The 8 Best Books for Parenting Toddlers
I’d imagine you’re here because you’re looking for some of the best parenting books for toddlers, and you’re in the right place! Parenting toddlers can often mean that you feel like you’re communicating with someone who speaks another language. And truthfully, they kind of do.
Toddlers can be a LOT of fun. Their sense of adventure is never-ending, and they are curious about EVERYTHING. They want to be like you, but they don’t realize that their ways of communicating are often lacking.
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The Top 8 Books for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers
As a parent of a toddler myself, your patience will be tried daily, and your ability to remain calm while trying to correct negative behaviors will become a challenge some days. Here are some of the best positive parenting books I have come across. They just so happen to be some of the best parenting books for new parents as well.
Each book has its own distinctive methodology about why they recommend what they do. I have given you a brief synopsis of what each book is about so that you can determine which book is going to be best for parenting your toddler or preschooler without having to do all the searching yourself. There is even a book specifically about helping you handle sibling rivalry as well.
How to Con Your Kid
By David Borgenicht and James Grace
As a parent of a toddler, you are probably starting to master the art of sneakiness and you don’t even realize it. Have you found yourself sneaking vegetables into your kiddo’s food? Or, maybe you’ve told your toddler that they’re going to play the clean-up game. Since when was cleaning up a fun game?
“How to con your kid” focuses on 4 main areas. You’ll learn how to con your kid into eating, bathing, talking quietly, and taking medicine. And then, once you’ve mastered the art of sneakiness, you’ll be able to con them into anything!
Each section is going to give your practical, simple-to-apply behaviors that are going to make your life MUCH simpler. This is one of those books that I don’t want to give away too much because you really need to read it for yourself and figure out which things will work for you. There is A LOT of valuable information here, and it’s a quick and easy read.
Like several of the other books listed here, one of the most important things about parenting is effectively communicating with our toddlers and preschoolers in a way that makes sense to them.
Siblings Without Rivalry
By Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
“Siblings Without Rivalry” is one of the top-rated parenting books if you have a toddler AND an older child.
One of the main things you need to remember is that each of your children is their own individual person with their own voice. They need to have a safe place to release their feelings and to be acknowledged.
It’s important for your children to be heard. They need to be able to express their feelings to you, especially those about their siblings. They need to be able to tell you how they feel about their siblings, whether negative or positive, without fear of getting in trouble. If they constantly have ill feelings towards a sibling, and those feelings are never dealt with, then the problem will persist.
Kids are going to fight. That’s a fact of life. Now, that doesn’t mean that you as a parent must jump in every time, and that can be difficult for some parents. There are plenty of times when your kids need to figure it out on their own. This book is going to dissect those situations for you and let you know when you need to intervene and when you need to let them sort things out without your help.
You’re going to spend some time working with your kids on handling difficult situations. You’ll teach them how to sit down and work together with others to come to a resolution to the problem. If your children are little, this is going to look a bit different than with older children, but the strategy is adaptable.
Another great aspect of this book is that it encourages you to be mindful of comparing your children. It isn’t a healthy parenting tactic, especially when you verbalize those comparisons.
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen
By Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Do you ever feel like you aren’t getting through to your child? It’s almost like you’re talking but they aren’t listening. This book will encourage mutual respect, non-patronizing language, praise, and cooperation, and it will empower you to take a different approach to communicating with your child.
There are 7 big aspects that are discussed in this book. They are praise, bringing it all together, freeing children from playing roles, encouraging autonomy, engaging cooperation, and helping children deal with their feelings.
One of the biggest things I have discovered both as a parent and a classroom teacher is that children REALLY struggle to understand and express their feelings in a healthy way. It’s interesting that we teach them so many other things when we are little, yet we forget we also need to teach them to communicate and deal with their feelings in a healthy, effective manner.
Kids are stuck in their circumstances and they aren’t old enough to exercise much autonomy considering they are just learning about the world. We have preset expectations for them, and we want them to adhere to those. Imagine how you would feel if you were in that situation. Would you want to be cooperative in an environment you had NO say? Probably not, and the same can be said for children. Hence the reason that we as adults need to change the way to interact with our children.
