You’re going to need the best positive parenting books if you’re reading books to influence yourself to be a positive parent.
And of course there are 175,951,681,351,684,201,871,014 parenting books to choose from!
But you’re in luck. I’ve read them all. (Well, mostly!)
What are the best positive parenting books out there? Let’s take a look!
The 21 Best Positive Parenting Books
Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn is probably the positive parenting book that had the most impact on my own parenting. At the beginning of the book, Kohn talk about how almost all parenting advice starts with asking the question “How can we get kids to do what we say?” and then the advice is about how to go about getting them to do it. I saw Kohn speak once, and he asked the audience what kind of people we wanted our kids to become. We mentioned things like compassionate, creative, successful, innovative, generous, intelligent. No one mentioned anything like obedience, compliant, docile, conforming, or submissive. And yet so much parenting advice is geared simply towards getting kids to do what we say. Unconditional Parenting is the book for you if you want to shift away from authoritarian, judgmental parenting and towards a paradigm of unconditional love and support for your kids. If you want to understand the research showing the negative effects of praise and rewards, another excellent Kohn book is Punished By Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes.
The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline by L.R. Knost. If you’ve spent any time on Facebook on positive parenting or gentle parenting pages, you have probably seen quotes from L.R. Knost. She’s a mother of six and an incredible gentle soul with so much wisdom to share. She’s one of the best positive parenting proponents, and I’m so glad she has a book to add to the best positive parenting books list! Her book offers you the details of the three C’s of gentle discipline – communication, connection, and cooperation. This book is incredibly respectful towards children and supportive of parents who are trying to go a new way. She shows you how to give up punishment and build a home full of peace and love. You’ll find this book simple, easy to read, relaxing, and reassuring.
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Dr Laura Markham is a book I wholeheartedly recommend often to everyone. You can get a lot of information from Dr Markham’s website Aha! Parenting, and this book from her is an excellent addition to your parenting influences. She uses the latest research and her clinical experience to show you how to be a positive parent. Power struggles, tantrums, punishments, and never-ending conflict don’t have to be what your parenting life is all about. Instead, it can be about connection, understanding, and joy. Whatever struggles you have implementing positive parenting, you’ll find support and practical advice here. The step-by-step suggestions, examples of language to use, and tips for understanding yourself and your child will help you immediately see an improvement in the quality of your relationships with your kids. Dr Markham expertly combines the insights and research you need to make the mental shift to positive parenting with the practical how-tos that you need to make lasting change. If you have more than one child, she also has another of the best positive parenting books, Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life. If you’re dealing with sibling fights, this book let’s you help everyone find the connection they need.
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Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide by Rebecca Eanes is a comprehensive guide to creating a connection with your kids. Eanes covers working on your own emotional baggage, every different age and stage with your kids, curbing your yelling, ending power struggles, and getting out of the cycles that keep you and your child locked in conflict. Writing as a parent, not as an expert, her stories and explanations are down-to-earth and easy to read. In the forward, Dr Markham (from the previous book on this list!) says, “Positive Parenting shows parents how to remain connected while still being the leader every child needs….Say goodbye to regrets and heartache, and hello to peace and connection. Your beautiful journey begins here.” Eanes is also the author of the other best positive parenting books Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide for Putting Positive Parenting Principles into Action in Early Childhood and The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting.
The Continuum Concept: In Search Of Happiness Lost by Jean Liedloff is a quirky little book about human development written by a naive woman who went into the jungle, met with a primitive culture, and came out with a whole new understanding of childcare and Western culture. She’s talking about attachment parenting from before attachment parenting became a phrase we all knew. While I had to include this in the best positive parenting books because of how much it shaped by own experience, it may not be right for everyone. This book is most useful for people who aren’t yet parents or who have babies. However, the understandings you gain from this book can help you heal how you were parented or recover from beginning to parent in a way that didn’t work for you and your child.
Playful Parenting: An Exciting New Approach to Raising Children That Will Help You Nurture Close Connections, Solve Behavior Problems, and Encourage Confidence by Lawrence J. Cohen. It’s got a simple concept: kids need play, and this book is the primer on tuning in to play with your child. Understanding your child’s need for play and becoming a playful parent is a crucial part of reducing a lot of parenting struggles. Embracing play has transformed my ability to deal with difficult moments with my son. The sooner I let a playful attitude in my mind, the better I am at reacting to things. And the more often I engage in play with him, the better our relationship is. This book gives you all the details, tons of great games to play, and all the ways you can use play to connect with your child.
Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves by Naomi Aldort is about “transforming parent-child relationships from reaction and struggle to freedom, power and joy”. Well, that sounds good! Aldort wants to help you give up trying to control your child and instead learn to understand your child and be with them in a way that brings out their best. The book is full of real life stories, and Aldort’s “SALVE” formula is a helpful application of some NVC principles. The writing style is a repetitive, soft, and almost meditative.
Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child by Ross W. Greene PhD. I picked this one up recently and found some useful tips and ways of thinking about working with your child. Greene is the author of the highly recommended The Explosive Child, and Raising Human Beings continues his work of helping you understand your child and problem solve with them. He views the parenting relationship as one where you can work collaboratively with your child to help bring out the best in them, no matter what situation you’re starting with.
