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Book reviews that parents can use


Rebecca Hagelin

Visiting Fellow

"Mom, all my friends are going to see a movie tonight. Can I go, too?"

How many millions of parents over the years have been asked this question? It's all too easy to simply focus on who is going and forget that we need to look at what they're going to before we arrange the transportation (i.e., whether you're taking or picking up). Thankfully, for several years we've had great Web sites like Focus on the Family's " Plugged In " to provide guidance on content. As a mom of three teens, I can tell you that no one sees a movie in our home without my first visiting Plugged In.

Wouldn't it be great if there were a Web site that could provide content reviews of books? Well, I have some good news: Thanks to the Alabama Policy Institute's " Facts on Fiction " Web site, now there is.

Some parents may question the need for such a service. After all, we're talking about books , often ones recommended by teachers. Besides, we're always trying to keep kids from spending too much time with electronic entertainment, and we don't want to discourage a wholesome activity such as reading, do we?

As I've written before , though, some of the books that have found their way into the "teen" section of your local bookstore and onto school-sponsored "recommended reading" lists are questionable at best -- and downright immoral at worst. Consider this case, courtesy of Sharon Evans, program director of the Alabama Policy Institute:

Susan Gamble, founder and president of Magic City Webs, could not keep up with her third grader's voracious appetite for books. She was thrilled that her eight-year-old loved to read. However, when he came to her with a question about a curse word in his book, she was curious. Upon perusal, Susan found the book peppered with expletives. There also was an instance of a man fondling a woman's breasts, children looking at pornographic magazines and references of gore and child abuse.

Then Susan spent some time on the Internet and made another unpleasant discovery: The kind of detailed reviews available for movies, TV shows and even video games didn't exist for books.

Until now. Visit the new Facts on Fiction , and you'll find a list of more than 125 books (with many more on the way), complete with the kind of specific information busy parents need to make informed decisions about whether a particular book is right for their child.

And that, Sharon stresses, is exactly what Facts on Fiction is intended to do -- make it easier for parents to do their job. The aim is not to censor books or call for boycotts, but to allow parents to decide if a certain book is right for their child. Sometimes it's a question of timing: A book that's acceptable for a 16-year-old, for example, may be wrong for an 11-year-old. Other times, a book is so bad that a parent may decide it's never acceptable. But that's the beauty of Facts on Fiction: Either way, the parent decides .

The reviews, conducted by retired teachers, librarians, home-schooling moms and writers, summarize the books and then examine how they approach certain sensitive topics. There are six main categories:

Each category is broken into specifics. For example, does the book in question contain mild obscenities, sexual references or scatological terms, and if so, how often? The reviews will tell you. And if you need more detail (including quotes and page numbers), the reviews give you that as well. The "Disrespectful/Anti-Social Elements" is particularly helpful for those trying to gauge the overall moral tone. For example, do characters lie, cheat or steal without consequence?

As for selection, some might expect Facts on Fiction to profile the more salacious titles out there, like Cecily von Ziegesar's "Gossip Girl" series. But as Sharon notes, there's limited value to doing that. For one thing, these books tend to be upfront about what they offer. (Ziegesar's book proudly calls itself, right on the cover, " Sex and the City for the younger set.") Plus, books that appear safe but sneak in some inappropriate content can be worse, if only because they catch parents off guard. That's why Facts on Fiction concentrates on the books that don't seem threatening -- the allegedly "safe," award-winning titles found on school reading lists.

The bottom line is: There's now a site designed to equip parents with the information they need to make the right decisions about what their children read. Kudos to " Facts on Fiction " for making the tough job of parenting just a little bit easier.

Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of The Heritage Foundation and the author of Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture that's Gone Stark Raving Mad .

Marriage and family are the building blocks of all human civilization and the primary institutions of civil society.  

Learn more about policies that strengthen marriage and family as cornerstones to a flourishing civil society with Solutions .

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The Only Parenting Books You’ll Ever Need to Read

books reviews for parents

I believe that if you’re going to invest your time and money in reading a parenting book, it should leave you feeling better than you did before — but not in an easy or cheap way with ten steps or a “plan” for success. Instead, the best parenting books should make us feel better in a complicated, hard-truth way. We can’t really control things (like our kids), but at least we aren’t alone.

Parenting books, if they’re worth their salt (and most aren’t), tend to lead us back to ourselves and toward a reckoning with our own parentage. Stuff comes up. In this way, they’re a lot like parenting itself: We want to shape our children into something other than our own image (something better). Hoping for this is a trap, one that’s impossible to avoid.

The very best parenting books are better than the intentions we bring to them. The good ones are both consoling and challenging, reminding us that to be a parent who is present, and forgiving, and kind, you must first be all of these things to yourself. (Harder than you’d think.) The parenting books listed here are some of the best of the best.

Best Parenting Books

'The Whole-Brain Child,' by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

For the skeptic parent who is unmoved by anecdote (fine). This book features a similar approach of acceptance but makes use of basic neuroscience to back itself up — knowing what parts of the brain are activated mid-tantrum, for example, might change how we confront one. — Meaghan O’Connell, author

When Partners Become Parents by Carolyn Pape Cowan & Philip A. Cowan

Cited by Senior throughout her book, this ten-year longitudinal study of the effects of parenthood on romantic partnership is wildly affirming (it’s not just you). This book captures the ups and downs (mostly downs) of relationships during the crisis of new parenthood in a way that few books have since it was published in 1992. — M. O.

'How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk,' by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

This book became an instant classic when it was published in 1980 and has sold millions of copies since. Show it to a bookseller and they might sigh audibly or say, “Oh yeah,” with an undercurrent of resentment over all the times a customer stood before them trying to recite the title. “It’s yellow? With block letters? What we talk about when we are … listening? About … talking?”

In any case, believe the long-running hype. Every time I think about this book I get a rush of tender feelings toward it, feelings that quickly shift into contending with my own urge to be re-parented, preferably by the book’s co-authors, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. The two have six children between them but for purposes of simplicity, they write in the first person and have little composite children. The resulting voice is charming and funny, full of humility and compassion, like if Anne Lamott were leading a parents’ support group but without the Jesus stuff.

This book really is framed by a weekly support group, with each chapter covering a week of the authors’ real-life parenting workshop. If that sounds too corny for you, well, my god, consider the genre. But corny threshold notwithstanding, consider that this means voyeuristically reading about a bunch of ‘80s adults talk about their feelings and their extremely specific battles with their kids and their expectations and their frustrated powerlessness (all with a blessed lack of hand-wringing about The Dangers of The Internet). I ate it up.

The very first chapter is “Helping Children Deal With Their Feelings,” which made me sure my own boomer parents were not among the 3 million people who have purchased this book. Later comes “Alternatives to Punishment,” “Engaging Cooperation,” and “Encouraging Autonomy.” I must warn you: Sprinkled throughout are cartoons illustrating good and bad parent-child interactions (“INSTEAD OF DENYING THE FEELING, exhibit A, GIVE THE FEELING A NAME, exhibit B “), and they are drawn in a painfully amateurish style that didn’t bother me and in fact seemed to make the book feel more urgent, as if the co-authors’ eagerness overcame their embarrassment. It’s very on-message.

The authors’ little tips don’t necessarily come naturally, but if you do remember to try them, just try not to laugh when you see how well they work. It’s almost annoying, or would be if the book weren’t written in the spirit of generosity and in the interest of children and parents both feeling heard and respected and then forgiving each other when they both mess up more or less constantly. Corny, sure, but true. — M. O.

'Your Two-Year-Old,' by Louise Bates Ames & Frances L. Ilg

This is book is part of a series of the best little books about child development. They’re all actually little — about 150 pages (a third of which are black-and-white photo illustrations of children from the ‘70s) — and follow the same general formula: here’s what you’re dealing with, here’s what tends to work, isn’t it fascinating!, do what works and it will get better soon. I goddamn love them.

The late co-authors, Louise Bates Ames and Frances L. Ilg, were psychologists and co-founders of the Gesell Child Development Institute at Yale, but their authority on the subject feels both colloquial and encyclopedic, like they’re describing a dear friend they’ve spent their whole lives observing and thinking about. But this friend just so happens to be your child, which means they must be spying on her from the great Yale tenure in the sky (then hopping in a time machine to publish these books in 1976, 40 years before she was born).

Your mom might have read these about you. If so, ask to borrow them. I promise they are not too boomer-authoritarian, and will only make you feel better about your kid. “Remember that television can be your friend,” Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy offers. “Wisely used, it can keep a child happy, well behaved, and out of difficulty for long periods.” This must be what Amazon commenters mean by the advice being out-of-date but I, for one, find it as relevant as ever. Do whatever it takes to get by without causing too much of a fuss, the book seems to argue. The authors promise smoother sailing in a few months when there’s difficulty, and affectionately sing the praises of the particular sweetness and creativity of young children. I find their tone to be tender but consoling, their approach the perfect mix of no-nonsense and wildly compassionate.

