Books on parenting

March 13, 2009

I understand that in the beginning parenting will mostly consist of fairly rudimentary tasks — feeding, watering, cleaning, and bouncing — but nonetheless I am starting to think about what lies a little further down the road. I know that the responsibilities will eventually be more demanding and more complex, and recently I have been stupified at the thought of just how solemn the mantle of fatherhood is.  I must be to our child what my father was to me.  I had a superb father (and an equally good mother), and I wonder if I am equal to the task.  When I was young I always imagined that by the time I was a father I would be wise.  I’m running out of time.

I am wise enough to know that one does not become wise by reading a book.  Yet I also know that reading good books can do some good.  I am looking for recommendations for good books about parenthood, and especially about the particular forms of parenthood called motherhood and fatherhood.  It doesn’t matter what sort of book — practical guides, memoirs, novels, essays, theological studies.  I’d like to know of anything that you found worthwhile.

Many thanks.

16 Responses to “Books on parenting”

  1. Sandra Says:

    I would normally never recommend a parenting book, because too many people look at them as the “bible” and without exception. I’ve never read one in my life, and raised four healthy children, because I believe instinct is your best expert.

    That being said, if I were to get or give a book, it would be anything by Dr. Sears. His “attachment parenting” methods are the most loving, healthy, natural way to raise children there is.

    Yup. Dr. Sears.

  2. Christina A. Says:

    I think we all run out of time before we really become the wise people we thought we would be by now! (Whenever “now” happens to be.)

    This is why hope is in the after-life.

    Until then, don’t sweat it, you’re going to be great!

    Sorry I don’t know of any books to reccomend. I’m equally clueless when it comes to this stuff.

  3. Janet Says:

    Here is my best piece of advice.

    Never take advice about parenting about anyone whose children have not passed their teens. Of course, after that, people are not so ready to offer advice.

    Elisabeth Elliot has a book called “The Shaping of A Christian Family.” It’s not really a book of advice, it’s just the story of her family, who I found to be very worthy of emulation, although I fall far short of the goal myself.

    AMDG, Janet

  4. KathyB Says:

    Ha! Parenting books! I have often thought of starting a blog whose sole purpose is to review them. I have read many.

    I agree with Janet’s advice not to listen to anyone whose children are not grown up yet. Which is why I also second the recommendation for any books by Dr. Sears, since he has 8 kids, including one down’s baby.

    The most fun thing about parenting books is what I call the “dire warning factor”. I have yet to find a parenting book that does NOT tell you explicitly that your child will turn out to be either a depressive, maladjusted sociopath, or a sleep-deprived idiot with ADD, if you do not follow the author’s method of child-rearing.

  5. Pentimento Says:

    I agree about Dr. Sears. He is an evangelical Protestant and the father of eight, and as a matter of fact his book “The Attachment Parenting Book” is also published under the title “The Handbook of Christian Parenting.” He meant it to be an antidote to the “to train up a child” school of Christian parenting. He also has a good book, published by La Leche League, called “Becoming a Father.” (I used to belong to an Attachment Parenting group in NYC, who out-Sears’ed Dr. Sears — but they were absolutely repelled by his Christianity . . . )

    I personally love Penelope Leach’s book “Your Baby and Child.” It’s the British bible of childrearing, and free from a lot of the anxiety that pervades American parenting how-tos. There are a number of Catholic books too — A Mother’s Rule of Life by Canadian mum Holly Pierlot might be one your wife would like.

  6. cburrell Says:

    Thank you, everyone, for these suggestions. We’re going to raid a few local bookstores this afternoon and see what we can turn up. More suggestions are welcome.

  7. Mark Says:

    One name that’s big in Catholic circles here in the States is Dr. Ray Guarendi (

    He has 10 children (yes, some are teens and even in college by now), I believe all adopted. He takes a very common sense, instinct based approach to parenting. He’s parenting methods come across as a “tough love” type of parenting, which means some don’t care for him. But you can’t say his approach doesn’t work. As he says, most parents really do mean well, but in the end they are no where near tough enough; so of course the children run all over them.

