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The 20 Books I Wish Every Adult Would Read

There are many books that I love and recommend frequently in my practice. However, these 20 hold their spot as both the MOST helpful and the MOST applicable to most families and adults working with children.

Many of these books are written by the same fabulous researchers, practitioners, and thought-leaders. Dr. Shefali Tsabary, Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, and Ross Greene are my authors worth repeating because each of their books (including the ones I didn't include on this list) are incredibly helpful and impactful. In other words, I couldn't just pick one.

I also chose these specific books because they apply across the lifespan. Yes, "No Drama Discipline" is certainly aimed at interacting with younger children, as is "How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen" but it's worth it to me to include them on this broad list because what you will learn in every book here will benefit any person you interact with. I wrote a short descibtion for each book to help you navigate which books may be especially helpful to you, your child, or someone you know.

Parenting From the Inside Out by Dan Siegel

This is a gold-standard book for me. I highly recommend to anyone thinking about becoming a parent, new to parenthood, or anywhere along the parenting journey. It's a book that allows introspection and gives us tools to become parents we truly want to be.

Parenting Without Power Struggles by Susan Stiffelman

Power struggles are the number one issue I see with any child or parent I work with. Power struggles come from a child's need to understand themselves, their relationships, and the world around them and the way we respond can make a major difference in our relationship with them an also help them learn a tremendous amount about themselves and others. This book, and all the work of Susan Stiffelman, can pave the way towards happy, healthy, children and families. She also has a great podcast!

Lost at School by Ross Greene

Another FAVORITE. I adore the work of Ross Greene and find myself referring to his work daily. It would be great to read this book as a caregiver or teacher of young children but also an absolute must for informing ourselves to work with and parent school-aged children. Ross Greene has a tremendous website here.

How to Talk to Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber & Julie King

I love this book. It's fun to read, has some great ideas, and works like a charm. This book isn't about trickery or force, it's more about understanding children better so we can all communicate in a way that is helpful and kind. I also recommend the original book for slightly older children, How to Talk to Kids Will Listen here.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham

Who isn't a fan of being peaceful? This is another great book for understanding ways to align with our children so that we are connected and loving. I think Dr. Laura Markham has a way of offering information that truly allows us to build a healthy relationship with a child.

The Explosive Child by Ross Greene

Another Ross Greene A+. I work primarily with children who are deemed "explosive" or "defiant" and I just wish everyone could read this book. It allows us to understand and respond in ways that help. And sadly, so often, our responses to explosive behavior do not help. This book is a must.

Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide by Rebecca Eanes

Positive, peaceful, gentle...all these words are sort-of interchangeable but each book is meant to help parents, caregivers, and educators understand the importance of a health adult-child relationship and then how to build it. I love this one and I love the work of Rebecca Eanes in general.

Gentle Discipline by Sarah Ockwell-Smith

Again with these words to describe parenting that may seem unattainable. The truth is, we CAN interact in ways that are reliably gentle, peaceful, and positive. If it doesn't seem doable or reasonable, the books on this list are worth the read. I feel inspired each time I read one and I feel even more inspired and motivated when I see these techniques and attitudes being put into action. They work.

The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary

Shefali Tsabary is just...amazing. This book and The Awakened Family listed below are life manuals. Read them as a parent, as a person who interacts with children, or just as a person living in this world. It's certainly more philosophical than manual but for that reason, I adore it.

Born for Love by Maia Szalavitz and Bruce Perry

Bruce Perry is wonderful and has written many other books as well that are 100% worth reading, especially if you are inclined to learn more about the effects of trauma in early life. This book is a foundation to understand how important a secure attachment relationship is (in other words, a strong parent-child relationship). I would also recommend this book to a partner, a grandparent, a teacher, any one who you want to appreciate the power of human relationships.

The Gardener and the Carpenter by Alison Gopnik

I've pulled many ideas out of this book and found them to all be incredibly helpful to parents and educators. I love her writing and her ability to bring about ideas that make perfect sense but seem new at the same time. I appreciate the idea that how we view our role in a child's life can be greatly beneficial or sort-of stifling to a child's development.

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

I LOVE Alfie Kohn. This book is wonderful for everyone. The title says it all but this book is extremely helpful for shifting away from threats and rewards and all the tools adults end up using to try to shape a child or their behavior. He offers ways to parent that are much more respectful, helpful, and unconditional. I appreciate this book and the work of Alfie Kohn in general.

The Importance of Being Little by Erika Christakis

Another book where the title says it all. I fell in love with this book because I find childhood to be so, so important and this book feels like everything I believe and want others to know. If we're having a hard time appreciating childhood, or want to understand a child better, this is the perfect book.

The Power of Showing Up by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Byson

A brand new Dan and Tina book (I feel like I'm on a first-name basis by now)! This one is great, like all the others. They lay out the ways that we can engage with children in ways that are extremely beneficial. Again, they draw on profound science to illustrate how secure, safe relationships build a child's brain and their overall development.

No Bad Kids by Janet Lansbury

It seems like parents either love her or hate her but I fall in-between with Janet Lansbury. I think it can feel tough to follow her lead at all times (and without much scientific backing) but I find that her perspective does align with what we know about brain development, human attachment, and lifespan development. This is a great read for parents who want to treat their child with respect, navigate hard moments, and feel good about the love we give a child.

The Yes Brain by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

Here is a whole line of Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson books because I just can't leave them off this list. I LOVE the Yes Brain and often teach the importance of aligning with a child and what a receptive brain state means. It's a great read.

No-Drama Discipline by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

Who wants drama?? I can't say much more than this is a perfect book for all parents.

The Whole-Brain Child by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

Again, a real rockstar of a book. This book helps adults understand the brain science behind behavior and then problem-solve. It's incredibly helpful and applicable to all parents and children.

The Awakened Family by Shefali Tsabary

I said I love Shefali Tsabary (just like Oprah does) and I mean it. Such a good read if you're looking for a book to expand your parenting journey. This book goes beyond the "how-to" genre and enters into a realm of philosophy.

The Opposite of Worry by Lawrence Cohen

I love the work of Lawrence Cohen and the focus on play. I chose this book for this list because I see such a huge portion of children (and their parents) suffering from anxious and worrisome thoughts. I found this book to provide useful information to understand anxiety and also attend to it. I share things I learned from this book with parents frequently and feel that any parent, caregiver, or educator would benefit from reading it as well.

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