You could say I’m a tad “bookish”. I would pretty much always rather be reading. When some people complain about jury duty or some other (child-free) waiting room experience, I seriously cannot compute – all I hear is “quality reading time”. When life throws me a curveball, my knee-jerk reaction is to read about it.
One area in my life in which books has played a more complicated role, however, is in parenting. When I was pregnant with our oldest, Truman – and even when he was a baby – I read parenting books constantly. I was addicted to learning as much as possible about this new role I was to play, and I let the tips and strategies I read about fuel my ideals. Knowledge felt like power, and it gave me a sense of control (albeit a false one) in a time of unknowns.
But then… Truman grew. We had more kids. They grew. They were all different. What worked for one kid was actually detrimental to another. It was disorienting to me. My black-and-white brain would often have thoughts that began with, “But the book said…!” So as time went on and my ideals began to relax and adapt for each child, I began to rely less and less on books (other than, you know, this one) as I parented.
The sheer number of parenting books published is enough to make one dizzy at best, and distrustful at worst. As I mentioned, I rarely read them anymore. However, I’m 7.5 years into this game, and there are a handful of books that have had a lasting impact on the way I parent, and I wanted to share those with you!
- Mindset by Carol Dweck, PhD: The main premise of this book is that there are two mindsets one can have – fixed and growth, with the latter leading to more contentment and success throughout life. While the book is targeted largely toward industry and organizational leaders, so much of what is discussed applies to educators and parents. This book has literally changed the way I speak to my sons. While something like, “Wow, you’re so smart!” may be on the tip of my tongue, I now rephrase to something along the lines of, “Wow, you thought so carefully about that!” See the difference?
- Devoted by Tim Challies: Part biography, part devotional, this book features the lives and love of mothers of great men of the faith (think Augustine, Spurgeon, Piper). My main take-away from Devoted was the mothers’ commitment to prayer. Most (if not all) of the men these moms were raising had seasons of doubt, some flat-out rebellion. These women loved their sons with open hands during these times, trusting God with their wandering and being faithful in prayer all the while.
- Different by Sally Clarkson & Nathan Clarkson: The subtitle for this book reads “The Story of an Out-of-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him”. Nathan and Sally interweave their stories and perspectives in a way that is beautiful and gripping. As a mother of what could be described as a very “out-of-the-box” kid, I so sympathized with Sally’s feelings of confusion and anxiety when traditional parenting strategies failed to bear fruit with her son (and also her marvel of her very special boy). This book released me from a lot of false expectations and requirements I’d hung around my neck, taught me to be adaptable in how I approach each of my unique children, and instilled the importance of being my kids’ biggest cheerleader and safest haven.
- Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full by Gloria Furman: If Gloria writes it, I read it. This author is just brimming with biblical wisdom, compassionate counsel, and beautiful language. The subtitle (Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms), in my opinion, does not do the weight of this book justice. I read this on my kindle in the middle of the night in 2014 as I nursed Coen, our second born. His arrival really turned my world upside down (the transition from 1 – 2 kids was way harder on me than 0 – 1, even more than 2 – 3), and I was basically having an existential crisis. This book acknowledged the war I felt like I was waging in my heart, and gave me the perspective and tools I needed to run hard after Christ in that crazy season.
- The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie: If you aren’t subscribed to Sarah’s podcast, The Read Aloud Revival, stop reading this and do it. I’ll wait. Using her personal experience (as a mother of 6!) as well as tons of evidence-based research, this book will fire you up to read to your children constantly. From setting them up for academic success to building family traditions to instilling compassion and empathy in your kids, the benefits of reading aloud are endless. My very favorite parenting “hack” came from this book. Plus, Sarah includes AMAZING book lists for every age in the back, which are worth the cost of the book alone.
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Yes, you read that right. And yes, you’d be correct in remembering that I am raising only little men. But Marmee (the mother of these little women) is my hero, and we’re given insight into her motives, thoughts, wishes, and anxieties as she raises these exceptional humans. Reading this novel reminded me of the importance of creative, imaginative play; sharing your weaknesses with your children as a means of instruction; and, almost above all else, the magic of the outdoors. Consider this my proof that reading fiction has real, tangible value in our lives and is worth. your. time.
What about you? What books have impacted the way you love your littles? I hope if nothing else this little list gave you freedom to put the parenting books down for a bit if you’re feeling at all discouraged or overwhelmed as you read them. Wisdom is wisdom and will always fight its way through.