One key takeaway is that your words are powerful. Something you say that has a negative connotation, whether spoken directly to a child or not, can become a self-fulfilling prophecy for your child. As adults, we must remember that our words are powerful to little ones. We are all they know, and they learn from us every day.
If you choose to read this book, you will be encouraged to really work on developing a healthy relationship with your child. It will help life at home to be calmer (which I think everyone needs!) and more loving.
The Happiest Toddler on the Block
By Harvey Karp, M.D.
This is one of the best parenting books for toddlers! It is specifically geared toward working with children between the ages of 1 and 4.
The first part of the book discusses toddler and parent basics. You’ll be reading about civilizing your toddler and what that looks like. You’ll also be reading about the basics of parenting a toddler.
One thing you’ll evaluate in your own home is if your home is too boring or over-stimulating for your toddler. Too much one way or the other is not a good thing. Unfortunately, toddlers really struggle to express themselves when they are upset, and something so simple as their environment can be to blame.
You’ll work on breaking down the 4 big struggles toddlers and preschoolers deal with.
You’ll also learn about something called the “fast-food rule”. For this to be effective, the person who is most upset in a situation is the one who gets to speak first. It’s also important to remember that the words you use to express yourself are just as important as the way you say them.
Toddlers speak their own language, and the unfortunate part is that we don’t always understand it. What you’ll want to do is try to communicate back what your toddler spoke to you. The more you practice this behavior, the better you’ll get at communicating with them.
The rest of the book is about “green-light, yellow-light, and red-light behaviors”. The book will break these down extensively for you.
The Whole Brain Child
By Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
One of the first things this book discusses is the parts of the brain. The left side of the brain is the logical part of your brain, and the right side is the emotional part. The upper part of your brain is analytical, and the lower part is the reactive part. You first need to understand how and why each of those sections works and processes the way they do.
As a parent of a toddler or preschooler, it’s important that you first stop to connect the correct part of the brain with the situation. You need to first use the emotional part of your brain to make the connection with your child, and then use the logical part to correct the behavior, rather than letting your emotions jump in first.
In situations where your natural reaction is the get upset, you’ll want to stop for a brief moment and analyze the situation first. After you have diffused the situation, you can go back and walk through things with your child to help them better understand how one behavior led to another. During this time, remind your child how quickly the situation came and went and that negative feelings don’t have to last forever.
We, as parents, teach our children most of what they know. One set of tools we need to give them is strategies to help them calm themselves. This isn’t something they were born with, we have to teach them. We need to help them learn how to deal with conflict in the midst of dealing with their feelings.
One great tool you can give your child is something they already do often. They can use movement to help them deal with their emotions. This will force them to shift to a different part of their brain and then go back to dealing with the current situation. This could be something as simple as tapping a pencil even.
If you haven’t heard of the SIFT method, this book does a really great job of breaking that down for you. In fact, I think everyone should know and use the SIFT method for helping to understand and process tense situations.
Even though this book isn’t specifically geared toward toddlers, I think it is one of the best books for parenting toddlers. These are the kinds of skills we need to be teaching kids when they are young and moldable.
Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids
By Dr. Laura Markham
Figuring out how to be a peaceful parent might be something you never thought you’d do. What does it mean to be a peaceful parent anyway, and how is that going to affect your child? The reality is that you, as a parent, are teaching your kiddo most of what they know. That means you’re teaching them how to behave properly and handle situations in a way that leads to a positive outcome, and this book wants to talk all about that.
If you’re looking for the best books for parenting, but you aren’t willing to work on yourself, you might be missing the point. One of the first things you have to do sometimes in dealing with a situation is to look at yourself first. It’s critical that you, as your child’s parent, are emotionally healthy and taking care of yourself. You cannot teach these skills to your child unless YOU manage to do them successfully on a regular basis.
One common tie between all of these books is the importance of communication. It’s important that you take the time to listen to and connect with your child. A lot of times, the reason your children are acting out is that they want your attention. All of it!