Raising Children Compassionately: Parenting the Nonviolent Communication Way by Marshall B. Rosenberg. I recommend Rosenberg’s NVC book constantly. This one is aimed specifically at parents. It’s all about creating a relationship that cuts through the conflict to find empathy, compassion, connection, common ground, understanding, and an authentic love that can freely flow between you. NVC is a core component of my own parenting. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without it. I “use” it every day, but it isn’t just a technique. It has truly enabled me to connect with my son in situations where that would normally be difficult. Nonviolent Communication is completely transformative. I recommend it to absolutely every parent.
Peaceful Parenting: 10 Essential Principles by Marianne Clyde is a simple, gentle guide through 10 ideas that will help your family be more respectful to one another and a more peaceful place for everyone to exist together. Marianne Clyde is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and she brings her experience with her own kids and grandkids with her into this book. It’s not a collection of techniques, but is nonetheless a step-by-step process you can go through to understand yourself and your children better. You will learn how to make your home a safe place for your child, learn how to face conflict with confidence, learn to understand what’s behind your child’s behavior, and learn to see them positively. When you’re striving for positive parenting, this book helps you make the paradigm shifts you need for lasting peace.
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne is about the ways that modern life sometimes aren’t supportive of what children really need. This book walks you through cutting down on the clutter of life – toys, books, clutter, busyness, tight schedules, media, and parental involvement. It’s based on a Waldorf education style and guides you through developing rhythms and rituals that will support calm and confidence. I don’t agree with everything in this book (I don’t limit access to “screen time”, for example.) But, I think many parents will be reassured and helped by the suggestions in this book to soothe the pace of their lives. One reviewer said the book “has made me a calmer, happier, yet more effective and aware parent,” and that’s exactly what the best positive parenting books do!
The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman. This one might seem an odd choice for a list of best positive parenting books, but expressing love to your child is a bedrock of positive parenting. It’s important not just that you express love but that your child receives the message. This book helps you make sure that’s happening. The idea behind love languages is that everyone has a different way they prefer to give and receive love. For example, some people really appreciate words of affirmation and some people are more into acts of service. If you and a loved one have different love languages, it’s possible to accidentally talk past each other when trying to express your love. Chapman’s books help you sort out discovering your own language and that of your loved ones. This books is specifically about doing that work with your kids. This books will help you understand your child’s love language and be able to communicate love and other positive feelings to them in a way they can deeply receive.
The Happiest Toddler on the Block: How to Eliminate Tantrums and Raise a Patient, Respectful, and Cooperative One- to Four-Year-Old by Harvey Karp. I’ll admit, this book isn’t my favorite. I don’t love Karp’s style. He’s overly simplistic and doesn’t use respectful language towards kids. However, I’ve included it on the best positve parenting books list because it’s a very popular, mainstream book that has introduced many parents to one very important idea. That idea is that little kids communicate differently from adults, and it takes a different kind of communication from you if you want to connect and empathize. I think of it as “NVC for toddlers”. You can read Nonviolent Communication (NVC) to understand the ends and outs of sharing empathy. Then if you need help translating empathy into toddler-ese, The Happiest Toddler on the Block is what you need. There are lots of examples of just how to go about reflecting a toddler’s emotions back to them. Other techniques in this book may not align with my positive parenting ideals, but the book can be worth it if it helps you empathize with your toddler.
Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka is about applying positive parenting with kids who are strong-willed, “difficult”, sensitive, intense, and energetic. A bit of a spoiler here: spirited kids need the same connection taught in the other best positive parenting books; they just take more time, energy, and investment from you. That can be tough to hear. This book lets you hear it from someone who understands what you’re going through and can help you break it down. Why does your child act that way? What can you do to prevent meltdowns? How can you cope when you’re at the end of your rope? This books understands you, your child, and your situation. There are tips about how to keep your cool, manage meltdowns, talk about emotions, positive discipline tips, and ideas for helping your child be more flexible. One reviewer said: “I reluctantly started reading this book after a very bad weekend with my daughter. I had read several books before but I was desperate to find a way to communicate to my daughter that worked for her and me. I was immediately in tears. It was as if they had written this book specificatlly about her. I felt less like a failure. I realized that many mommies of spirited children feel like me and probably don’t talk about it. I realized that I needed to change my attitude if I wanted to be a better parent to my daughter. I can’t give this book a more positive review. It has forever changed my relationship with my daughter!!!!!!!”
Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers by Marcy Axness is written from a Waldorf education perspective and will work for parents seeking a more spiritual approach to parenting. Parenting for Peace offers seven principles for raising kids to be inclined towards peace and overviews supportive scientific research. The book is very long. You might not want to read it all in one go, but rather view it as a reference book or companion book that you’ll pick up here and there over time. Axness pulls together her own parenting and counseling experiences and also knowledge from psychology, theology, neuroscience, the early human development field. She covers such topics as the quality of time spent with your kids, how kids react under stress, how they build their sense of identity, and how to build cooperation and connection. Peggy O’Mara from Mothering said this about the book: “Dr. Axness has distilled compelling evidence from the fields of attachment parenting, preconception, and consciousness research into a readable, inspiring and hopeful book about what we really want to do as parents: raise peaceful people. Parenting For Peace gives us a roadmap.”
Which of these books have you read? Which ones are on your reading list next? What would you add to the list of best positive parenting books?