Read and study together, parent book club picks

Communication Jeunesse, a poster for their youngest readers club.
Manon Gauthier, artist/illustrator

I read parenting books with the parents of my students to open my mind and heart. I'm interested in exploring and examining personal behaviors as a way to help myself and others—especially children. 

Interested in starting a parenting book club? I wrote about that here.

Below is a short list of books I've read and studied with parents. Some books offer strategies for relating, while others offer encouragement to examine your life and childhood.

Your Child's Self-Esteem 
by Dorothy Briggs

I read this book in the early 90s with a family therapist and a group of parents. It inspires and invites reflection about upbringing as a way to understand our responses to our kids' behaviors. I began to focus more on being the change I wanted to see in my children. This opened my eyes to a helpful idea that contributes to me being the best parent possible: heal my childhood wounds as best as I can, and be open to personal habits and patterns that affect how I respond to others today.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Adele and Elaine were parents in Haim Ginott's parent group. Years later they started their own book study group. This book is about their book club insights, the principles they learned, and what happened when they tried to apply them with their children. A classic. 

How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk
by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

A how-to talk and listen book for the teen years. Same philosophy with tweaked language more appropriate for tweens and teens. The cartoon drawings make practicing the principles easier to understand. And they're funny! It helps to laugh at myself when I mess up and feel less-than-confident heading back into a teen situation to try again.

Liberated Parents, Liberated Children: Your Guide to a Happier Family
by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Faber and Mazlish, in all their books, offer ideas about how to work with kid situations through the stories they tell from their parent study groups led by Haim Ginott, and later when they began their own study group. I have my own study group memories, like when a mom quietly cries when she reads out loud, this excerpt from the book: "The question now," Dr. Ginott said, "is how can we help a child change from undependable to dependable, from a mediocre student to a capable student, from someone who won't amount to very much to someone who will count for something. The answer is both simple and complicated: We treat the child as if he already is what we would like him to become (69)."

Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child The Heart of Parenting
by John Gottman

Gottman dedicated his book to Haim Ginott, an author whose books we've read together in our study group. I turned down the corner edge on page 124 and  highlighted these words: 

"...the rewards of parenting come from being attentive to our children's feelings. It is impossible to accept and validate a child's emotion at the same time you wish it would just go away." 

What he's saying is that acceptance and validation come from empathy, that is, being able to feel what your child is feeling in the moment. Stepping into your child's shoes, so to speak. An ability to empathize starts with self-reflection and self-discovery. Which leads to the next book.

When Things Fall Apart
by Pema Chodron

This book is significant to my life. Pema encourages us to work with our fears and difficulties as a way to offer ourselves to others. Children, especially our own kids, bring us face-to-face with these difficulties, the realities of life, including fear, anger, disappointment, despair, and feelings that we are not in control—therefore making our children amazing teachers.

Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime
by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

Things aren't always peachy. I know it, and so do others. Author Mary uses real-life experiences that encourage honesty and willingness to look at the root of power struggles. When we finished reading this book in an Ohio book study group, a parent asked, "Can we read it again?" I also remember not knowing whether I wanted to laugh or cry when I saw that Chapter 4 began with this quote, "I had this fantasy that my child and I would walk hand in hand across the park. Little did I know that when he got mad, he would spit on me...."

Redirecting Children's Behavior
by Kathryn Kvols

An easy-to-read book. She begins her book encouraging us to start with ourselves (the first chapter, "Take Care of Yourself"). The common developmental behaviors listed by age in the back of the book help me see the ways kids annoyingly go about getting their needs met. Chapter 6, "Why Do Children Misbehave" (they are communicating a need), reminds me to examine how I respond to a child and that the examination process usually works best if I pause before responding. I'm certified as an RCB instructor (trained by author Kvols) and have read this book with hundreds of parents. As part of the training, I practiced recreating child/adult scenarios where it's easy for observers of these role-plays to both see and feel the dynamics of relating.

Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow
by Elizabeth Lessner

Elizabeth Lessner is a co-founder of Omega Institute. This is her memoir about raising her children during a divorce and personal awakening. The chapter "We're all Bozos on the Bus" reminds me that we're all doing the best we can in this parenting journey. At the end of the book, Lessner lists helpful practices. The first one is meditation. 

Positive Discipline
by Jane Nelsen

Jane Nelsen writes for toddlers, teens, teachers, and families. She offers teacher and parent training to share her books and principles. She's a mom of 7 kids, a psychologist, and a teacher. Look for a wealth of resources on her website. Visit her Facebook page.