Read these books with a glass of wine after bedtime to remind yourself your kid is not a fact a monster. Revel in the fleeting particulars of him at this age. Laugh when the best advice the authors can come up with for stubborn 3.5-year-olds is this: Send them to preschool, because they’ll behave better for people who aren’t their parents. — M.O.


Becoming Attached by Robert Karen

This occasionally slow-going but fascinating book goes deep on the history of attachment theory and its current renaissance, raising questions like: In what specific ways did my parents ruin me for all future relationships? — M. O.

All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior

This book is a great answer to every time you’ve ever wondered, Is it just me, or is being a parent bad in a very particular way right now? A leading question, maybe, but Senior has convinced me that the answer is yes. Inspiring either a consoling self-forgiveness or a maddening fire under one’s ass (both, one hopes), former New York staff writer Senior winningly leads us through the world of modern parenthood with both depth and breadth, in a voice that is insightful, relatable, and genuinely searching.

Structuring her book around portraits of a handful of American families from all over the country, Senior goes with them to soccer games and PTA meetings, sits with them at dinner time, interviews them during nap time and right in the thick of things, capturing that deeply familiar day-to-day survival that characterizes the reality of life with kids. Senior weaves in existing research on the psychology and sociology of parenthood from the past 50 years and highlights what’s changed and what hasn’t to great effect. (Her book’s bibliography would make an excellent syllabus.)

Senior concludes that this particular cultural moment is a unique intersection of high emotional investment (resulting from having children later, voluntarily, and expecting to be fulfilled by them) and low structural support. What Senior’s book clarifies, again and again, is that the thing that affects parents (and therefore children) the most is what gets lost in most conversations about “parenting”: the daily, lived experience of raising children.

In other words, it’s a good book to text passages of to your friends, especially mom friends who are exhausted and behind on work and ignoring the dishes but still up way too late and about to spend too much money on a bespoke Halloween costume from Etsy (let’s not even talk about the ones who sew them themselves). “Our expectations of mothers seem to have increases as our attitudes toward women in the workplace have liberalized.”

“ Yup ,” they’ll say. “Okay, how bout this Moana one? It’s good, right?” — M. O.

Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne

This book is a classic parent troll, so you’ll need to be ready for that. Read it at a time of emotional fortitude, ideally at a moment when you think to yourself, “Okay, things are about to get easier soon. I feel like I can finally catch my breath. Is there a man somewhere who can Kondo my family life?” (The author’s first name is Kim and yes, I felt betrayed when I realized he was in fact an Australian man and not a Scandinavian woman sent to share the gospel of toys made from natural wood.)

In fact, what Payne calls for is reassuringly intuitive and well, nice. Payne advocates for fewer toys, less TV (okay, “no TV,” but I’ve already edited the book in my mind), more of a “daily rhythm,” fewer stressful extracurriculars, and filtering out too much adult information like the news or shop talk. Initially, I bristled at this last suggestion, but then I was driving to preschool with NPR on when my kid piped up from the backseat: “What do hurricanes do? I mean, what do they do to people — do they make them dead? Are there hurricanes here?” Okay fine. I get it.

Some of the book is too strident or out there (let’s just pretend the phrase “soul fever” doesn’t occur within these pages), but I found myself less interested in the particulars than in Payne’s underlying idea: that when we can — when we have the breathing room — it’s worth revisiting our long-abandoned ideas about what we imagined our family lives would look like.

In this way, Simplicity Parenting is a sort of late-capitalist “solution” to the problems introduced in All Joy and No Fun . Senior and Payne both seem to argue that we are too stressed, too busy, too focused on achievement and not enough on well-being. Payne takes these problems for granted, and spends his book offering practical suggestions to bring ease and space back into your life. While one might (and I would) argue that agitating for political change (paid family leave, universal health care, and child-care subsidies, for instance) would be a much, much more effective antidote, short-term actions you can put into motion yourself — baking a cake on Sundays, say, or making an after-dinner walk a family tradition — also sound nice.

“Even if some of the details were unrealistic,” Payne argues, “your dreams about your family had truth to them.” He may as well be talking about this book. — M. O.

The Child, the Family, and the Outside World by D.W. Winnicott

Pay a corrective visit to the wildly influential pediatrician and psychoanalyst who introduced the world to the concept of the “good-enough mother.” — M. O.

Further Reading

No Bad Kids by Janet Lansbury

Lansbury is a former actress and model who has taught parenting classes in Hollywood for decades, but found wider success as a prolific writer and podcaster and general toddler consigliere. A couple of my mom friends and I simply refer to her as “the guru” and I still don’t know if we’re joking or not. Her popular books are self-published compendiums of some of her best blog posts (when I filled out the contact form on her website to request a review copy, I got a prompt reply from Michael L., who introduced himself as “Janet’s husband and Mailroom Supervisor”). Lansbury’s general approach or “philosophy” is that we should treat children with respect and, whenever possible, try to meet them where they are.

I am normally averse to “schools” of parenting (and anything overarching when it comes to kids), but I make an exception for Janet because (1) The phrase “without shame” is in the title and shame might be one of the ruling negative emotions in my life and if there’s anything I’d like to spare my son it’s that, and (2) Lansbury brings a self-aware resistance to dogma that’s refreshing and reasonable. She seems to want to help our children blossom into their best, most authentic selves without totally fraying our nerves in the process.

It’s that last part that endears Janet to me most of all; without it, a lot of what she advocates for would seem foolishly optimistic or just absurd. You don’t need to “respectfully” tell your toddler to stop kicking you in the damned face, and you need to know the limits of your own patience before you let your child cross them. They’re kids, she argues, and they want to know that you’re in charge. A parent should embody, per the guru, the calm, “unruffled” bearing of a CEO.

Are there weird implications of aspiring to be a CEO-mom? Maybe … but let’s just say it’s a helpful image, something to come back to when you’re feeling worn down or having a tough week. There’s value in a parenting mentor who seems to more interested in process than product (or is it the other way around?). Unruffled, proud, self-confident. I never know if she means us or the children — how nice that both are taken into account. — M. O.

The Second Shift by Arlie Hochschild, with Anne Machung

Because it’s easier to be unruffled when you don’t have to do all the domestic labor yourself. This groundbreaking portrait of working parents and how they divide household tasks is a few decades old but sadly as relevant as ever. I first read this as a freshman in college, but I still think about it all the time. — M. O.

Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

The way we argue, what we value, our level of competitiveness, the amount and kind of guilt we possess — so much of our identities are determined by the crapshoot of sibling dynamics. This proved to be fertile ground for Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, the authors of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen … The authors’ book on siblings has the same instructive cartoons, the same entertaining group-therapy frame, and a similar unwillingness to sacrifice depth at the altar of the digestible message.

While specific tactics are provided for everything from handling violent physical fights to avoiding comparison and overdetermined family roles, the most effective parts are in-scene at their parenting workshops, where the parents depicted first express desperate exasperation and disbelief, then reveal a bounty of alluring interpersonal anecdotes from their own childhoods, and finally, arrive at an actual reckoning. Of course siblings fight. They’re natural rivals, competing for resources (actual and emotional). How many of us can spend more than a few days with our own siblings without regressing into moody teens?

The book ends with middle-aged moms and dads calling their siblings (sometimes estranged, often simply begrudged), and finding themselves able to forgive or at least sympathize and connect with them in a way they couldn’t before they saw the dynamics play out in their own children. There are ways to alleviate this, the book argues, to manage the inevitability and to make it less wounding, or less defining. This may sound grandiose, but that’s only because you haven’t read the book yet. — M. O.

The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller

File under “books to help you straighten your own shit out before you repeat the cycle despite actively fearing it exactly” (woo!). Gifted kid or not, the particular family dynamic captured by this book is one that I notice all the time (especially in myself): kids who learn all too quickly how to please their parents at the expense of actually knowing what they like or want. — M. O.

Queenbees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman

This book served as the inspiration and source material for Tina Fey’s Mean Girls . Whether that serves as disclaimer or recommendation is up to you. Queen Bees seems to meet teens on their level, which is probably what makes it so effective (if not occasionally alarmist, or maybe that’s the super Christian nerd in me talking?).

Rosalind Wiseman had been visiting high schools and leading workshops with adolescents long before she introduced us to Girl World and the taxonomy of teenage girls. There’s the Mean Girl, the Wannabe, the Bystander, the Banker — Wiseman could be accused of many things but missing the opportunity for a coinage is not one of them.

Where others might be more dismissive, Wiseman takes the challenges and power dynamics and high-stakes anxieties of Girl World seriously. It’s clear she has keen empathy for and insight into not just the drama and the gunning for social status, but the bigger picture, too: questions of intimacy, self-worth, and trust.

