mindful living, effortless style

top parenting books

Five Parenting Reads Worth Your Precious Time

It’s one of my favorite days of the month – the day when resident MPMK librarian Janssen once again stops by and shares a new list of her favorite picks with us.  Did you guys have book orders at school growing up?  I used to get so excited when a new one would arrive. This kind of feels like that – Janssen always makes such amazing recommendations, I can never wait to devour her latest list.  Hope you guys enjoy as much as I do.


What’s the one parenting book (or book about parents and children) you’d recommend to your best friend? (Speaking of books – don’t forget to vote on our next Virtual Book Club selection here.)

In the last couple of years, I have become a non-fiction addict. My reading these days is probably split evenly between non-fiction and fiction.

As a parent, I find non-fiction wonderful because it gives me so many ideas of how to make my children’s lives the best they can be, whether it’s at the dinner table or in the classroom. I love seeing how other parents have dealt with picky eating or music practice. And I find it very helpful to learn from the experts about how to teach my child new skills, whether it’s how to navigate a map or read the classics.

These are five of my favorites:

French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billion

This book focuses specifically on the eating aspect of raising children and how French families differ from North American families. I loved how helpful it was, with lots of great advice for how to help children eat well, even when you’re raising them in a North American food society that is full of junk food, snacking, and eating out.

I was so inspired and empowered after reading this book (of course, my daughter had soda and animal crackers today for lunch, so I might possibly need to read it again. Or at least make some healthier crackers).

There are No Shortcuts by Rafe Esquith

Have you heard of Rafe Esquith? He’s a fifth grade teacher in an inner-city school in LA and his classes have been doing almost miraculous things for nearly twenty years. I’ve read all his books and this is my favorite. It’s so inspiring to see how he helps these kids, many of them being raised in unbelievably dysfunctional home situations, learn to love school and see a new future for themselves at the best schools in the world.

This book, I think, is the most useful for parents (some of them are geared more toward teachers) and while you may finish the book thinking that Esquith is some sort of no-sleep-needing superhero, there are so many ideas for how to enrich your child’s education both at home and school.

First Mothers: The Women Who Shaped the Presidents by Bonnie Angelo

This is a fascinating book about the childhoods of eleven presidents (from FDR to Bill Clinton) and how their relationships with their mothers helped mold them into the men that would become president. Each chapter is filled with fascinating stories and Angelo does a great job drawing parallels between their upbringings, even though these eleven men come from WILDLY different backgrounds; some rich, some poor, some with strong extended families, others with single mothers.  This appeals to the history buff in me as well as the parent. Just fascinating reading.

Free Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) by Lenore Skenazy

Lenore Skenazy came under fire when she wrote an article about how she let her nine year old son ride the New York subway by himself. This book is her response. It’s so easy to feel like your child is in constant danger of being snatched from your front yard, with all the media reporting any time something horrible happens to children, and I certainly suffer from some of this paranoia myself.

I loved her practical approach to helping parents let their children discover their independence and develop the skills they need to take care of themselves. I was really inspired also by her descriptions of how letting your children do things on their own really gives them a sense of pride and purpose.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

People have strong opinions about this book, and I happen to fall on the “loved it!” side of the spectrum. I’m not taking Chau as my parenting role model, but her book did make me think about many of my own views on parenting and how to treat my children, especially when we disagree about things. I picked this one for my book club last year and we had a great discussion on it.

Question of the day: 

What’s the one parenting book (or book about parents and children) you’d recommend to your best friend? (Speaking of books – don’t forget to vote on our next Virtual Book Club selection here.)


Want more great reads?  Check out the book nook.



P.S. Looking for more ways to simplify and save time so you can connect with your family? Follow these 3 steps:

1) Check out our "Save Your Spring" bundle: over 50 pages of 2015 daily/weekly/monthly planners, cleaning schedules, meal planners, kids’ routine charts, budgeting sheets and much more PLUS 84 pages of kid activities perfect for spring break!

Over 50 pages of organizational gold


2) Sign up for our newsletter:

sign up for the newsletter and get a free 6 week meal plan


3) Bookmark our famous Gift Guides for the next time you need the perfect kids' gift! (350+ detailed descriptions including age recommendations)

Our infamous kids' gift guides

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy K. February 25, 2013 at 12:14 am

I still refer to Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka… It is an excellent explanation of different facets of personality. Even though the premise is finding ways to work with kids who are “spirited,” or fall on the extreme ends of several personality trait continuums, it also is great for helping parents of more typical kids understand them better.


mpmk February 25, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Thanks for the suggestion Amy. A friend of mine actually just recommended that one to me. I wasn’t sure if it would be a good fit based on the title so I’m glad to hear another “yes” vote.


