books

My Favorite Parenting Books

My Top 3 Parenting Books

I’m a research nerd. When I was expecting my oldest, I read a ton about pregnancy and birth to help manage my expectations of that process. But pregnancy is a much shorter time period than parenthood, and most of us spend more time preparing for the hours of birth than the years after it.

I try to share helpful (or funny) resources on the Semi-Crunchy Mama Facebook page, but I have managed to read a few books in the last few years that stand out as having influenced my parenting in a big way.

My Top 3 Parenting Books for Semi Crunchy Parents

Don’t have time to read? My secret is to download the Kindle app for your phone. I make the background black so it’s not as bright, and I read while I put my kids to bed or am up nursing at night. There are tons of ebooks available from the library, too! Another option is audiobooks if you have a commute, or you can listen while doing chores.

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn

This is a great book to read even before your kids are born. (You also have more time to read when you don't have children yet.)

This book is more overall philosophy than practical application, but it offers a big picture view of what kind of parent you might want to be (and why) backed up by studies and research. Most parenting books tend to be based on social and cultural norms, but Alfie Kohn goes beyond that and talks about the kind of society and culture we could have if we parented in a way that was best for our kids, not that was best for the views of other adults.

It's an incredibly eye-opening book, since most of us base our approach on what our parents did, but don't always examine if that's the best approach or just the familiar one.

The downside is that it can make you think about what your childhood might have looked like if your parents had read this book, and you may be disappointed. The book made me rethink my views of praise, school, and discipline. When I'm feeling frustrated or disconnected from my kids, revisiting the principles found in this book help me remember what kind of parent I want to be so I focus more on our relationship than on my kids’ behavior.

There is also a summary of the book HERE.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham

I originally discovered Dr. Markham through her website, ahaparenting.com, and was lucky to hear her speak locally here in San Diego when my oldest was about a year old. I appreciate her approach, which is grounded in attachment theory, and provides a roadmap for “authoritative parenting” -- the happy middle ground between controlling authoritarian and unsupportive permissive styles.

She offers specific phrases and concrete examples that I can use in my actual life. I can't promise that my kids actually react like the dialogues in the book, but I have found it very useful, and her focus on empathy is incredibly important and valuable. Luckily, before I had my second baby, her book Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings was released as well. (I'll do a separate post on sibling resources another time.)

Much of her advice can be found on her blog and newsletters, but having the book as a resource I can revisit has definitely paid off.

Pro-tip: sometimes the Kindle version goes on sale for just a few dollars. It’s still worth it at full price!

Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen


I recommend this book so often that I ended up writing a blog post about it because I couldn't find a good summary to send to clients and friends. Cohen is a play therapist, and also a father, so he draws from both his personal and professional experiences.

My oldest was a toddler when I read it, but the activities apply until at least the tween years. He explains various approaches to enter the world of our children to meet them where they are, and how to use play to connect to our kids and give them an outlet for their emotions and struggles.

Being playful and silly does not come naturally to me, but having specific ideas gives me a starting point and ideas to at least get started. When I get it right, it’s like magic!

There are many activities and games described in the book, or he has an entire separate book called The Art of Roughhousing which has diagrams. He also wrote The Opposite of Worry (I’m halfway through) which discusses playful approaches specifically for kids with anxiety.

Two other books I’ve heard are great:

  • The Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel I've started, but not finished. It explains normal brain development and what that means for managing expectations of behavior in young kids.
  • The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary comes highly recommended and sounds interesting as it explores the "parent-child journey" as we learn alongside our kids.

Have you read any of these? What are your favorites?

* I do use affiliate links for books, so if you purchase through me, I make a few cents for the referral. It goes toward feeding my kiddos who eat 9 zillion times a day, so I appreciate it.

5 Thanksgiving Books by Indigenous Authors

Thanksgiving Books by Indigenous Authors

I remember going to the library with my oldest child when he was about two years old. I asked the children's librarian if there were any age-appropriate Thanksgiving books that were somewhere between "blatant lies" and "smallpox blankets." She winced.

So how do we navigate a holiday that originated as a celebration of a massacre without either lying to or traumatizing our kids?

Many families choose to focus on gratitude and family, and introduce Thanksgiving as a historical myth. Here is a helpful history about the biggest lies most of us learned about the holiday (I definitely learned the "Pilgrims and Indians" narrative at school).

5 Thanksgiving Books by Indigenous Authors

Instead of perpetuating harmful stereotypes, here are five books that focus on happiness and gratitude - and are written by native and First Nations authors - that are great any time of year.

If you purchase these books through my Amazon links, I do receive a very small percentage of the price. This money goes to feed my kids and I appreciate it!

My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith

My Heart Fills With Happiness / Ni Sâkaskineh Mîyawâten Niteh Ohcih by Monique Gray Smith

This dual language picture book celebrates the joyfulness in small moments and serves as a
reminder to parents and kids alike to focus on moments that bring happiness.

 

 

 

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Tracy SorrellWe Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Tracy Sorrell

From the viewpoint of a member of the Cherokee Nation, this book brings a modern perspective to gratitude for both the big and the little things in life. It includes a glossary of Cherokee words for additional depth.

 

 

 

 

Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes by Wab KinewGo Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes by Wab Kinew

From start to finish, this book is a celebration of the stories of Indigenous people throughout time, in both Canada and the US. Your little hero is bound to be inspired by the stories of figures such as Crazy Horse, Net-no-kwa, former NASA astronaut John Herrington and Canadian NHL goalie Carey Price, and more.

 

 

Wild Berries by Julie FlettWild Berries by Julie Flett

Celebrating the connection that we all share with the natural world, this book is also a dual language title, written in both English and Cree. Spend the day picking wild blueberries with Clarence and his grandmother. Meet ant, spider, and fox in a beautiful woodland landscape, the ancestral home of author and illustrator Julie Flett.

 

 

 

Sweetest Kulu by Celina KallukSweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk

This title by Inuit author Celina Kalluk celebrates the ancestral connection to the natural world, and emphasizes on respect and love for the earth and all its inhabitants in a lovely bedtime poem.

 

 

 

Looking for more books like these or a selection for older kids? Here are links to more resources available. Be sure to check your local librarian for even more great options to share with your littles.

And if your child is school-age and their school still does a whitewashed history, this is a great resource with sample letters to send the administration to effect change. Please say something, especially if you're a white parent.

Have you read any of these?

If you live near me, all except Go Show the World are available through the San Diego Public Library (and I requested it be added). They'd also be great additions to holiday wishlists to support those authors!

Playful Parenting Techniques That Work

Playful Parenting Techniques That Work

If you've ever found yourself sweating and on the brink of tears in the back of your car trying to shove your child as gently as possible into their car seat after 30 minutes of struggle and hysteria in 90 degree weather, you're not alone.

I've been there more times than I care to admit.

Then I read the book Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen. I tried a few of his suggestions. Within a few days, it got easier. He didn't struggle as much. It didn't take as long. I wasn't crying. It was like magic.

Sold.

Cohen is both a play therapist and a dad. I appreciated his perspective as a professional mixed with his personal experiences at home with his own daughter.
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