My son is only in preschool, so I had the luxury of relating more to the teens than to the parents of teens, the latter of whom often seem to find themselves completely out of their element in a way that recalls the earliest days of parenting a newborn. If the glut of books about parenting teens is any indication (my personal favorite, by title if not painfully corny content: Yes, Your Teen Is Crazy! ), this is a conundrum that’s inevitable and inherent to raising a child. But accepting that doesn’t make it any easier. For someone in the thick of parenting a teen, this book would be a small mercy, touching as it does on the subjects your kid would be too embarrassed or annoyed to explain to you on their own. — M. O.

How to Hug a Porcupine by Julie A. Ross

For parents whose kids aren’t yet mean girls: This book is full of sympathy and brimming with tips (and an abundance of metaphors, be warned), and iteases you in with an adorable cartoon porcupine. — M. O.

NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

This book is the ultimate compendium of magazine-style counterintuitive parenting-trend pieces. “Why our instincts about children can be so off the mark,” its marketing copy argues, promising real data and the always-beguiling shattering of conventional wisdom. I don’t mean to sound dismissive, as NurtureShock is both a great read and manages to make its points without trafficking in parental anxiety. If anything, the book — with chapters on kids needing more sleep, being praised too much, labeled gifted too early — seems to argue that it’s our own misplaced agita that causes problems. As I read it I was overflowing with the urge to share all of my new “actually” child facts with my husband, who would respond with a polite “Wow.”

If most of the book argues that parents should worry and interfere less, the standout chapter is a notable exception. Titled “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race,” it should be necessary reading for all those implicated. Kids do notice difference, especially race, and hoping to raise your own as “color blind” is both naïve and dangerous. If you avoid the subject, you risk your kids internalizing awkwardness and assuming you’re racist. This might sound intuitive to some, but we should all remember the powerful consequences of ideas we consider “instincts” or “conventional wisdom” or “convenient theories for me.”

The book’s ideas — children are contradictory and complex, cannot be hacked, and should be allowed to develop on their own time — make for a less-than-straightforward read. That the authors managed to write such a commercially successful book (the aggressive title doesn’t hurt) is a testament to their deft skill as much as their genuine intentions. — M. O.

Unequal Childhoods by Annette Lareau

Cited by everyone from Jennifer Senior to Malcolm Gladwell, this book was a watershed examination of the unexpected (to some!) roles class and race play in American childhoods, and along the way, it questions the “concerted cultivation” approach of the middle-class parent. — M. O.

Supernormal by Meg Jay

If you haven’t noticed or made fun of them yet, parenting culture’s trendiest desired attributes are grit and resilience. Grit is, of course, the goofier of the two, evocative of both dirt and a southern breakfast food. But who doesn’t want to be resilient? Who doesn’t want their children to be?

With this book, longtime clinical psychologist Meg Jay challenges us to interrogate our assumptions about resilience, to grapple with what’s really going on inside a kid we want to praise for overcoming adversity. Children adapt well, almost too well in some cases, and the coping skills that help children survive may be the ones preventing them from relating as adults. When adapting becomes a way of life, do you ever feel confident that other people will adapt to you? Would we rather our children hide behind their accomplishments or have a sense of inherent self-worth?

Jay weaves new brain research, celebrity anecdotes (Marilyn Monroe’s childhood spent in foster care, for example), and some choice psychoanalytical wisdom, but the narrative centers around anonymized former clients. Jay introduces us to each of her extremely high-achieving patients and then walks us through their painful but often common circumstances — they are children whose parents are divorced, or alcoholics, or dead; kids with disabled siblings, or abusive coaches — and then, their current feelings of isolation, exhaustion, or depression.

Over half of adults experienced adversity in their childhoods, according to research Jay cites, so these patients are not abnormal, despite feeling that way, and despite our romanticization of their resilience. These kids grow up to be most of us, actually, to whatever degree. Perhaps we all need to focus on our own shit to be the kind of parents who can really see and accept our children, to escape the trap of choosing the appearance of “doing well” at the cost of feeling okay. — M. O.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

This one is not about parenting per se, but my experience with childbirth left me mildly traumatized in ways I only truly understood after reading this book. I feel better for having read it, and better equipped, as a parent and a citizen, to see the way trauma — beyond the buzzword — is at work in so many of our experiences. — M. O.

The Gardener and the Carpenter by Alison Gopnik

Gopnik is a professor of both philosophy and psychology at UC Berkeley. In her latest book, she explores “the new science of child development” and what it tells us about the parent-child relationship. She opens with a criticism of the way we talk about raising children — “parenting” is a word, and a cottage industry, invented in the past 30 years. We should be discussing our children in language that more closely resembles a gardener’s, as in tending to and caring for one’s garden. A gardener harbors no illusions of control, and is open to — cherishes even — the vicissitudes of her plants. She is willing to be surprised. She knows the plants grow on their own.

Gopnik uses evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, and animal behaviorism to argue that we must have such vulnerable babies with such extended childhoods for a reason. Children, she explains with the blissful detachment of someone whose children could only be grown, are meant to be messy chaos agents. They are meant to learn through play and exploration, and they are great at it, and will, overwhelmingly, turn out just fine, no matter how many parenting books we read. It’s a nice idea, and a welcome corrective, though one I can imagine it might take becoming a grandmother before fully inhabiting. — M. O.

The Philosophical Baby by Alison Gopnik

Read Gopnik’s earlier book as a reminder that children give as much as they get, and not just because they’re cute. Gopnik brings us on a tour of the awakening consciousness of babies and shows us how much we can learn about the essential questions of human nature by looking to the small, screaming friends we are trying our best to keep alive. — M. O.

Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy

Because children aren’t the only ones developing. With a sorely needed feminist perspective and a treasure trove of accessible scientific revelations (the placenta alone!), Garbes shares her own transformation into a parent and reminds us what our bodies go through in pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. Garbes’s book works from the radical assumption that actually, women do know what they need, which serves to highlight all the ways that inequality and gaps in structural support make everything harder than it needs to be, especially for women of color. “Becoming a mother may be one of our most culturally traditional acts, but,”  Garbes argues , “it is also the place where we can break with our most limiting, oppressive traditions.” — M. O.

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind

From the authors of The Whole-Brain Child , this best seller employs strategies for identifying and improving your discipline philosophy. Siegel and Bryson prompt parents to calmly and effectively connect and communicate instead of just reacting to behavior. Reviewers love the mindful approach to parenting for helping diffuse tantrums and outbursts and helping improve communication between them and their children. Offering practical advice backed by science the book is an easy read featuring illustrations and relevant stories. — Chinea Rodriguez, shopping writer

Raising Good Humans: A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting and Raising Kind, Confident Kids

Raising Good Humans is a guide to raising kids with compassion and confidence by looking inward. The book asks parents to reflect on their own patterns and habits and features a number of mindfulness skills to help parents communicate and resolve conflict by not just reacting. Reviewers have called this a joy to read, and many write that it’s also a practical and essential tool for cultivating peace in the chaos of parenting. Broken into two parts, part one offers tips for breaking your reactive cycles, and part two offers tips for communication and problem-solving. — C. R.

Raising Free People: Unschooling as Liberation and Healing Work by Akilah S. Richard

When it comes time to consider what type of schooling you might want for your kids, Raising Free People is a must-read. The book discusses the transition from school or homeschooling to unschooling and how it allows us to address trauma and unlearn the habits we mindlessly pass on to children as well as a “how-to” when it comes to this radical idea of schooling. Plus it features a reading list and tips on how to respond when people don’t get this type of parenting style. It truly is a guide to unschooling. —  C.R.

This article was originally published January 28, 2020. If you buy something through our links,  New York  may earn an affiliate commission.

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Perspectives on Reading

How #BookTok made an obscure 90-year-old literary puzzle a bestseller

Point of View: Author Susan Orlean

National book ratings for parents?

books reviews for parents

By Maria Kennefick, Library Media Assistant   |  November 2018

Should books be rated the same way we rate movies and television? We’ve all heard comments such as this:

“The ‘Smut Patrol’ doesn’t want you to read the novel The Kite Runner because it includes sexual violence, and others believe it promotes Islam and terrorism. I don’t see how it can promote both of those at the same time, but what do I know?” – Public school library media assistant

Parents are constantly challenging books and demanding they be banned in K-12 schools nationwide. These parents are worried about the contents’ influence on their children and are attempting to protect them. Other parents believe that each family has the right to decline the use of a specific title assigned to their child for homework. There’s a slippery slope between parents wishing to restrict access to books for their child and censorship of books accessible to the student body at large.

Common complaints for book themes are vast; profanity, suicide, sexuality, nudity, violence, racism, witchcraft, undermining religious beliefs, euthanasia, drugs and death are just the tip of the iceberg.

How do parents and educators decide what books are appropriate for K-12 students? Schools today have a wider variety of books to choose from than ever before.

Parents have a hard time keeping up with the subject matter, can’t possibly read each title beforehand and get overwhelmed when looking up the books online.

“My sixth grade child has the reading ability of a 12th grader. She may be able to read a novel being used in 12th grade, but I’d like to be sure the maturity level is appropriate for her age.” – Public school parent

There are three tools often used for choosing books for young readers: Lexile measure, star rating and ATOS levels. But do these tools address the content or child development?

