment that minimizes sensory overload, and establishing predictable routines and rituals.
The book also offers advice on how to manage your child’s screen time, as well as the pros and cons of enrichment activities and packing your child’s schedule with them.
5. The Five Love Languages of Children
By Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell
The “five love languages” were originally developed in 1992 by Dr. Gary Chapman to help couples build stronger relationships. In this book, the same love languages are applied to the parent-child relationship, helping parents understand how their children express love and prefer to receive it.
What are the five love languages?
The five love languages are quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, and gifts. Not only will this book help you identify your child’s primary love languages, but it can also help you figure out how to speak the languages effectively so your child feels unconditionally cared for and loved.
6. Expecting Better
By Emily Oster
This data-driven pregnancy guide challenges conventional wisdom and empowers expectant parents to make informed decisions. Oster, an economist (and a mom) uses evidence-based research to debunk pregnancy myths and provide clear, balanced information on topics such as alcohol consumption, caffeine intake, prenatal testing, labor interventions, and more.
This book advocates for personalized decision-making and empowered choices rather than blanket rules, a welcome respite from a lot of the pregnancy-related information out there that can feel shaming or overly prescriptive.
Oster encourages readers to question and understand the risks and benefits of various choices. With a pragmatic and analytical approach, the book equips readers with the tools to navigate pregnancy with confidence and make choices that align with their own values and preferences.
7. No Bad Kids
By Janet Lansbury
This guide for parents on understanding and managing challenging behaviors in young children draws on the principles of Magda Gerber’s RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) approach. It emphasizes respectful and empathetic communication with children, setting clear boundaries, and fostering healthy emotional development.
Respectful parenting practices
Lansbury offers a positive and respectful approach to discipline that promotes a strong parent-child relationship based on trust and mutual understanding. She emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and validating children’s feelings, while also holding them accountable for their behavior.
Through practical examples and strategies, the book provides guidance on handling common parenting challenges such as tantrums, defiance, and limit-testing.
8. How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen
By Joanna Faber
With inspiration from “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk” written by her mother, Faber provides step-by-step strategies and real-life examples to help adults communicate respectfully and positively with children aged 2-7.
Communication strategies that work
With its accessible language, relatable anecdotes, and practical tips, this book offers valuable insights for building healthy relationships and effective communication with young children. It covers topics including:
- Understanding the perspective of young children and their developmental stages
- Strategies for setting limits and enforcing boundaries in a positive and respectful manner
- Building children’s self-esteem and encouraging independence
- Managing sibling conflicts and promoting sibling harmony
- Tools for handling transitions, such as bedtime, mealtime, and separation anxiety
9. The Bottom Line for Baby
By Tina Payne Bryson
This book will be your best friend when you’re facing a parenting dilemma. It covers more than 60 common childcare questions and makes them easy to understand in three sections: an objective summary of the topic (including commonly cited pros and cons), a description of “What the Science Says” (with reading recommendations for those interested), and a “Bottom Line” conclusion.
Common parenting questions
Can you breastfeed and bottle feed at the same time? How can you start weaning your child off their pacifier? When should you stop co-sleeping?
All of this is covered in the book, as well as questions related to vaccinations, circumcision, allergens, sleep schedule, and more. Plus, it explores helpful strategies for managing parental stress and self-care while caring for a newborn.
10. The No-Cry Sleep Solution
By Elizabeth Pantley
Parents usually believe they have two options when their baby cries through the night (or the entire first year): let them “cry it out”, or simply live with it. This book offers a middle path, giving parents practical strategies for helping their babies and young children sleep better without resorting to “cry it out” methods. Pantley emphasizes gentle, respectful, and individualized approaches to sleep, taking into account each child’s unique temperament and needs.
Creating a healthy sleep routine
The recipe for getting your child to sleep may seem mysterious, but Pantley aims to make it easier to understand. She covers topics such as creating a soothing sleep environment, establishing consistent routines, responding to night wakings with comfort and reassurance, and gradually reducing sleep associations.
The book also provides troubleshooting tips for common sleep challenges and offers guidance for maintaining healthy sleep habits as children grow. It empowers parents to create peaceful and restful sleep for the whole family while eliminating tears and stress as much as possible.
11. The Danish Way of Parenting
By Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandhal
Denmark is a country known for its high levels of happiness and well-being. So it makes sense that parents would look to this Scandinavian country to learn how they can raise happy, confident, and healthy kids! This book, written by a Danish psychotherapist and an American mother (who’s married to a Dane), dives into parenting tips supported by both research and real-life examples.
