Books that Saved my Sanity

There are so many books and websites devoted to childhood development and parenting. Some are great; some are not. In general, I would say go with what works for you and your children — everybody is different and every child behaves and thinks differently. That’s what makes us so wonderfully unique, right?! Below are the books that seriously saved our sanity and why.

If I Have to Tell You One More Time… The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling by Amy McCready

“The Revolutionary Program” is right! This book revolutionized my parenting. I can’t say enough positive things about it. It has given us a new approach to parenting and understanding childhood behavior. The author is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, Inc. She knows what she is talking about, and her advice is outstanding.

Positive Parenting, An Essential Guide by Rebecca Eanes

I love this author’s approach to parenting. It is along the same vein as Amy McCready’s approach, but she has a softer style. This book is a great complement to Ms. McCready’s book, and together they are a fantastic resource. I love being a part of the Positive Parenting approach!

Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp

This book is a life-saver. I wish we had had it for our daughter (we stumbled upon it right after our second child was born). Dr. Karp sees ages newborn to 3 months as really the “fourth trimester” of pregnancy. It’s all about recreating the environment in the womb postpartum. He explains his “five S’s” and how they help calm your baby. It works like magic! I didn’t read all of the little anecdotes that come with each chapter, but if they help you even more, that’s great! This is my top recommendation.

Sign with Your Baby by Dr. Joseph Garcia

I never dreamed in my wildest dreams that I would be able to communicate with my infant using signs (or with anything else, for that matter), but I could. Babies want to communicate with you. That’s part of why they cry when they get a little older, say, starting around 6-7 months, because they get so frustrated that they can’t seem to connect with you. Even though their verbal skills haven’t yet developed, their large motor skills are developed enough for this to work. The key is to start about 6 or 7 months old, and by 8 or 9 months old they may start using them. You’ll need to understand that every child is different, so the results may vary from baby to baby. It certainly did with mine. My daughter (my first baby) started understanding the signs almost right away (within a month), but didn’t start using them until several months later. We even got her using the sign for “diaper” or “toilet” at around 9 months old to let us know that she had just soiled her cloth diaper (very helpful!). That sign transitions to toilet easily for potty training and is so useful! My second child was even more delayed than my first child at some of the signs, but he did start using the sign for “more” fairly quickly. My third child started using several of the signs in just a month or two, and even though he is old enough to talk now, we still catch him using the “more” sign. It’s so cool! Do exactly as the author suggests, and it should work for you and your child as well.

Happiest Toddler on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp

You’ve gotta trust me on this one. It’s a fantastic book, and his suggestions work very well. There’s just one thing: you have to be willing to talk like a Neanderthal. That’s right. You’ll be using extremely simple sentences with big, big motions until your toddler (12 months-about 3 years) gets it (his eyes will light up), then, and only then, can you explain yourself to your child. You’ll sound ridiculous, but you have to be OK with that. It really does work well. Our second child learned how to speak quickly once we started this, which was a nice and unexpected bonus, and it was so much easier to communicate with him. It saved him a lot of tears and frustrations. You just have to be willing to do it no matter how ridiculous you think you look. It does work. Just give it time.

What to Expect: The First Year by Sharon Mazel and Arlene Eisenberg (despite the book’s popularity, I’ve heard nothing but negative comments about What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I’ve heard it nicknamed, “What to Fear When You’re Expecting.” Yikes! I relied on my amazing obstetrician and on the American Pregnancy Association for my pregnancy issues.)

This book is organized by month (12 months to 24 months) and lists appropriate motor skills development for each month and what to check on at scheduled doctor’s visits. There are some handy (I would call them troubleshooting) suggestions for each month organized as FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions). The book was the most helpful for us by about the baby’s fourth month and on. There are even percentile charts in the back of the book, which we’ve found useful as well.

Five Love Languages for Children by Drs Campbell and Chapman. This book, like its counterpart for adults in relationships (also a great book!), focuses on the 5 “love languages” that speak to our children and help keep their “love tanks” full. It has helped us when times get a little tough to sit back and touch base with our children and their needs. Why are they acting out? Why are they suddenly so needy? etc. By making sure we are focused on their very personalized ways of receiving signs of love, we help either avoid conflicts all together, or we can smooth conflicts out faster once they’ve come to light. It doesn’t solve all problems, but it’s a great start to really knowing and understanding your children, and thereby reducing sources of unrest in the home.

The Whole-Brain Child by Drs Seigel and Bryson. This is probably my favorite book for my children at their current age. The authors walk you through neurological explanations of childhood development and behavior. It also includes anecdotes and cute little cartoons to give very real situations and to make sense of them. By understanding what is going on in the brain, you can better — more efficiently, more accurately — address the needs of the child. My youngest child immediately took to my new approach I developed from this book. As young as three, he was already able to talk about his feelings in very simple terms and (sometimes) why he acted or felt the way he did. You could literally watch his eyes widen and light-up as we discussed the situation. This is a fantastic book to start a little early, like my three year old, but it also certainly has relevance for slightly older children. My children are a bit more comfortable talking about feelings and the feelings of others as a result of this book. Highly recommended.


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