The Lexile measure is only an indicator of student literacy and is not a reference assessing content. Many teachers use the Lexile measure to help decide which titles are best for their students. Generally, this “student reading ability” is measured in ranges from 0L-2000L:

books reviews for parents

For example, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling is measured 880L and considered to be at the ability of grades 5-6. What if the child’s only in third grade, but can read at grade six? This tool isn’t designed to answer this question.

The star-rating system is used by Amazon and based on popularity. Amazon.com rates juvenile and young adult books with 1-5 stars. Typically, one star is a poor rating and five stars is a superior rating. Amazon, and most others using the star-rating system, allows any and all users to rate books.

For example, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is rated almost five stars (as of Nov. 6, 2018). Parents may find popularity an inappropriate way to decide whether their child should read a five-star book, especially when this title’s appeared on many banned book lists.

books reviews for parents

ATOS levels are similar to Lexile measures and rate books based on reading ability.

The ATOS level specifies the difficulty of text using a range of 0.1-12.0. For example, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a 5.3 and prime for fifth grade readers.

These tools don’t address parental concerns about themes. A maturity or content-specific rating system hasn’t been developed on a national level and is needed to guide parents – and may be able to prevent censorship.

Common Sense Media does have content ratings for books. This nonprofit organization provides education to families to promote safe technology and media for children.

There are eight categories used on the Common Sense Media website for book reviews, with each category rated on a scale of 0-5 (three being a fair amount of content and five meaning a large amount of content):

For example, Hosseini’s The Kite Runner is recommended with a checkmark of approval for ages 16 and older. This novel isn’t developmentally appropriate for readers younger than 16, according to Common Sense Media’s ratings.

The Kite Runner is given a five for violence, educational material and language, a two for consumerism and a one for language. This title’s also rated five stars for overall quality and learning potential.

Wouldn’t it be easier for parents if ratings were simplified and found in one place?

books reviews for parents

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. A nationwide book rating system could be created that emulates the film or television rating systems. These two rating systems have trained us for decades to recognize whether there is profanity, nudity, sex or violence.

The Motion Picture Association of America film rating system :

We could even get as specific as the television content rating system :

books reviews for parents

If we had a national book ratings system in place, teachers could then design their curriculum and include this information for parents to reference. This would be less time consuming for parents.

“As a mother I could say, ‘You can’t watch that R movie, but you can watch any PG movie.'” – Private school parent

But not everyone agrees.

“Any rating system is highly subjective, even arbitrary. We live in such a multicultural society, I am not sure there is a way to standardize it. It is an issue I run into frequently here, with sixth graders wanting to read the books their high school friends recommend. I prefer not to do any formal rating system. I want the students who are looking for it to be able to find it, and I want the students who wish to avoid it to be able to do so with ease. The very best way for a parent to monitor a kid’s reading material is to simply read it themselves.” – Library media assistant at a 6-12 public school

Is a national book rating system a good idea? Tell us why or why not in the comments section.

books reviews for parents

7 thoughts on “ National book ratings for parents? ”

I like the information on common Sense Media, it has greatly helped me to choose books for my 6th grader son. For me anything sexual is out of bounds.

I agree with Larena, in that the Movie rating system is simple and concise. And, as they also do with TV shows, have the letters similar to the South African rating system available: D (Drugs), L (Language), P (Prejudice), S (Sexual Situations), V (Violence). Just as Nutrition Information is required on food packaging and available from the USDA, retailers should be able to obtain this information easily, such as using the ISBN number to get information from the Library of Congress,

As far as the Word Police, parents and guardians should be taking an active role in what is available to their children. With regards to adults, we can be forewarned before purchase or rental.

Rating books like movies is an interesting thought and I hope there will be more discussion on it. Since the general public is already accustomed to understanding that rating system. ANYthing would be better than to allow a few to make a decision for the masses to burn books! Thank you for an enlightening article, Ms Kennefick.

Of the examples listed in the article, I would prefer the television content ratings system style, but adapted to literature. I like to see the different aspects broken out so that parents and students can determine which type of content they may find objectionable or educational. I would include trigger warnings in these ratings as well. I think it is important to include the students in the process of choosing what is and is not appropriate as they often know better than their parents what they’ve already been exposed to, especially for high school and middle school aged children. So, if a general ratings system were introduced, I would hope that it would be determined by professional educators, professionals in mental health, sociologists, parents, and perhaps most importantly, by students themselves.

Wish we would have had this rating when my kids were in middle school. Many of the recommended books for our daughter in 7th grade had either violence or detailed sexual scenes.

Ms. Kennefick makes some excellent points. I agree, parents and students would benefit from a national

Very clear and concise piece. Working as a library media assistance at a high school, I too have had to help students and parents with age appropriate content. Would a rating system for literature be a crutch or benefit? Who would then become the word police?

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For the mindful or wannabe-mindful parent, this is the most highly rated and recommended conscious parenting book.

Less about how to fix your kids or a “quick fix,” and more about a paradigm shift that radically changes readers’ perspective on how to parent. Focuses on parents facing own reactions and issues as the way to change the behavior of children. This has proved to be life-changing for some. Preface by the Dalai Lama and recommended by Oprah.

Wordy and may be off putting to readers who aren’t spiritually inclined.

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Highly rated as the “best” parenting book that absolutely transforms parents’ relationships with their difficult children.

Reviewers experience dramatic changes in their children’s misbehavior and tantrums after applying this book’s gentle and loving techniques. Based on studies and is science-based, and not just the author’s opinion. After applying this book's principles, reviewers report a peaceful, calm household virtually free of yelling.

Some of the author’s strategies failed for parents of very strong-willed children.

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A progressive parenting book that provides communication skills that actually work on children.

Get the “parent effectiveness training” (PET) course in a book with these strategies that work for kids of all ages. Learn a way to listen to your kids that’s radical and a “life saver” for parents of teenage kids. Strategies built on an underlying relationship of love and mutual respect. Great practice for general communication skills, applicable to everyone.

This book can sometimes feel a bit like an advertisement for a PET course.

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A highly-rated reinterpretation of the ancient Tao Te Ching as applied to parenting for daily doses of calm and wisdom.

Loved by parents to keep themselves grounded during the tumult of child rearing. Good advice for parents who tend to “over parent.” Topics broken down into short, digestible excerpts, ideal for busy parents. Can be flipped through to random lessons to read and re-read. Gentle but deep. Some readers are emotionally moved by the writing and wisdom.

More inspirational than substantial – doesn't give any examples or specific guidance.

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An illustrated and often hilarious “real world” pro-tips that will save you time, money, and sanity.

A great gift for first-time parents that provides sensible, practical tips to make parenting easier. Easy to read with pictures, which is ideal for sleepy or harried parents. Clever and useful “hacks” cover pregnancy, newborns, and young children. Liked for its non-judgmental, guilt-free tone.

A little too cutesy for some reviewers who easily find these tips on the internet.

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Table of Contents

Buying guide for best parenting books.

Being a parent can be thrilling, fulfilling, and sometimes frustrating. Some days, you might feel all three emotions within the same five minutes. You’re not alone. The right parenting book can provide profound insight and guidance when you need it most.

Parenting books explore parenting from various angles, from the old school to the new. They cover different philosophies and methods when it comes to communication, discipline, and even mindfulness. These books are written by psychologists, educators, and fellow parents.

More than anything, parenting books should be empowering and supportive. And just like parenting, it comes down to a matter of preference which book is right for you. It’s an understatement to say no two parenting books are like, especially in terms of format. Generally speaking, these books include a foreword followed by detailed chapters. Some contain exercises and Q & A sections. We assembled this buying guide on parenting books to help you land on the right one.

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How to choose a parenting book

By your needs.

What do you actually need from a parenting book? Some parents need support for personal issues. Others are looking for ways to improve their relationship with their children. It’s fair to say that these books are often chosen because they provide a method of coping with parenting challenges. A book provides an opportunity for private reflection and connection through text, which many find comforting and encouraging.

By critical issues

It can be helpful, and even relieving, to read a parenting book that helps you realize you’re not alone in dealing with certain issues. These books typically explain how to parent during a specific phase or episode in a child’s life.

Some books address parenting based on the child’s age. A book might cover the difficulties of parenting a toddler (think tantrums) or a teenager (think puberty), for example. The book may offer unique solutions for the age group.

Many books also explain how to transition or adapt parenting methods to your child’s age. This is especially important for parents establishing new boundaries during pivotal moments, such as when children begin using social media or when it’s time to talk about safe sex.

Popular themes of parenting books

Communication-driven parenting.

No matter which parenting book you choose, communication is prioritized. There are also communication-driven books which address challenges like digital over-engagement, talking through trauma, and handling outbursts .