Key principles of Danish parenting
There are cultural and societal factors that contribute to Denmark’s reputation as one of the happiest countries in the world, but you can still bring some of their ethos into your own home. Some of the Danish parenting principles covered in the book include:
- Promoting security, empathy, and understanding in children
- Fostering a balanced approach to play
- Celebrating family togetherness
- Emphasizing teamwork instead of power struggles
- Strengthen your child’s sense of authenticity and confidence
12. Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids
By Laura Markham
This step-by-step guide offers parents a fresh approach to raising responsible and happy kids. Drawing on the latest research on brain development and her own clinical experience with parents, Markham’s message is clear: fostering a strong emotional connection with your self-driven child can create powerful change without the need for threats, nagging, pleading, bribes, or punishments.
Strengthening the emotional connection
Strengthening your emotional connection with your child starts with understanding your own emotions and how you can self-regulate. This book will help you just do that, plus learn how to communicate mindfully, set clear boundaries, and resolve conflict peacefully.
Markham includes research, personal anecdotes, and case studies to highlight the benefits of peaceful parenting, including improved communication, reduced stress, and stronger parent-child bonds. This book is particularly helpful for parents of toddlers through elementary-age children and includes step-by-step examples as well as kid-tested phrasing.
13. Playful Parenting
By Lawrence J. Cohen
Parenting is a big job, but it doesn’t always have to be so serious! At least that’s what this book advocates, highlighting the importance of play in fostering healthy relationships with children. Cohen highlights the power of play in building emotional connections, resolving conflicts, and promoting overall child development to raise confident kids.
The point of play
Have you ever stopped to consider what the point of playing is? Cohen posits that play is children’s way of exploring the world, getting closer to people, communicating big feelings, working through stress, and blowing off steam.
Clearly, there’s more to play than just fun and games. In this book, you’ll learn strategies for integrating play into your parenting approach, including using play to communicate, problem-solve, and discipline. The book emphasizes the benefits of laughter, silliness, and playfulness in creating a positive and nurturing environment for children to thrive in, as well as for building strong and joyful parent-child relationships.
14. The Explosive Child
By Ross W. Greene
It can feel scary and isolating to try to manage a child’s big, explosive behavioral issues. That’s where this book comes in, written by the originator of the Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS) approach to the treatment and study of children with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. It’s an indispensable resource and a great read for parents whose children, like the book’s tagline says, are “easily frustrated and chronically inflexible”.
Collaborative and Proactive Solutions
According to Lives in the Balance, the nonprofit of which Greene is Founding Director, Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) is an “evidence-based model of care that helps caregivers focus on identifying the problems that are causing concerning behaviors in kids and solving those problems collaboratively and proactively”.
The book utilizes many of the foundations of CPS to offer information on:
- Understanding the challenges and behaviors of explosive children
- Techniques for identifying and addressing the underlying causes of explosive behavior
- Managing and preventing meltdowns and explosions
- Addressing issues related to inflexibility, frustration, and impulsivity
- Collaborating with other caregivers, educators, and professionals in implementing effective, age-appropriate strategies
- Using a strengths-based approach to promote positive change
- Case studies and real-life examples to illustrate the concepts and techniques
15. The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting
By Brené Brown
This two-hour audiobook serves as a powerful antidote to a culture that puts pressure on parents to be perfect and present a perfect image of their families to the world. If you’ve ever felt inadequate as a parent, you’re not alone, and reading this book can help you deal with these normal feelings that are a part of the parenting journey.
Much of Brown’s research centers around wholeheartedness, the concept of engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. This audiobook guides you on how to be a wholehearted parent, even in a world that often emphasizes perfectionism and unrealistic expectations.
Drawing from her own experiences as a mother and her extensive research on shame, vulnerability, and empathy, Brown encourages parents to embrace imperfections and foster resilience. She emphasizes the importance of vulnerability, empathy, and self-compassion in parenting, and provides practical strategies for building trust, setting boundaries, and navigating difficult conversations. She also addresses common parenting pitfalls such as comparison, shame, day-to-day struggles, and fear of failure, and offers practical tools for fostering a healthy sense of self-worth in both parents and children.
While no book can cover every aspect of your unique relationship with your child, this practical guide of the best parenting books can provide helpful resources as you navigate unfamiliar parenting terrain. So crack open whichever one speaks to you, try things out, and keep what works!