There are a ton of parenting books on the market. The sheer volume of information available for purchase can be overwhelming. If you go to the parenting shelf at your local bookstore or library, you will see what I mean. How does one even begin to know which book to pick? Then, once you have picked a book, how can you tell if it will be worth your time? And finally, once you have read it, how can you apply what you learned? Here we will explore the answers to these questions.
The first thing you need to know is that you will likely never find ONE parenting book or approach that gives you the ah-ha moment you seek. There is no magic bullet; there is no one-size-fits-all parenting approach that is going to permanently transform your child into the offspring of your dreams. You will have to glean what is appropriate for you and your family from the materials available. Remember, you are the expert on your child.
Before You Pick a Book
There are some things you can ask yourself as you consider the books on the shelf before you.
- What is the most pressing issue right now? Is my child mostly struggling with obedience (listening, following directions, compliance to rules)? Or are the areas of concern more related to personal responsibility, habits and skills? The answers to these questions will help you determine what type of book you need.
- Who needs help? Me? My kids? There are two types of approaches. If there is a particular area that your child is struggling with, maybe a workbook or a book that you can read together with your child would be better suited for the issue at hand. If you feel that you need some guidance, choose a book for Moms and Dads.
- What needs do I have right now? Sometimes you need concrete tips. Sometimes you need encouragement. Sometimes you need to commiserate. Sometimes you just need to laugh. Taking some time to think about the exact type of support you need will help narrow your search. As you flip through the table of contents, see if the topics fit your needs.
Things to Consider While You Read
- Take notes. When I read parenting books I take notes on the things that I agree with and those that I do not. I put a plus next to the pro and a minus next to any con. This way, when I am done, I have an objective way to assess if the overall message of the book works for me.
- Resist the urge to overhaul. You may want to drop the book after the first chapter and make a complete 180 in your parenting. Before you go and do anything rash, finish the book. We need to be purposeful in our parenting, not reactionary. This applies to how we train and discipline our children as well as how we make changes.
- Ask yourself some questions. You might want to ask yourself these questions as you go through the book: “Does this fit my style?” “Will this approach feel natural for me?” Don’t try to be someone you are not. We have to work with the gifts and personalities God has given us.
- Give yourself a break. It’s easy to finish a book and feel like a failure, having read in black and white all the things you could do better. Remind yourself that parenting is a lot like sanctification – we will never be perfect at it. It is a process. Don’t let the wounds of “could’ve” and “should’ve” fester. Change can start today.
Implementing New Ideas
- Focus. Don’t try to change everything at once. Pick one area to focus on and do that well before you move on to something else. Attempting to apply too many changes all at once usually backfires.
- Re-evaluate. Maybe once you start implementing some changes, you realize that the parenting method doesn’t fit your style. Or maybe you find that you are uncomfortable using the techniques that are prescribed. Sometimes, the method just does not work. What can you do? We addressed this very concern in a previous post.
- Keep a journal. Sometimes documenting your progress and struggles can help you keep the big picture in mind. Remember, sometimes things will get worse before they get better. Make sure that you have the support you need.