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Good Idea: Parenting Books Cliff Notes Swap

The books pictured above have been taking up residence on my nightstand for as long as I can remember, and I haven’t gotten past the first chapter on any of them.  I have a 3 year old and a 19 month old, I just don’t have time in my life to crack open a book (and the 7th grade bookworm version of me just died a little with that sentence).  So there they sit, mocking me each night before I turn off the light.  I’m confident they’re filled with the secrets to totally nailing this parenting thing, if I only I could squeeze in a few hours to read them.


I really thought there was no solution to this problem until I opened up my email one morning and an answer was unceremoniously offered up to me.  A friend of a friend had the clever idea to start a parenting book club – on steroids.  Instead of meeting up regularly to talk about a single book (which none of us had time for), we’d all pick a book, read it and take notes, and then share those notes with the others via email. Cliff notes parenting – why didn’t I think of that?


As with the use of actual Cliff notes, you’re obviously going to miss some of the nuances digesting parenting info. in this way.  But it’s a hell of a lot better than not reading the stuff at all.  So what did I do with this email seemingly sent form the heavens to answer my prayers?  I closed it, forgot about it, and completely missed the boat for the book club.  What can I say?  Sometimes, despite my best intentions, I just can’t get it together no matter how easy someone makes it.


But if I ever get a second opportunity, you can bet I’m joining in.  Which is why I thought I’d write a little post about it today.  Do you know a few parents who’d be willing to undertake something like this?  Why not send out an email and see if you can set the wheels in motion?  (If you do, I wouldn’t be at all upset if your forwarded your notes on to me when you’re done.)  Below are five reads at the top of my book report wish-list.


  1. 15 minutes Outside – It seems every spring since having kids I make a vow to spend more time outdoors with them.  From what I’ve heard, this book is full of ideas for getting families outside and I like the attainable goal of starting with just 15 minutes a day.
  2. Siblings Without Rivalry – I first checked this out from the library on my pediatrician’s advice when I was pregnant with S.  Then I had S and promptly forgot about it until it was mentioned again by a teacher at her toddler group.  Considering that the longest relationship my children will have will be with each other, perusing a book or two on how not to ruin it as their parent seems worthwhile.
  3. Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child – If you’re a regular reader here than you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m a big proponent of emotional coaching.  Despite learning about it from early childhood educators and attending presentations on the topic, I’ve still yet to read the book on it.
  4. The Five Love Languages of Children – I think the premise of this one is fascinating, that kids have specific love languages they’re most receptive to and that you can actually figure out which one works best for yours.
  5. Raising Confident Boys – Honestly I don’t know anything about this one but I keep seeing it on the shelf of our toddler group library (which is generally a good endorsement) and I find it so intriguing.  There’s a lot being said these days about self-esteem and self-worth for girls but I rarely hear mention of the topic specifically related to boys.
That’s my five, anyone want to volunteer to read them and send over the highlights?  Or, better yet, anyone read one and want to summarize the high points in the comments below?  Also, I’m curious, if you were to start your own parenting cliff notes swap, what books would be on the top of your list?


P.S. My friend Amanda is currently hosting a read-along of the book Mind in the Making over on her blog.  It’s not quite a cheat sheet for the book but it’s close and, as always, she has lots of insightful info. to share.  She only hit chapter two yesterday so you still have lots of time to catch up and join in.


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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth March 8, 2012 at 7:30 am

Some of those books are sitting on my bookshelf unread, or on my amazon wish list of “someday” books. I did read Nurtureshock, and thought it was great, you should add it to your pile and/or Cliff Notes list.


Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com March 8, 2012 at 7:44 am

That’s one of the few I’ve actually read! I really liked how it was basically a bunch of mini parenting books packed into one. Here’s my proof I actually DID read it 😉



Maggie March 17, 2012 at 2:11 am

I’ve just read it too and loved it. I would also add how to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk and Punished by Reward.


Deb @ home life simplified March 8, 2012 at 8:48 am

Siblings without rivalry is a fast read and worth it – I read it when pregnant with #2 (simply because the library had that one and not their book “how to talk…”) – so glad I did as it shaped my parenting approach and we have very limited rivalry, kids help each other and act as a team (super short cliff notes would be :don’t divide them, but rather unite them even if it is them vs. parents; don’t compare them in an effort to motivate as it does the opposite, don’t lock them into roles (ie smart one, sporty one)


Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com March 9, 2012 at 5:01 am

Thanks for the info.!


Lovebird March 8, 2012 at 1:54 pm

I LOVE this read along idea! I’m doing the Mind in the Making one already. Not only have I wanted – but not managed – to form an actual book group since having a sweet son, but I adore the idea of a virtual reading group. And…sharing notes? Brilliant! I’ll pick up the Confidant Boys one. If I get through it in a timely fashion I will share notes. Thanks!


cecilia March 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm

what a great idea. i have several on my list to read (some that you’ve mentioned too), and i was just recently thinking that i should put together a cliffs notes version of all the infant/toddler sleep books i’ve read. i’ve read a bunch! maybe it will help people, but also, maybe it will help me process what i’ve read and store the main takeaways of each book for later use (like, when i have kids in the future). if i ever end up doing this, i’ll send it along.


Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com March 9, 2012 at 5:03 am

That would be a great resource. I was so desperate for sleep info. with C that I never thought I’d forget it but by the time S came along I had to read it all again.