International parenting

In this type of book, you can explore how parents raise their children in different countries, picking up new approaches to discipline and understanding familial roles. A multicultural perspective also introduces you to social norms from around the world.

Parenting through mindfulness

If you’re interested in exploring how to parent children toward peaceful coexistence, consider books with mindfulness themes. They introduce ways to forge deep connections with your child through reflection, positive reinforcement, and earnest conversation.

Health-conscious parenting

Health-conscious parenting books typically focus on wellness and often include dietary approaches. These books show you how to reinforce positive relationships with food at home so kids can adopt healthy eating habits, which in turn help develop their physical and mental well-being.

Parenting through illness

There are also health-conscious parenting books that focus on parenting children with chronic illnesses. These books teach you how to accept that certain things are beyond your control or scope of understanding. They offer advice on how parents can cope while remaining strong, especially in hospital settings.

Special needs parenting

Books for parents of children with special needs often revolve around understanding a child’s behavioral and developmental issues. They provide insight on parenting methods that are more appropriate for a special needs child with an emphasis on effective communication.

Parenting through trauma

These books offer specialized approaches to parenting children who have experienced emotionally charged events, like the witnessing of a crime or the sudden loss of a parent. They can help you cope with the challenging role of a supporter, and they sometimes offer exercises in self-expression or stoicism.

Parenting book prices

Parenting books range in price from $1 to $35, so there’s definitely a text for every budget.

Inexpensive:  Parenting books up to $10 include a variety of independently published e-books as well as new paperbacks and classic parenting texts.

Mid-range:  For $10 to $20, you’ll find new releases from major publishing houses, namely from well-known experts in the parenting and psychology fields.

Expensive:  Books priced between $20 to $35 include hardcover editions as well as some child development textbooks.

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If you’re a fan of hygge, you may want to pick up The Danish Way of Parenting . A wholesome and uplifting read, it explores how Danish parents raise happy children by instilling confidence in them. The book is practical and accessible and includes six essential principles to guide you. It’s a light, engaging read parents with children of all ages can enjoy.   

Modern problems require modern solutions, so consider picking up The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age . This insightful read promotes the importance of interpersonal connections in a world of social media. It educates parents on screen-free engagement with children and why it’s crucial to their social skill development. Long story short, it’ll help you learn to communicate with your kids in the middle of a digital revolution.

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Q. Who’s writing parenting books, anyway? A. Psychologists and academics are often thought to be the main writers of parenting books, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Fellow parents, educators, medical doctors, philosophers, and spiritual leaders have also authored parenting books. There are even celebrities who have penned parenting books, such as Jessica Alba and Mayim Bialik.  

Q. Will a parent with the baby on the way be insulted if I give them a parenting book? A. Err on the side of caution here. If you have to ask, you may want to find a more appropriate gift. Some people take parenting books in stride and welcome them as they would any other gift. Others may be offended or insulted. A possible exception is comedic anecdotal parenting books, in which the focus is on levity.  

Q. I disagree with many suggestions from a parenting book I’m reading. Did I miss something? A. Not at all. It simply means it’s not the book for you. One good thing to come of this scenario: you realize your true feelings about some of the advice. Even if you don’t enjoy or agree with a parenting book, it still affords you an analytical or reflective experience. And sometimes, finding out what you don’t want to do as a parent is the most valuable take-away.  

Q. Someone recommended a parenting book, but it’s decades old. Won’t it be too outdated for parenting in the 21st century? A. It depends on the book. Some classics, like What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Murkoff, remain popular. Some have dated or inappropriate advice that you might find worth a read anyway, as you may find yourself pondering or analyzing the evolution of parenting.

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Recommended Parenting Books :

Top parenting book reviews.

Read parenting books reviews of our top picks. These descriptions combine our thoughts with those of Amazon reviewers as well as other parenting experts:

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The authors discuss all the important questions and concerns that parents have. For each age group, they describe behavior and general characteristics, examine what new things the child can now do, address stresses and fears, and give details about what the child is thinking and feeling. With an appreciation of the delights that each age brings as well as acknowledgment of the challenges of each age, the authors use stories from real life to illustrate practical techniques that parents can use to manage difficult behavior that is developmentally driven.

Reading these books is enlightening for all parents who want to understand their children better in order to do the best job they can in raising them and in encouraging their development. After reading any in this series, parents will feel less alone and reassured that their children’s challenging behaviors are normal, even if difficult to deal with. Readers will be guided through the fascinating and sometimes trying experiences of parenthood and will accumulate many tips to make their parenting journey less stressful and more gratifying.

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books reviews for parents

Through the lens of recent research on teen brain development, Dr. Bradley gives parents the skills, information and confidence to make wise decisions that will help their children manage the turmoil of adolescent life. Parents will learn how they can keep their relationship with their teen on track through the ups and downs of the exhausting, sometimes terrifying, and exhilarating ride of adolescence.

Bradley helps parents to understand and deal with the big issues facing teens in today’s society (sex, drugs, peer influences, use of technology), as well as typical adolescent development and behavior. Speaking with respect for both teens and their parents, Bradley appreciates the wonderful aspects of this stage of life as well as the challenges: he paints a vivid picture of teen creativity, passion, courage and experimentation on the one hand and of teen confusion, poor judgment and rebellion on the other.

Offering clear guidelines for parents puzzled by adolescent inconsistencies, Bradley speaks with compassion toward parents as he acknowledges their need to grieve the loss of their former sweet compliant child. He also holds up a mirror for parents to realize how their behavior affects who their teen is and how he behaves.

This book is insightful, entertaining, and at times poignant as it takes us on a tour of the world of the teen and his parents. It is an invaluable guide for parents whose children are in the throes of adolescence.

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Throughout the book, the authors focus on the mindset parents need to foster this quality in their children and how each of these guideposts leads to an “I can do this/I can overcome this” attitude in children:

In a warm, straight-forward, and easily understood way, the authors draw a clear picture of the path for parents to follow in order to foster psychological strength, hope and optimism in their children. Using specific examples, they describe a caring method to help their children grow into healthy, happy, loving, and mature adults.

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books reviews for parents

In How Much is Enough?, parenting expert Jean Illsley Clarke offers an in-depth look at how damaging overindulgence is to children, affecting their ability to learn many of the important life skills they need to thrive as adults. In warm and empathetic language, the author describes the three different ways children are overindulged (giving too much to them materially, doing for children what they can and should do for themselves, and not holding children accountable for their behaviors.)

You will learn to recognize how your own parenting approach may be preventing your children from becoming responsible, self-sufficient adults who feel gratitude for what they have. The many realistic examples, smart advice and effective strategies will provide you with a vision of how you can adjust your parenting style to promote your children’s success in life. Clarke addresses:

This book is a must-read for all parents who are trying to nurture and care for their children while not over-doing it through overindulgence.

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With warmth, humor and optimism, she encourages readers to examine the effects within their family of how limits are set for children. Her approach comes alive through dozens of examples — from sibling rivalry to teenage rebellion and from common misbehaviors to substance abuse and antisocial behavior. She also explains how to parent strong-willed children, provides effective alternatives to time-outs, bribes, and threats, and instructs how to help kids resolve disputes and address serious injustices such as bullying.

Kids are Worth It offers a practical blueprint for making adjustments that will allow your children to develop their own self-discipline by owning up to their mistakes, thinking through solutions, and correcting their misdeeds – all while leaving their dignity intact. Coloroso helps you help your children grow into responsible, resilient, resourceful adults — not because you tell them to, but because they want to.

books reviews for parents

This book combines invaluable information about handling toddlers and preschoolers with a workbook format (including exercises and summary sheets) so that parents can reflect on how they could use the suggestions in their own homes. With an understanding of temperament, child development and parents’ own personal values, Crary offers over 150 tips to deal with the most common misbehaviors posed by young children. Her suggestions provide parents with ways to set limits that are firm and fair and offer alternatives to spanking.

Crary addresses many ways to avoid problems in the first place and how to use a problem solving approach if difficulties do arise. Using examples from everyday life, she gives many specific and clear methods to increase behavior you want to see more of and decrease behavior that you would like to eliminate in your children. With these added skills in your parenting “tool belt,” you will find pleasure and pride in how you handle the typical challenges of raising young children.

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With wisdom, humor, and practical advice, this book illustrates the kind of communication that builds self-esteem, inspires confidence, encourages responsibility, and makes a major contribution to the stability of today’s family. The anecdotes, stories and examples of the participants will ring true for anyone who has ever taken seriously the job of bringing up children. From how to deal with feelings, to the struggle to let children become independent, to healthy communication skills, to dealing with anger, they tell it like it is with compassion, conviction and sensitivity. They encourage parents to let go of guilt and the thought that they need to be perfect in order to raise well-adjusted children. Being practical, wise and kind, Faber and Mazlish insist on the importance of parents taking care of their own needs so that they have the energy and focus to care for their children.