Annemieke February 25, 2013 at 8:11 am

I keep coming back to Unconditional parenting by Alfie Kohn… Filled with strategies on how to raise caring, creative, curious children rather than obedient and well behaved. A gold mine but applying it doesn’t come natural in our fast paced world where it is so much easier to revert to ‘time-outs’ and ‘control’ when our kids ‘misbehave’.


mpmk February 25, 2013 at 2:53 pm

“caring, creative, curious” – three C traits I definitely want my children to posses.


Mary February 25, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Penelope Leach, Your Baby & Child From Birth to Age Five. It covers so many things, so concisely. It’s not a “one idea” book like so many others. Hands down, the book I am so glad I had before my kid’s birth, and the one I give to new moms.


mpmk February 25, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I’ve never even heard of that one – so glad I asked this question today!


Kaley February 25, 2013 at 3:04 pm

I just finished Cinderella Ate My Daughter – should be required reading for all moms of little girls!! A little scary, but so good.


mpmk February 25, 2013 at 6:30 pm

I can tell just by the title I’d love that one!


se7en February 25, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Oh I loved “French Kids Eat Everything” and a huge fan of Lenore Skenazy and her fabulous book. I second Amy on “Raising your Spirited Child.” Have you ever read Playful Parenting by … Cohen (off the top of my head)? Just such a fabulous read, I haven’t met anyone who didn’t rethink their parenting style at least a little bit after reading it…


mpmk February 25, 2013 at 6:28 pm

I spied Playful Parenting on the bookshelf at toddler group just last week… yet another to add to the list.


Joelle February 25, 2013 at 6:12 pm

I’ve one I’m eagerly awaiting that might interest you. Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape by Jay Griffiths. She’s an inspiring writer on the wild and I’m so excited to read her insights on childhood, nature and play across cultures. Do check her out if you haven’t.

It’s out in May I think, in the UK at least. I’d imagine US too.


mpmk February 25, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Sounds intriguing (if you’ve read my posts on our outdoor preschool then you know how I feel about nature and play!). Thanks for the tip.


Danielle February 25, 2013 at 6:35 pm

I’m a Montessori teacher (since long before I was a parent, thank goodness!), and one of books that has helped me the most as a parent is one I have recommended for years as a teacher: Positive Discipline by Dr. Jane Nelsen (all of them are awesome!). Great, basic reminders on how to keep your expectations in check, and how to offer freedom within appropriate limits.


Heather N February 25, 2013 at 8:13 pm

The book Simplicity Parenting really refined the vague ideas of how I wanted to parent. It is an EXCELLENT book. I even let my daughter’s preschool teacher borrow it and she loved it too.


Katie February 26, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Raising Your Spirited Child and Little Women are my picks.


Allison S. March 2, 2013 at 12:48 am

I just read The Five Love Languages of Children and what wonderful insight it gave me into my children. Loved it! I also second Playful Parenting. And along the lines of the Buddhism for Young Mothers book, which I know you just did for book club here, I’m working on 1o Mindful Minutes by Goldie Hawn and I’m really liking that- it makes so much sense. And Raising Your Spirited Child has been on my list, too…


Gretchen March 5, 2013 at 2:35 am

The best one I’ve ever read is “It’s OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids” by Heather Shumaker.

I’m on my fourth copy of this book as I keep giving mine away family and friends who wonder why I don’t time-out my daughter and I think forced sharing is a bad idea.

It covers everything about the preschool aged child – sharing, hitting, forming friendships, developing empathy, emotions, discipline, etc. It’s presented in a very easy to read format and good examples, and take-away bullet points.


mpmk March 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm

We are exactly in that phase right now. Thanks so much for sharing Gretchen – putting it on my library list right now!


Chairity March 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm

One of my absolute favorites is ‘Raising Calm and Compassionate Children’ – I have read many many parenting g books but this one surpassed them all! I also love the Buddhism for mothers’ series <3.


Tara March 11, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I swear by Raising Happiness by Christine Carter. Just like Gretchen, I keep buying it and giving it away to friends. I refer back to it often for valuable reminders to focus on the joy of parenting and helping my (prone to drama) kids find their joy.


mpmk March 11, 2013 at 6:23 pm

I’m so happy to see you bring this one up Tara. I was recently introduced to Dr. Christine Carter’s work via her eCourses – my husband and I have been making a little date night out of doing them together and I have to say I am LOVING them. So much so that I’ve brought her on board “MPMK’s Continuing Ed” program. So keep an eye out for an exclusive MPMK discount on her eCourses starting either this week or next :)


Misa February 18, 2014 at 3:33 pm

If I could only pick one parenting book, it would be “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting” by Dr. Laura Markham. Good for even non-yellers.


Steph (MPMK Founder) February 18, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Thanks for the recommendation Misa – just the title alone has me itching to use it for our next Virtual Parenting Book Club selection!


Leave a Comment