    He is a clinical psychologist and has focused on families and parenting for much of his career, from what I understand. And he has a very good sense of humor, which helps. He also generally hates these parenting books, because in his years of clinical practice, he says he’s seen those methods fail time and time again.

    Well, that’s enough. You can check out the website or listen to his radio show to get a good idea of where he is coming from.

    Just another name I thought I’d throw out there for ya….

  8. cburrell Says:

    Thanks, Mark and Adam. Much appreciated.

    I am a little disturbed to discover that the “Possibly related posts” which WordPress has attached to this one include my Book Note on Dracula. What, exactly, is the connection?

  9. I echo Janet’s advice. I also think common sense is very important. I distrust anyone’s revolutionary system, especially those that suggest that no one who came before really had much of a clue and/or think human nature is determined by social conditioning and is at least potentially perfectible.

    In that connection I always remember a conversation with a co-worker when we were expecting our first. He had no children but he had some pretty definite ideas, including the “fact” that if you made sure children always had access to fruit, they would get all the sugar their bodies needed and would have no interest in candy, cookies, etc.

  10. Michael Says:

    I’m surprised there are no dissenting voices against ‘attachment parenting’. I can’t claim any experience of my own, alas, but several of my closest friends with young children strongly endorse the book “Baby-Wise” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam. It is probably the leading alternative to attachment parenting, emphasizing scheduling (while remaining flexible) and claiming to have the secret for getting your baby to sleep through night. The method tends to get vilified by the attachment parenters as being too rigid, so I hear, though the baby wisers also tend to vilify attachment parenting as being too soft.

  11. cburrell Says:

    I didn’t say clearly enough in my original post that I’m not really interested in “systems” or “techniques” for raising kids. (Although is somebody knows a good way to get an infant to sleep through the night, I’m all ears.) I expect that those of you who say to rely on instinct are on the right path. But even instinct can be educated, and my interest is in books that reflect on the meaning of parenthood (and specifically of fatherhood and motherhood), on family, on childhood — that sort of thing.

    Although I appreciate all of these comments and suggestions, the palm at this point goes to Adam. He hit the nail on the head.

  12. Sandra Says:

    My conscience would not let me ignore a previous post. Before reading BabyWise, please check out Experts and pediatricians worldwide highly advise to stay away from the borderline abusive and neglectful recommendations that this man advocates in his books. Ignoring a child’s needs does get him to stop crying, but only because he realizes no one cares. Rigidly scheduling children causes failure to thrive and illnessess. Just check out the site. Dr. Sears advocates natural, nurturing, common sense parenting all while loving your child.

    Good luck in your quest.

  13. KathyB Says:

    I was unaware of Dr. Sears’ background until I read Pentimento’s comment, but I have a feeling that “Babywise” is probably the book that Dr. Sears was trying to provide an antidote for. “Babywise” also has an alternate title, “Growing Kids God’s Way”.

    It’s kind of sad, but I actually do not know of many popular parenting books that are more philosophical musings than how-to manuals.

    Craig, I hate to break it to you, but most infants are simply not physiologically ready to sleep through the night until they are about 6 months old, some even longer. My sister-in-law lucked out with a little guy that slept through at 7 weeks, but I wouldn’t bank on this. Statistics show that a majority of toddlers still wake at least once.

    Here’s a possibility for Althea:
    “What Mothers Do (Especially when it looks like Nothing)” Naomi Stadlen

  14. MamasBoy Says:

    My wife liked the Spears’ books on attachment parenting. I haven’t read them myself. This wasn’t how my wife and I were raised, but we’ve found the anthropological argument for such practices strong incentive to at least try them. It turned that we found such practices as cosleeping to be very helpful to us both obtaining a good night’s sleep and keeping the baby fed, especially in the early months. We have also picked up lots of tips in John and Sheila Kippley’s books on marriage, NFP and “ecological breastfeeding.” They aren’t parenting advice books per se, but they have ideas here and there that we’ve found to be helpful in parenting our young children.

    Whatever you read, I would encourage you to keep an open mind and do what’s best for your own family, not someone else’s.


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