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Dr. Ross Greene, a distinguished clinician and pioneer in the treatment of kids with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges, has worked with thousands of explosive children, and he has good news: these kids aren′t attention-seeking, manipulative, or unmotivated, and their parents aren′t passive, permissive pushovers. Rather, explosive kids are lacking some crucial skills in the domains of flexibility/adaptability, frustration tolerance, and problem solving, and they require a different approach to parenting.

Throughout this compassionate, insightful, and practical book, Dr. Greene provides a new conceptual framework for understanding these explosive children’s difficulties, based on research in the neurosciences. He explains why traditional parenting and treatment often don′t work, and he describes what to do instead of relying on rewarding and punishing. Dr. Greene promotes working with explosive children to solve the problems that precipitate explosive episodes, and teaching these kids the skills they lack. Parents will gain confidence and optimism as they find ways to handle their children’s difficulties competently and with compassion.

The perspective and skills taught in The Explosive Child are crucial for all parents to learn. This book is recommended for any parent who has ever wondered how to handle their children’s anger, no matter how mild or intense.

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With a thorough description of the ten innate temperament traits that all people possess, Kurcinka helps parents to:

This is an important book for anyone who has struggled to find the positives in their challenging child’s behavior. Kurcinka offers a loving, optimistic approach which helps parents manage their children’s temperament and help their kids to eventually understand and manage their own temperament.

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Mogel makes these teachings relevant for any era and any household of any faith. A unique parenting book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee is both inspiring and effective in the day-to-day challenge of raising self-reliant, compassionate, ethical children.

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This tender book is filled with fresh ideas based on the latest neuroscience research which indicates how malleable a child’s brain is, and how parents can use knowledge of healthy brain functioning and development to raise children who are better able to manage the ups-and-downs of life and emotions. Complete with age-appropriate strategies for dealing with day-to-day struggles and illustrations that will help you explain these concepts to your child, The Whole-Brain Child shows you how to cultivate healthy emotional and intellectual development.

By applying these discoveries to everyday parenting, you can turn any outburst, argument, or fear into a chance to integrate your child’s brain and foster vital growth. Parents spend a lot of time trying to reason with a child in the throes of great upset. Instead, strategy # 1 suggests that parents “Connect and Redirect.” It guides parents to attune to and accept their children’s emotions first (connect) so they feel heard. Only once they have calmed down can children access the higher level functioning part of the brain where reasoning resides. At that point, parents can encourage the use of logic and planning (re-direct.)

With knowledge about how the brain develops and functions and with these skills in your parenting toolbelt, you will be able to help your children manage their emotions and develop skills that will allow them to thrive and to have rewarding interpersonal relationships. You will be able to transform everyday stressful interactions into brain-shaping moments!

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Parents of Tweens (9-14)

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What’s a Parent of a Teenager to Do?

These books examine the experience of living with adolescents — including the good, the bad and the bittersweet.

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This is a picture of a crowd of students (who appear to be teenagers) exiting a school building.

By Judith Newman

THE EMOTIONAL LIVES OF TEENAGERS: Raising Connected, Capable, and Compassionate Adolescents, by Lisa Damour

IT. GOES. SO. FAST.: The Year of No Do-Overs, by Mary Louise Kelly

You know what’s enjoyable about living with teenagers? Nothing. Truly, not one thing. They might distract you by appearing to be deeply interesting and funny, but don’t be fooled — teenagers are diabolical. They have studied their parents and caregivers enough to know what we’ll find most irritating. And now, adding insult to injury, our worries about them have amplified over the past few years, with good reason. Studies show that adolescent rates of depression and anxiety had a sharp uptick during the pandemic. On Feb. 13, the C.D.C. released a report saying that teen girls in particular are experiencing “ record high levels of violence, sadness and suicide risk.”

So how are we supposed to get our kids through these daunting years? There are countless books on the subject, but “The Emotional Lives of Teenagers ” is the nuanced, empathetic one I wish I’d had when I was in the trenches. Lisa Damour , a clinical psychologist, disagrees with the idea that adolescence is a time of great frailty, and she marshals the science to back up her theory. She also dismisses the idea that fear, guilt, shame, anger and sorrow are to be avoided, fixed, or are somehow unsafe. Powerful feelings are “a feature, not a bug,” she writes, then goes on to explain how we should encourage kids to incorporate theirs into decision making.

Most important, Damour stares down the very real mental health issues that teenagers increasingly face; throughout the book we are given sound guidelines about when to ask for professional help, how to distinguish distress from trauma and how to address signs that a teenager might be in danger.

“The Emotional Lives of Teenagers” also explores gender differences in coping with distress (“boys are likely to turn to distraction, and girls are more likely to turn to discussion”); racial bias in emotional expression; and one of the most perplexing hallmarks of teenagerhood: Why would my kid tell me the most horrible thing that’s going on in his life, rant about it, forbid me from doing anything to solve the issue — and then feel better, while I am left with another sleepless night? It’s called “externalization” and it’s common. You manage “an unpleasant emotion by getting someone else (often a loving parent) to feel it instead.” Damour sums it up like this: “Think of externalization as handing off the emotional trash.”

Tips for Parents to Help Their Struggling Teens

Are you concerned for your teen? If you worry that your teen might be experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts , there are a few things  you can do to help. Dr. Christine Moutier, the chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suggests these steps:

Look for changes. Notice shifts in sleeping and eating habits in your teen, as well as any issues he or she might be having at school , such as slipping grades. Watch for angry outbursts, mood swings and a loss of interest in activities they used to love. Stay attuned to their social media posts as well.

Keep the lines of communication open. If you notice something unusual, start a conversation. But your child might not want to talk . In that case, offer him or her help in finding a trusted person to share their struggles with instead.

Seek out professional support. A child who expresses suicidal thoughts  may benefit from a mental health evaluation and treatment. You can start by speaking with your child’s pediatrician or a mental health professional.

In an emergency: If you have immediate concern for your child’s safety, do not leave him or her alone. Call a suicide prevention lifeline. Lock up any potentially lethal objects. Children who are actively trying to harm themselves  should be taken to the closest emergency room.

Resources If you’re worried about someone in your life and don’t know how to help, these resources can offer guidance:1. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Text or call 988  2. The Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741 3. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

And then there’s the Mess Around and Find Out School of Parenting: When a bad decision is cataclysmic, you may need to swoop in and rescue your kid — but it’s also important to remember that there are very few bad decisions that aren’t reversible. We can (and often do ) spoil our teens by saving them too frequently.

“Mental health is not about feeling good,” Damour writes. “Instead, it’s about having the right feelings at the right time and being able to manage those feelings effectively. Not that there’s such a thing as a ‘wrong’ feeling; what we’re getting at here is whether emotions make sense and are proportional to the situation.” You can help your kid get there — and help yourself get there too. Damour fulfills the promise of her subtitle — “Raising Connected, Capable and Compassionate Adolescents” — by making us more connected, capable and compassionate parents.

Mary Louise Kelly is a helicopter parent, by which I mean a parent who has spent a good deal of time in helicopters. She is currently the co-host of “All Things Considered” on NPR, but for many years her beat was national security, which often meant dropping into war zones.

Perhaps Kelly should have written a straightforward memoir about her life as a journalist. I’m not sure why she decided to write a book on parenting, except for the fact that, as she tells us in the intro, her agent told her to do it.

“It. Goes. So. Fast.” is actually a fine idea for a book. Kelly’s peripatetic life meant she’d missed a lot of little moments of her sons’ childhoods and she didn’t want to miss the final year before her older son went away to college — the last one with her nuclear family all living under one roof. She set out to write “a book about what happens when the things we love — the things that define and sustain us — come into conflict. It’s a book about the unsettling but exhilarating feeling of glimpsing that life as I know it is about to swerve.”

This all misleadingly suggests a book that, like Damour’s, gives us insights into the joys and challenges of parenting teens.

Sure, there are lessons to be mined from Kelly’s professional experiences. Consider her headline-making interview with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in January 2020, when she pressed him to explain why he hadn’t defended Marie Yovanovitch, the American ambassador to Ukraine, when she was attacked by President Trump and ultimately fired. Kelly describes how Pompeo then summoned her to a private room where he shouted at her and challenged her to find Ukraine on a map (she did).

Kelly uses this hair-raising story to create anodyne life lessons to impart to her kids, like “never give up” and “the necessity, sometimes, of standing up to bullies.” OK. Sure. But this doesn’t have much to do with the year she spent supposedly hanging with them; in fact, we barely get acquainted with them at all. I did enjoy knowing that when Kelly channeled Martha Stewart and carved tiny pumpkins into soup tureens for a special holiday meal, nobody noticed. Now that sounds like real teenagers.

It seems that Kelly was not exactly home, observing her children, the entire year — when she blocked out six weeks to write this book, she retreated alone to her summer home on Nantucket. We also don’t learn, until more than 200 pages into the book, that she and her husband were separating; a life-changing event shouldn’t be thrown in as an afterthought, unless you really aren’t interested in digging deep.

