People often tell me, “You’re a therapist. Parenting must be so easy for you!” But that’s not exactly true; it’s much easier to be a good therapist than it is to be a good parent.
My husband and I became parents nearly 12 years ago. So far, it’s been the most challenging (yet also rewarding) experience of my life. Like all parents, we’re doing the best we can to make sure our son Max grows up to be strong, confident and successful.
In the past few years, I must have plowed through more than 50 parenting books. Some I enjoyed, some I found useless. But a select few actually changed me. Since my parent patients are always asking for book recommendations, here are the top that have helped me become a better mother:
1. ‘Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting’
By Laura Markham
Laura Markman is a psychologist and the creator of popular parenting website AhaParenting.com. Her book emphasizes the importance of fostering an emotional connection with your child. When you have that vital connection, she says, there’s no need to threaten, nag, plead, bribe — or even punish.
As a toddler, Max was different from most kids. He didn’t eat solid foods until he was nine months old and refused to start potty training until he was almost four. Listening to my mommy friends talk about their kids’ milestones made me feel like a complete failure.
But Dr. Markman’s advice released me from my shame and reminded me that being a good parent has nothing to do with what other kids are or aren’t doing. It’s about nurturing an emotional connection with your kid and celebrating the things that make them unique.
2. ‘Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead’
By Brené Brown
“Daring Greatly” is based on Brené Brown’s research about vulnerability, something that most view as a weakness. But when we avoid vulnerability, we actually distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.
What I love about this book is that you don’t need to be a parent to benefit from it. A powerful question Brown asks is, “Are you the adult that you want your child to grow up to be?” If you don’t have kids yet or don’t plan to at all, it’s important to realize that who you are as a person greatly influences the people — friends, family, colleagues — around you.
Brown also offers this great reminder to parents: “Raising children who are hopeful and who have the courage to be vulnerable means stepping back and letting them experience disappointment, deal with conflict, learn how to assert themselves, and have the opportunity to fail.”
3. ‘How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results’
By Esther Wojcicki
If there’s one person who knows good parenting, it’s Esther Wojcicki — mother of three super successful daughters: YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki and UCSF doctor and researcher Janet Wojcicki.
“How to Raise Successful People” isn’t your typical instructional parenting manual. It combines proven research and personal stories from Wojcicki’s own experience as a mother. (If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading her piece for CNBC Make It on the biggest mistake parents make.)
Wojcicki’s advice to parents is actually quite simple: Relax. The “parenting anxiety” epidemic has gotten worse over the years, and it’s not doing our kids any good. More importantly, she shares her secret to raising successful people: “T.R.I.C.K.,” which stands for trust, respect, independence, collaboration and kindness.
These are the best parent and child books for guidance.