Your role as a parent is to teach and guide your child. It can be hard to channel your inner teacher when your inner disciplinarian wants to kick in. Rather than correct all the time, it’s important that you teach your child the proper way of handling situations.
If you feel like you’re always screaming or yelling at your child or children, this is a great book for you. Taming yourself is going to be the first thing you work on. Then, you’ll progressively work towards creating a happy, peaceful environment in your home.
No Drama Discipline
By Tina Payne Bryson and Daniel J. Siegel
This book is great if you want to really break down what it means to “discipline” your child. The book begins by having you understand what discipline is. You need to connect with your child to better understand their behavior. Think about why your child is behaving a certain way.
Many people think about discipline as punishment. It means that you are punishing your child for negative behavior. This method is fear-based and it will train your child to fear punishment rather than starting to learn from it.
Discipline on the other than is meant to disciple or teach a child that positive behavior comes with positive consequences. This method of parenting is much more effective and less stressful for both the child and the parent.
They encourage you to redirect your child’s behavior by engaging their brain rather than creating a list of demands for them to follow. You always want to encourage them to be better rather than breaking them down. Another recommendation is to include your child in your discipline tactics and have them help you set up consequences for negative behaviors ahead of time.
I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a new way of thinking about discipline. I love the idea of reframing your perception of discipline. Your job as a parent is to teach a child the correct behaviors, rather than always punishing bad behaviors.
Parenting the Strong-Willed Child
By Rex Forehand
“Parenting the Strong-Willed Child” is broken down into 4 sections. The first is about understanding strong-willed behavior and where it all began. You will learn about how it takes more than just good parenting to break through to your strong-willed child. It will also answer some common questions tied to ADHD and strong-willed children.
Part two is about addressing the strong-willed behaviors of children. The awesome part about this portion of the book is that it wants you to do each of these behaviors for one week at a time, slowly watching progress happen as you work through this “program”.
The first week is about attending. This means that you are going to learn to describe and reenact your child’s behaviors. This portion of the book is known to be the most difficult for a lot of parents. The reason for this is that you are going to quickly pick up on and be bothered by the actions of your child, specifically the negative ones. You are going to have to really move past that and train yourself to focus on the positive for this to be effective. Attending requires you to only describe what the child is doing by saying it out loud. You aren’t correcting or guiding your child’s behavior.
The second week is about rewarding. For week two, you’ll be learning about the different types of rewards and the ones that are most effective. Verbal rewards are critical to your child’s development. You’ll learn about the importance of labeling your verbal reward. Physical rewards are something we are all familiar with. You’ll also learn about activity rewards and nonsocial rewards.
The third week is about ignoring. Ignoring will involve you doing 3 specific things. You’ll have no physical contact, no verbal contact, and no eye contact. There are some behaviors you’ll have to address for the safety of your child, and those are discussed further in the book.
The fourth week is about giving directions. For this section on changing your behaviors, you’re going to work on giving more clear directions. You’ll want to break things down into steps that are easier for your child to comply with. It’s also going to challenge you on some things. For instance, if you say, “Let’s pick up our toys”, you’re indicating to your child that you plan to do that with them. It’s important that you either follow through or give directions differently.
The fifth week is about using time-outs. Up until this point, you’ve worked on communication, rewards, ignoring negative behavior, and giving clear and digestible directions to your toddler. It’s now time to focus on the consequences when your child acts in an undesirable way. As a parent, there are a lot of consequences you can give when a child behaves negatively. Based on the research they conducted, the best way to punish a child is with consistent time-outs.
The book obviously breaks all of this down more, but, if you’re looking for a book that will walk you through things step-by-step, then this is it!
Even though each of these books takes a different approach to parenting toddlers and children in general, they all have a common thread of positive communication. Some deal with helping you tame your reactions, while others lead you in a more scientifically-proven route. It doesn’t matter which is most appealing to you, the important thing is to figure out what clicks with you, and work on improving your interactions with your child.
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