And, while Kelly does write movingly about her father’s death, she seems more interested in keeping the shades of her family life drawn. At one point she writes, “Not every day was great. I’ll elide the details of the less glorious ones, out of respect for the boys’ privacy.” That is perfectly understandable, except that this is a chronicle of family life. You are writing a memoir, not a press release.

Still, there’s much here for Kelly fans (and count me among them) who will enjoy spending some domestic time with her. We look forward to a memoir that’s less hand-wringing about work/life balance and more time in the helicopter.

Judith Newman writes the Help Desk column for the Book Review. She is the author of “To Siri With Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son and the Kindness of Machines.”

THE EMOTIONAL LIVES OF TEENAGERS: Raising Connected, Capable, and Compassionate Adolescents | By Lisa Damour | 256 pp. | Ballantine | $28

IT. GOES. SO. FAST.: The Year of No Do-Overs | By Mary Louise Kelly | 240 pp. | Henry Holt | $26.99

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Parenting is one of if not the single largest responsibility you can take on in life. It takes time, energy, and dedication. In this world there are many influences you don’t want your kids to have. With entertainers constantly pushing boundaries it would be difficult to go through a day as an adult without coming across at least one thing you wouldn’t want your children exposed to. But how do you keep these influences away from your children? You cannot be there every second of every day; and even if you could, that would hardly be beneficial for your child.

There are many areas of modern technology with snares for the unwary. TV, Movies and video games are clearly something that you as a parent should be involved with your child on. You should know what they are watching and playing; you should know what the ratings for those things are; and you should have a clearly defined boundary between what is acceptable and what is not. For TV, a V chip can help. For movies and video games, there are organizations whose sole purpose is educating parents on the contents of new releases. They have a comprehensive set of ratings for both movies and video games that will let you know whether a given game or movie is suitable for your children.

In addition, we strive to help you sort through the latest family entertainment and  social media . We are your online family resource for  parents movie reviews ,  movie ratings for families ,  video game ratings and parental advisory information.

But in the 21st century, there are many more avenues for malignant influences to reach your children. While both cell phones and the internet are invaluable tools for staying connected; they both have pitfalls for a child. Thankfully, there are internet filters that you can set up on your computer to limit the sites your children can access. That means your fourteen year old son can catch up on the latest sports headlines, but he won’t be looking up centerfolds. The options on these filters include the ability to set up reports on your children’s browsing habits, or send you an email when they try to access a site they aren’t allowed on. They can even be set to shut down internet access after a certain time of night.

Major cell phone companies have robust parental controls on phones as well. You can block numbers from your children’s phones, set them to shut off at a certain time of night, and even activate emergency tracking on the phone to help find a lost child. And that brings us to another great new parenting invention: GPS. You can get a GPS device that your child carries around with them so that you know where they are. This can provide great peace of mind for any parent who takes their children to busy public places. It only takes a moment turned the wrong way for a child to get lost, but with GPS they can be easily found again.

Parenting responsibilities begin long before TV, movies, cell phones, video games, or even the internet are of any interest to your child however. From birth, your child needs to be fed, nurtured, supported, cared for, oh and fed… From the moment they are born, we try to protect our children from harm, and baby safety is at the forefront of any good parent’s mind.

Why do we spend so much time thinking about baby safety? Babies are fragile, that’s why! When they are born, babies can’t even hold their own head up. They weigh a meager handful of pounds, can’t see past 18 inches, and are utterly defenseless. As our children grow, it always seems that their ability to get into trouble constantly outpaces their ability to judge what constitutes a bad idea. Our job as parents is to help steer them away from the worst ideas, the ones that could seriously injure them.

As parents, we want to provide our babies with the best things possible, whether it is food, baby toys, education, or baby bedding. It’s a competitive world, and any edge you can give your children, you want for them. In many cases it goes beyond a simple edge though. High quality baby bedding has been shown to reduce incidence of sleeping problems in infants, including SIDS.

Other pieces of baby gear can be equally important to keeping a young child safe. Humidifiers are invaluable aids if your baby catches a cough (and at some point, they will). Organic toys ensure that your baby isn’t coming into contact with lead based paints or other toxic chemicals. Safety latches and gates keep your baby out of areas of the home that could harm them. We have them all here, at prices that can’t be beat.

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The Wicked Ones by Robin Benway

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lightlark alex aster

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Origami Games: Hands-On Fun for Kids!: Origami Book with 22 games, 21 Foldable Pieces: Great for Kids and Parents Hardcover – Illustrated, June 10, 2010

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Origami Paper | 350 Origami Paper Kit | Set Includes - 300 Sheets 20 Colors 6x6 | 50 Traditional Japanese Patterns | Origami

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About the author

I've enjoyed origami since my childhood in Omaha, Nebraska. When I first started doing origami, there were fewer than five origami books that were easily available in English. All diagrams were done by hand, there was no email, no Internet. I was lucky to have lived in New York City in the 1970s, and was a frequent visitor at the Origami Center of America, which was also the home of Lillian Oppenheimer, the woman who did more than anyone to promote the art of origami throughout the world.

Nowadays, there are hundreds of books in English, all easily available, and thanks to the Internet, origamists from all over the world can stay in touch with one another. I have origami friends in Japan, Brazil, Germany, Israel, Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands, to name just a few places.

Over the years I've conducted many origami workshops in camps, schools, museums, community centers, and libraries. These days, I coordinate a monthly origami club that meets at the Roxbury Park Recreation Center in Beverly Hills, the fourth Sunday of every month, from 1-4 PM. For more information, you can go to the website of Origami-USA (www.origami-usa.org), and then to Resources > Find an Origami Group > Local and International Origami Groups > POP (Pacific Ocean Paperfolders.

Also, please visit me on my website www.joeldstern.com!

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books reviews for parents

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Christian Book Reviews For Parents

The read aloud family: making meaningful and lasting connections with your kids by sarah mackenzie.

I love this book and the passion it birthed in me to read aloud to my kids. The stories we readand the conversations we have about themhelp shape family traditions, create lifelong memories, and become part of our legacy. Reading aloud not only has the power to change a familyit has the power to change the world.

But we all know that connecting deeply with our families can be difficult in our busy, technology-driven society. Reading aloud is one of the best ways to be fully present with our children, even after they can read themselves, but it isnt always easy to do.

Where To Buy Christian Parenting Books

Now that youve read information about the 10 Best Christian parenting books and how to choose other Christian parenting books, its now time to look where you can buy these books. Before you go on, it is important to note that these are suggestions and it is up to you to buy from and trusted stores.

Now, here are different places where you can buy Christian parenting books:

Comparison Table Of Christian Parenting Books

To get a quick idea of the books included in this post, check out this table. It tells you the title of the book, the subtitle, description, author, and review.

A gun isnt without a trigger. Our reactions will amplify the precipitation of the past and even the present.

Amber Lia and Wendy Speake have profoundly laid out 31 internal and external personal triggers grounded in a bonanza of Biblical Wisdom and Scripture references.

They have discussed these triggers with a wide range of honest, practical, and realistic guidelines that would help you get through each nerve-wracking situation.

The book is designed to aid you in improving your relationship with your child, and with each chapter ending with a prayer, allows you to breathe and let the pressure out.

Its never too late to pick up a copy of Triggers today a highly recommended book by all moms.

Join the self-reflection and self-preparation for the adventure that lies ahead with your little one, whether youre a mom-to-be or have already begun the parenting journey!

There are specified obligations in every role in life to lead us, lest we stray from what we were intended to perform and become dysfunctional.

Raising a child and being a mentor to the tiny ones is the most sacred job a person can ever play. It prepares them for whatever role God has in mind for them in the future.

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Mr And Mrs Guy And Amber Lia And Mrs Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Choosing Good Christian Books

I received this book to facilitate this review  all opinions are my own ...

Im very picky about what I read. Finding books that are well-written, fun, point to Jesus in some way, and are affordable is tough sometimes.

Im willing to be challenged and grow in many ways, but I have a very low tolerance for inappropriate content. If I would be ashamed to read it out loud to Jesus, or my elementary-age son, I probably shouldnt be reading it.

Thats not to say I dont read things my boy isnt ready for, because I most definitely do. I dont think he would be up for the action/suspense of Coat of the Ancients in my post on Christian Fatherhood , or any number of adult situations in my favorite romantic fiction or Christian time travel or fantasy books. But, I wouldnt be embarrassed or upset if I catch him reading them over the next few years. Why? Because the language is clean, and any situations that are sinful and evil are not glorified. And ooh the conversation starters!

That said, you can expect only well-screened books to be recommended here! If I recommend a few clean books that arent overtly Christian, it would be because I found enough value in them, and places that show Biblical values lived out.

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Identifying Triggers In Your Marriage

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lias story, youll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Effective Habits To Embrace In Parenting

To be an effective parent, you must be a leader in your childs life, guiding with a gentle hand and setting a solid example. Dr. Randy Schroeder provides the insight you need to be a leader-parent. As he explores the foundational Rsrelationship, routines, responsibilities, and rulesyoull better understand the role you play in your childs life. Youll learn great phrases to employ such as Either/Or/You Decide and When You/Then You. While there is no perfect parent, this nuts-and-bolts material will equip you to lead your child in a loving, confident manner.

