I am far from a "parenting expert". In fact, I am just the opposite. I literally know NOTHING about being a good parent. Yes - I admit it. The only thing I do know is that there are tons of other parents out there who have "been there", and lots of research to support the need for more "gentle" parenting in our world. As a parent of a young baby, it is hard for me to find time to take a shower - let alone read a book! However, if you are looking for support for what your instincts are trying to tell you, or inspiration as to how you can be a more gentle parent, any of these gentle parenting books are a great place to start.
Parenting at the end of the day is all about doing what is right for your family, and what is best for your child. For me, making decisions about my family is easier with science and clinical experience on my side. "Gentle Parenting" for most people ends up being a combination of a number of different parenting styles. For me, it falls somewhere in between RIE and Attachment Parenting - but it certainly changes with circumstance, and grows with time and experience. Do your best to educate yourself about child psychology and development, learn the science and understand the clinical evidence, and make YOUR OWN decision about what is right for your family from there! Each of the following authors offers a unique perspective. Take what you like from each of them, and leave the rest. The only expert on your child is YOU!
Ten Gentle Parenting Books That Might Change your Perspective - Part 1
Pretty much anything by L.R. Knost is great. Including two of my favorites: Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages - which is simply an introduction to Gentle Parenting and and it's application to all stages of childhood - and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting, which has a Christian focus. Jesus the Gentle Parent gives an amazing perspective on traditional "Christian" parenting strategies that are often punitive and harsh. She explains that intuitively, this is contrary to everything Jesus taught us, and she encourages us to love our children just as He loved us - empathetically, compassionately, and unconditionally.
The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley. This book is a must have for any parent hoping to encourage healthy sleep habits without resorting to Cry-it-Out methods or other forms of sleep training. I absolutely loved this book, it changed how we look at night-time parenting completely.
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. This book is based on current scientific research and clinical evidence on on brain development. Dr. Laura Markham encourages parents to start building emotional connections with their children to encourage them to WANT to behave, rather than scaring them into compliance or breaking their will. When you have a connection, you don’t need to threaten, bribe, or punish. This book is great because while she often uses science to support her claims, she also offers reasonable suggestions and alternatives to our current patterns. Dr. Laura Markham is also the created of AhaParenting.com.
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. This book is a really great look into the psychological basis of why we do what we do, as children and as adults. It offers really great ways to understand the basis of our human behavior and how it impacts our relationships. This book is a great way to help parents to understand how the brain works, and to help them better understand why we do what we do - and how experiences as children impact us as adults. It also offers helpful suggestions as to how we can deal with specific situations, and how we can also help children understand their own big emotions.
No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson is great compliment to The Whole-Brain Child. It offers the same "whole-brain" approach to positive and effective discipline. This book helps us to better understand the connection between how a parent reacts to a child's behavior can impact their neurological development.
Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason. This is really not just a book about discipline. This book helps us to really take a look at how we think about , feel about, and act with our children. It questions how we approach many commonly accepted practices such as praise, rewards, and punishment that lead our children to believe they must earn our approval and love.
Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting or No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury are both great books based on the RIE parenting perspective. RIE parenting focuses on mutual respect and a emotional connection between parent and child. Allowing children to have self-directed playtime, allowing babies to actively participate in daily activities, and allowing children to express their emotions openly by empathetically responding to them. "RIE helps adults raise children who are competent, confident, curious, attentive, exploring, cooperative, secure, peaceful, focused, self-initiating, resourceful, involved, inner-directed, aware and interested". I especially appreciate her perspective on shame-free discipline, respectful boundaries, and her advice on how to encourage without over-praising children (learning to praise effort and hard work, versus over inflated praise for their "abilities" or lack-there-of).
Attached at the Heart: Eight Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children is an awesome book that focuses on the scientific research supporting the need for securely attached relationships with our children. This book does have a strong "Attachment Parenting" focus, which I appreciated. I recommend it for the extensive scientific research supporting instinctual, gentle parenting strategies that lead to securely attached parent-child relationships. As with RIE, there are some great things about Attachment Parenting, but also some things that simply would not work for our family. I truly appreciate this book because it lays out all the facts, gives helpful suggestions, and encouragement without forcing a set of "rules" to follow. It is a great way to gain an understanding of the science that Attachment Parenting strategies are based on. This book helps to expand on the respectful parenting strategies of RIE and encourages the importance of skin-to-skin touch in a baby's development, explains the concept of the "fourth trimester", and why babies cry for communication, not manipulation.
Thanks for reading!