Kim @ Little Stories March 8, 2012 at 7:04 pm

It’s like you’re reading my mind. I’m overwhelmed and decide I need a cleaning/household schedule, you post about it the next day. I look at the stack of parenting books on my shelf and think I need a solution to get through them all and the rest of the books I don’t even own yet, you post this. Here’s my list, “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk”, “The Conscious Parent”, “Buddhism for Mothers”, “Unconditional Parenting”, and “Dear Parents: Caring for Infants with Respect”. Loved Nutureshock too. :)


Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com March 9, 2012 at 5:04 am

I’m so intrigued by the title “Buddhism for Mothers”.


Abby March 8, 2012 at 7:21 pm

I love Siblings without Rivalry-my favorite advice was not labeling your kids. You hate for one to be labeled the athletic one and the other not to even try sports because their sibling has that label. If only I could get the grandparents to stop labeling! I re-skim it often.

I also love Blessings from a Skinned Knee–it’s based on Jewish principals-we aren’t Jewish, but found a lot of good take home messages. An easy read and not heavy like Nurtureshock but still a really good book is Stay Home Stay Happy. I picked it up off a sale rack on my way to a doctors appointment and was reminded how happy I am to stay home—even if I was more interesting at dinner parties when my job discription was attorney.


Anonymous March 8, 2012 at 7:54 pm

What a great idea! I have read a few books but none of those mentioned, although I saw them all at the book store today! If you have boys (or teach them for that matter) I would recommend The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre. It doesn’t exactly talk about boys in their toddler years but talks about some issues that may come up in the future.

I just finished Nurture Shock and am excited to see what you had to say about it. Siblings without Rivalry is next on my list.


Kelly March 8, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Wow! That’s a great idea!


RookieMom Whitney March 8, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Ooh, I’m sending you Cliff’s Notes for a book I read when my son was 3.


Miriam March 9, 2012 at 1:59 am

What a fantastic idea! Seriously, I have to do this soon with some of my friends! My book to add would be Raising Your Spirited Child….it was a lifesaver for us!


Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com March 9, 2012 at 5:05 am

I’ve heard great things about that one too.


kiki March 9, 2012 at 2:14 am

First off, I am so glad I’m not the only one with a stack of books on my shelf gathering dust. The guilt weighs heavy on me. Secondly, this idea of swapping notes has crossed my mind but never in virtual form. I would LOVE to do something like this. Your top 5 is a great list, I hadn’t heard of the 5 Languages of Love of Children (my husband and I did the pre-marriage books that I assume are written by the same folks).
Lastly, “if I every get a second opportunity” ?! you have an incredible blog, a loyal following — you should totally organize this! Maybe limit the participants, create a killer list of maybe 12 books, feature one per month… I would be game to help!


Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com March 9, 2012 at 5:02 am

You make a good point, plus it looks like Lovebird up there is ready to start a group whether I’m ready or not :) The wheels are definitely turning…


Cortney March 9, 2012 at 7:19 am

Thanks for all the great ideas of books to read….gonna check out the sibling one for sure. I have read 5 love languages for children and LOVED it. In a nutshell…..everyone including children show their love and feel that they are loved through 5 love languages (physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, Quality time, Receiving gifts). Most adults have a primary love language or 2, but children at a young age use all 5. It is important to show them love in all 5 ways. As they grow you will be able to see their primary love language as they will use it to show their love to you. So one of your children may need you to say I Love You to know they are loved while another may need you to hug them. Really quick read….I highly reccomend!


Anonymous March 10, 2012 at 3:23 am

Hi, I don’t know if I’ve commented here before but I’ve been enjoying your blog for awhile now! A few weeks ago I actually found a coles notes version of “how to talk…” online and this spurred the idea to summarize parenting books for me as well. Actually, I find the best way to retain knowledge for myself is to write notes out while reading. If you google “How to talk so kids will listen pdf” there are a few good summaries already done up! One of my favorite parenting books is called “I love you Rituals” by Becky A. Bailey. It’s comprised of a great 3 chapter into followed by hands on relationship building activities. I’ll be checking back to see if anything takes off regarding book summaries! Thanks, Janie


glimmersnaps March 10, 2012 at 6:58 am

I’m game! I’ve been looking for The No Cry Sleep Solution at my library but haven’t been able to find the infant version. Even if I did find it, when would I read it? When he’s asleep? Oh wait… tHAT’S the problem! Lol!


Anonymous March 12, 2012 at 11:47 am

I’ve been reading the 15 minutes outside book. I live in an urban setting so a lot of the specific ideas don’t work for me but the ideas definitely get the creative juices flowing. There are lots of ideas for eating outside (catching sunrise in Dec/Jan for breakfast, walking at snacktime, etc.) and scavenger hunt type activities (matching colors, “following” a plant’s growth, looking for animals/tracks, etc.) and ideas for different times of day (that’s my rut – we usually go out the same time of day and I didn’t realize that limits our options but it does). A lot of the ideas are better suited for older kids (I have 2 toddlers) so the book is a pretty good resource but I think you could just as easily get some good ideas by googling for a few minutes.

I don’t understand why baby sleep books even exist. They should really just sell audio versions because who can see straight when they don’t sleep? My daughter was a sleepless nightmare for a while and I got so tired I just gave up…thankfully she got over that phase without any intervention or I don’t know what I would have done!


matleave March 25, 2012 at 1:28 am

I am just finishing Bringing Up Bébé. I can send you a summary of that, Siblings Without Rivalry, and Nurtureshock this coming week. Love this idea.


Anonymous March 27, 2012 at 1:07 am

No need to re-invent the wheel. You can find 60 summaries already completed at http://www.parentbooksummaries.com, including 2 on your top 5 list.


matleave April 4, 2012 at 8:29 pm
julia October 29, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Great idea.


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