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Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family By Paul David Tripp

I am an imperfect parent. You probably are too. Buy this book and soak in it. This is not another 5 Steps to Becoming a Perfect Parentinstead, Tripp wants us to see our relationship to God and to our children through a big-picture lens. My wife and I are always-go-never-stop parents of young children. If you know the feeling, this book will be both challenging and refreshing, and ultimately it will be a great blessing to your journey. Tripp has made me think in a fresh way about the extremely important and tremendously challenging task that is everyday parenting. To raise up a child is a great responsibilitylet us take it up with reverence, joy, and a loving heart! Jacob Tamme, NFL® tight end

Raising Emotionally Strong Boys: Tools Your Son Can Build On For Life By David Thomas Lmsw

Some say thats just how boys areprone to outbursts or sullenness. But whats behind these and other issues? Drawing from twenty-five years of counseling boys and working with parents, David Thomas sheds light on common emotional struggles.

This book shows how a strong emotional foundation leads to a Christ-like sense of masculinity that will serve him well his whole life. Reviewers claim, David gives incredible insight on the inner workings of boys and how to help them navigate their emotions.

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Tactics 10th Anniversary Edition: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions

In a world increasingly indifferent to Christian truth, followers of Christ need to be equipped to communicate with those who do not speak their language or accept their source of authority. In Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition, Gregory Koukl demonstrates how to artfully regain control of conversations, keeping them moving forward in constructive ways through thoughtful diplomacy. Youll learn how to stop challengers in their tracks and how to turn the tables on questions or provocative statements. Most important, youll learn how to get people thinking about Jesus.

Who Is Aryn The Libraryan

Well, Ive been in love with Jesus and books since before I can remember!

As a kid, the best form of discipline was always taking away my books. And you know what? Im still addicted to reading. Im very grateful for parents who saw that I was going to need to learn to control that desire for books, and see to my responsibilities!

God has used that love of reading to teach me much, as He teaches me what is and is not acceptable, what is, and is not present in my life, based on these fictional stories. He uses them as a mirror sometimes I like what I see, other times I dont. Id really like to share these with you, too! We can apply truth together!

I started this Christian book review blog in 2017 in part because some friends were expressing their concerns about the dangers of Biblical fiction , and getting confused between the Biblical account and the made-up stories. In my experience, reading Biblical fiction, when its well written, and you read the Biblical account first, and again afterward, your understanding grows. You see the characters as real people even more clearly. I find it especially fun to read multiple authors take on a single character.

One way to help keep things straight, and learn from what were reading, is to turn books into a conversation with God. Here is my free Faith and Fiction devotional reading journal for you!

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How A Former Abortion Doctor Became Pro

As an abortion doctor at Planned Parenthood, Dr. Patti Giebink believed she was helping women. Later, she began reading scripture and God gradually changed her heart on the abortion issue. Patti tells the story of her long journey from abortion doctor to pro-life and encourages listeners to share the message of life with compassion.

Sounding Pretty Great So Far Read On For The Not So Pretty

My Child

One concern I had with the series was how Meyer handled the Red Riding Hood retelling in book two, Scarlet. Scarlet was great: fiery and tough. But Meyer chooses to twist the story so the Wolf becomes the prince. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, theres great redemption here: the Wolf repents when he falls for the girl and spends the rest of the books trying to help the good side. But on the other hand, I think Meyer twisted the spirit of the original fairy tale by changing the wolf into the good guy. I generally dont like plots where a villain symbol is portrayed as a good guy. And in fairy tales, wolves are the bad guys. But then, in fairness, St. Francis did redeem the wolf of Gubbio, so there is a certain precedent to redeeming the wolf.

Also, Wolfs genetic engineering and past training as a wolf-man brings some other challenges to the series. His wolf-like instincts make him very protective of his mate Scarlet, but also bring violence into their relationship. At one point, he almost rips her throat out while under the mind control of a lunar villain. The thing that bothered me here and in a few other Wolf-Scarlet scenes was there seemed to be a sensual-sexual aspect to the violence. Almost a BDSM vibe. Subtle, but there in my opinion.

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How To Find Great Books To Read To Your Kids

I was always searching for what books to read to my kids. I liked to read to them, and they liked to listen, even after they learned to read books on their own . But this time, I hadnt carefully screened a book before I started reading it to them, and I realized too late that the main character solved his problem by lying, without facing any consequences for his decision. When the book ended, we had a good conversation about how the ends dont justify the means , and I began to consider how I could be more proactive in choosing quality books for my kids.

Reading To Kids 12 And Above

Book titles listed below have been reviewed by Focus on the Family, though not all books published by Focus on the Family have reviews because they are wholly approved by Focus on the Family. Those that dont have reviews are linked to an online bookstore where you can read descriptions about the books. The titles below are intended to help parents create their own list of books to read to their children. There is some overlap of book titles between the age groups because of the wide variety of differences in children at each age and stage. Remember that PluggedIn.com book reviews are not endorsements and cover only the content and theme of a book, not its literary merit.

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How To Raise An Adult

Its one thing to help guide your child through life, and another to over-parent, as it were. Today there is a term for this type of parentinghelicopter parentingand Julie Lythcott-Haims uses research, conversations with experts, and her own insights as a mom and student dean to highlight just how this type of parenting can actually do more harm than good.

The book is relevant to parents with kids of any age, really, although there may be something extra helpful in there for parents of teens. The book is a No. 1 best seller in the parenting teenagers category.

Price at time of publication: $18

Raising Grateful Kids In An Entitled World By Kristen Welch

I wrote this book because my childrens entitlement revealed my own and I wanted to live a grateful life and lead them by example. Gratitude shows us what we have instead of what we dont. Its never too late to raise grateful kids. Get ready to cultivate a spirit of genuine appreciation and create a Jesus-centered home in which your kids dont just saybut mean !thank you for everything they have.

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Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through The Seven Transitions Into Adulthood By Lisa Damour Phd

I read this book when my daughter was a preteen and Im reading it again now. Although this isnt a Christian Parenting Book wed be remiss as parents to ignore the realities of whats going on in the world. This book explains the pressures young girls are under, what exactly is happening in the pre-teen and teenage brain and when its time for parents to worry.

Books Kids Read At School

If you dont have time to read all the books that your kids may have to read during class, consider reading book reviews for parents about these books. After all, once kids learn to read well, a books reading level is less important than whether the content inside is developmentally appropriate.

Does your kid have the back to school blues? Discover some tips to help your kids overcome their negative feelings about returning to school.

Where do you start the home-schooling experience? How do you keep from being overwhelmed by it?

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Recommended Reading: Power Of Attorney Form Florida For Elderly Parent

How Do I Know If A Book Is Right For My Kids

Its a little overwhelming to stay on top of all of the books my kids want to read. I want to encourage them to read however, I do not want to expose them to a story-line that is violent, disturbing, filled with inappropriate relationships, and bad language.

This post is really meant for a reader who is self selecting books themselves. If youre looking for books on how to choose a book at an appropriate level, . What do you do when your child asks you to request a new book from the library or purchase one from the new school book order?

You look at the titles and find yourself asking, is this book safe for my child to read?

Id love a system that rates books similar to the movies: G, PG, PG-13, R, and even NC-17. While I havent found those types of ratings, plenty of sites have their own system.

I would like to stress that it is still important to screen reading material as much as possible. Friends and knowledgeable librarians may have different standards. Since it is nearly impossible to pre-read every single title for your voracious reader, try out the sites below and bookmark your favorite one!

The Lifegiving Parent: Giving Your Child A Life Worth Living For Christ By Sally Clarkson

Pin on Master Books Quotes

In The Lifegiving Parent , respected authors and parents Clay and Sally Clarkson explore eight key principlesheartbeats of lifegiving parentingto shed light on what it means to create a home where your children will experience the living God in your family. Now parents of four grown childreneach with their own unique personality and giftsSally and Clay have learned that the key to shaping a heart begins at home as you foster a deep and thoughtful God-infused relationship with each child.

Also Check: How Do I Turn Off Parental Controls

The Christian Parenting Handbook: 50 Heart

Part of being a successful parent is having a plan. Not all strategies work the same for all children, and The Christian Parenting Handbook offers fresh, faith based ideas for parents looking for effective answers. Every child is unique, and every family has its own set of dynamics. Parents can be eager to know how to take ideas and put them into practice, and this book can help parents form new routines for their families. Beyond that, each chapter in this book can enrich your biblical philosophy of parenting.

One reviewer raves, I love the format with solid nuggets of truth that you can immediately apply with your own kids. Every chapter deals with a new topic and teaches the principle as succinctly as possible. It is the best bang for your buck in terms of parenting books.

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