So, as anyone who knows me in real life will tell you I’m a reader. If there’s a topic I’m interested in, I’ve probably read about it. When I found out I was pregnant with Daniel, 5 years ago, I felt completely out of my depth. I wasn’t maternal. I didn’t like babies. I felt clueless. And so I did what I do best and went to Waterstones and bought 5 books on parenting and pregnancy.
I think all those books are now in charity shops in East Belfast. It turns out I may not be maternal but parenting came so naturally to me, I didn’t need a book to tell me when to breastfeed, or how to wean, or that boys are slower to talk than girls (try having a boy with Down Syndrome).
But when Daniel was little my thoughts went to more general parenting topics – how would we bring our children up to know and love God, how would we discipline and guide them, how scheduled would their lives be, how would we ensure that we communicated well with them and them with us as they grew up… And so I bought book after book. The photo doesn’t even accurately portray my collection as on my Kindle there are double figures of parenting books and I’ve hired some from the library too. And I’ve left out most of the secular parenting books, plus have a few in a bag somewhere I’ve misplaced…
This is a little book review slot of my favourite four books on parenting, four and a half years in. I know it’s a very touchy subject for some, but this is in no way a criticism of how you parent. With prayer, reading the Bible, careful consideration and reading trusted authors, we as a family have decided to parent in a gentle manner. We are far from perfect as parents, but these books have shaped our approach and attitude to the scariest job I’ve ever had.
The books that helped me most in thinking about how God calls us to parent.
(links are affiliate links to the paperback version - if you've a Kindle, often the Kindle price is much cheaper than the paperback!)
The Five Love Languages
This book was one we read when we were newly married. I know lots of people already have it and also swear by it, but I genuinely believe this saved our marriage before it ever got into trouble. I am Words of Affirmation and Colin is Physical Touch. I am not a fan of cuddling on the sofa, or hugs. I like my personal space! Colin isn’t particularly precious about words. If I had continued to go down the path of rejecting a simple hug, or Colin had decided to use harsh words when we were having an argument, I can see how it would have caused big problems. So I’m very thankful we read it when we did.
But, this book extends beyond loving your partner. There are now other books in the series about the love languages for your children.
The principle remains the same though, identify what your kids’ love languages are, and use them wisely for both how to show them love and how NOT to discipline them. When we use different love languages to express love to our children, friends, partner, family it can cause real problems.
We find it really interesting that both our boys are showing signs of our love languages – probably because that’s how we instinctively show love to them. They both respond really well to physical touch, cuddles, being carried in slings, kisses, Rory in particular. Daniel loves words of affirmation and increasingly as he gets older, quality time, as he wants us to sit down and play with him properly.
Jesus, the Gentle Parent
As a Christian, I have found most Christian parenting books do not tie with the way we believe we are being called to parent our children as they condone punishment, particularly physical punishment. I actually didn’t realise how prevalent this view still was until I started to read encouragingly titled books about parenting and grace and the gospel and yet when it came to discipline, punishment techniques like isolation or smacking were suggested.
This books looks at perfect parenting – that demonstrated by God - and recognises how we as parents have failed and will fail again, failures which the author says “remind me to turn to my perfect Parent, God, and trust Him with my children. And my failures offer me the opportunity to be transparent with my children, to ask for forgiveness…in short, my imperfections are perfect for demonstrating God’s unconditional love”.
I really love how this book looks at how we live (we need to practice what we preach!), giving grace, parenting through the fruit of the Spirit, building a deep connection with our children and encouraging discipline. It has useful areas looking at the Hebrew and Greek words and how they were translated in various translations of the Bible. It also has really helpful practical ways to address toddler tantrums for anyone at that stage!
The only ‘non-Christian’ book on the list, this book is a fabulously wise look at how less – less toys, less books, less scheduled activities, less media input – for our children will help them be calmer, more secure and happier.
I recommend this book to anyone who will listen and have had conversations with three different mums in the last week who’ve read it, two on my recommendation, and all have loved it. I re-read it every time I feel our home is getting a little out of control and you can bet Colin and I have started having conversations in front of the boys that should be saved for when they’re in bed (stressful work or family discussions, discussions about negative world news), I’ve scheduled too many activities or the recent birthday or Christmas has added too many toys to their play environment.
My favourite week of parenting ever was in November when Daniel had a bad infection following hand, foot and mouth. He was off school for a week but was in great form with it and we spent a week with the gentle rhythms of reading, playing, puzzles, snack time, cooking and it was so enjoyable not having to get up and go anywhere. It felt like a very simple week. And it was great!
We have limited the boys’ toys from the start but it’s amazing how you still end up with plastic battery operated toys! Books is the one area I struggle to minimise and they do read better when I remove most of them from the book shelf. Maybe a clear out of books is needed!
The Life Giving Home
This book is written by a mother talking about how to create a lifegiving home and her daughter writing about being raised in it. It looks at how to create a home where a family flourishes and belongs with lots of practical tips and suggestions. It looks at the importance of play, stories, family days, rhythms, music, faith, a long list of wonderful chapters of inspiration.
I've adopted so many ideas from this book, including a wonderful anchor in our day - which I've previously written about - when we light a candle and have a family devotional time.
It's incredible the power of slowing down, having anchors in our days and family traditions. I've read a few of Sally's books and she sounds like just the kind of older woman you'd love to sit down and have a cuppa with and learn from her wisdom!
So there we have it, my whistle-stop top four books for parenting. I hope that it encourages some of you to read some books - even if they're different to the kind of parenting book you normally read. Books that made me think about the importance of keeping our children's lives simple, full of love and gentle discipline, showing them love the way they need and having gentle rhythms and traditions that make your home yours!
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