Sometimes in the mundane of the day-to-day, it’s easy to forget that these very moments will add up to equal our children’s childhood. Parenting is no joke and the stakes are remarkably high. Abi and I talk about this a lot and that’s why we’ve set out to get all the help we can. We strive to be conscious, kind, gentle, and respectful parents and want to do everything we can to ensure our children feel whole, confident, empowered, and healthy. It’s why we started The Simple Folk, and it’s why we’re devoted to creating a kindred community of like-minded parents.
In fact, our view of parenthood has been revolutionized by a few particularly insightful books that highlight the pitfalls of many parenting norms and how we can turn the tide to have a happier household and raise a generation of creative, conscious, and thriving humans who can solve problems and make the world better for us all.
It’s not often an easy shift as so many parenting behaviors have been ingrained in our culture for eons. Think back to your own childhood. Do you remember feeling free, validated, and respected by your parents, teachers, and caretakers? For many of us, this simply isn’t the case.
Conscious parenting is radical activism: it means seeing our child as an individual, capable human and working through any triggers we inherited from our own childhood. After all, social reformation starts with the individual, and our values are sewn when we’re children growing up in the world.
Thankfully, there’s a movement of parents who are beginning to wake up and apply proper child psychology and mindfulness to raising our little ones. It’s an exciting time to connect and support one another, which is why I feel compelled to share this list of books that has transformed our home.
How Toddlers Thrive by Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D.
Navigating the toddler years can challenge our commitment to peaceful parenting. If you’re working through the transition to toddlerhood or are trying to keep the peace in a house with multiple toddlers, you simply must read this book. In fact, I don’t know how I would have survived these years with my parenting vision intact had it not been for this book.
The toddler phase is one during which our children explore new worlds through play and learn to adapt to the physical world around them. They test boundaries, acquire new skills, and sometimes display behaviors we don’t expect.
How Toddlers Thrive is one of the best toddler parenting books for parents of small people and teaches us the importance of seeing age two (or three, or four) through our toddlers’ eyes. From this book, you’ll learn what exactly your little one is thinking and gain some positive insight to guiding them through both daily routines and meltdowns.
Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, M.Ed. and Lisa M. Ross
This book takes an in-depth look at the way our home environment, pace of life, and family rituals impact our children. As it turns out, the way we interact with the world around us, including our relationships with our schedules, our busy-ness, and our approach to engaging media, tells an even broader story about us as humans and, more importantly, as parents.
Instead of fighting solo against the cultural tide of consumerism—including the accumulation of stuff, as well as the overbooking of activities in unending calendars of events—allow the wisdom in Simplicity Parenting to affirm your commitment to the simple lifestyle. This book is a wonderful guide to cultivating meaningful rituals and relationships with your children and provides practical advice for navigating some of the side effects that come from engaging with the world beyond our doors.
It’s OK Not to Share by Heather Shumaker
Often referred to as our parenting bible, this book covers so many complex topics in such a succinct and clear way that we find ourselves referring to it time and time again—it shifted so much for me as a mom and gave me the confidence to do what I believe is best for my child, even if it goes against mainstream norms.
In It’s OK Not to Share, Shumaker discusses some of the “rules” for raising expressive children that make oh so much sense. So often we replay words and behaviors from our culture without stopping to consider if they are the best approach. This book sheds light on it all. Ideas like letting children play however they wish as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else or that it’s okay for children not to share toys might challenge the parenting status quo, but will help you to develop your own parenting style as you navigate the best choices for your own children.
Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D.
Our children’s play provides valuable insight into their inner worlds. As parents, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to not only observe our children at play, but to get in on the fun!
Playful Parenting is a book that looks at the importance of play as the language of childhood and gives us as parents tools to meet our little ones in their own world. The writer is a therapist who uses play to help children sort through issues and his insight is truly invaluable as a parent. Through the lens of play, he gives us tools to connect more deeply with our children, understand how to work through their fears and emotions, and make our homes more jovial and joyful.
Free to Learn by Peter Gray
Raising our children to be creative thinkers and well-rounded adults can seem a bit daunting when viewed in the grand scheme of life. On the day to day however, we can take small steps to encourage their curiosity and natural desire to learn.
Free to Learn introduces the idea of unschooling in a way that is approachable for both parents who don’t yet have children of traditional schooling ages, as well as parents of older kids. Even if you’ve already been exploring home or alternative education options, you can still glean wisdom and encouragement for the next steps in your family’s knowledge journey.
Hold On to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D. and Gabor Maté, M.D
This is one groundbreaking parenting book that we’ll be referencing over and over as our kids get older, to make sure we are continuing to emphasize and honor the parent-child bonds that are the absolute heart of our parenting beliefs.
In Hold On to Your Kids, childhood development experts Neufeld and Maté illuminate the serious problems with today’s “peer orientation” culture, where kids look to peers—instead of parents—for guidance on their behavior, values, and identity. What we love about this book is that the authors don’t just explain the issues (although they do this exceptionally well and with amazing clarity), but they present an entire, detailed program on how parents can reattach to their kids and keep them close, all the while learning how to listen to the quiet wisdom of their instincts.
ParentSpeak by Jennifer Lehr
It’s so easy to fall back on “catchphrase parenting” when raising little ones—after all, parents tend to repeat many of the things they were told by their own caregivers. However, a lot of the seemingly innocuous comments parents make to their kids on a daily basis (like “good job” or “say thank you”) may be doing more harm than good...and we couldn’t agree more when it comes to how we want to talk with our children.
In ParentSpeak, Lehr breaks down the common phrases that actually invalidate, micromanage, and even manipulate kids, and gives parents a roadmap for replacing that harmful language with conscious, respectful conversations that honor and empower children as individuals.
We hope you’re inspired to add some fresh books to your to-read list. Take some time this summer to get lost in a book and transform your outlook on parenthood.