Category: Tips & Tricks

10 books that should be required reading for parents


Sarah Welch

posted in Tips & Tricks

Parenthood has got to be the most humbling journey known to (wo)mankind. The Universe does not take kindly to smug know-it-all-ness.

Think about it in your own life.

How many times have you been SO SURE about your own parental approach or opinion on a charged parenting topic — wielding your right way as a yardstick against which to judge other parents’ actions — only to experience a radical shift in your understanding of the matter at a later date.

My little sister, whom I adore, had a brief window during the first year of her oldest child’s life where all food had to be organic and freshly prepared – and sugar was totally verboten. Even treats from grandmothers and aunties were screened for sugar. Cut to a decade and four children later. The two of us curled up on a couch and watched a home video clip of her first child’s 1st birthday party. Towards the end, after her daughter blew out the candles on her rather sad looking sugar-free, frosting-less cupcake, she proudly exclaimed to all partygoers that there were “more sugar free cupcakes in the kitchen!”

My sister rolled her eyes and guffawed at her younger “perfect” self, muttering, “God, that is so embarrassing!”

Like I said, humbling.

That’s precisely why I try to steer clear of celebrity (and non-celebrity, yet thinly credentialed) know-it-alls peddling their formulas for parental nirvana in books. Ahem, I’m looking at you, Alicia Silverstone, Mayim Bialik, and Jenny McCarthy.

Parenting is a huge responsibility, intensely emotional, and, for lack of a better word, really freaking hard. There’s just so much to figure out at every stage, and often what works for one child does not work at all for the next.

The high stakes add a layer of intensity; it’s up to you to figure out the right path forward and your child’s future hangs in the balance (or at least seems to). From breast feeding to breast pumping, baby wearing to sleep schedules, staying home vs. working, vaccines, and redshirting…

In the face of such complexity and ambiguity, black and white answers can be very appealing. For starters, it’s a lot simpler to navigate than shades-of-grey.

Too bad parenting is a decidedly shades-of-grey experience!

That’s why I take (and recommend) a curiousity-based approach to parental challenges, whether it’s figuring out whether or not to vaccinate my child or medicate for ADHD. Rather than books with “the answer,” I seek books that will help me learn about a topic in all its complexity, understand and confront my own irrational fears, and help me better understand the root drivers of my child’s – or my own – behavior. In short, books that provide frameworks for thinking about challenges and big decisions rather than answers.

Here are 10 books that have caused me to think more deeply about important parenting decisions and methods that I think should be on the required reading list!

Next I’m on the hunt for a good book on redshirting…

Do you have any favorite parenting books that take a curiosity-based, scientific approach? I’d love to hear!