Parenting Books: Recommendations

by Mark and Libby Verber

The First Year

In the mid 1990s we didn't find any books that we really loved about the first year. Most books seemed to have a strong agenda and would often take extreme positions. We read numerous books and strived to find a balance between the extreme positions. We found talking with older couples that had worked to find a balancing parenting strategy was more useful than the books we looked at. The books we most used were:

What to Expect the First Year by Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi E. Murkoff, Sandee E. Hathaway is the classic general reference for the first year. We found the material useful, but the organization made it hard to find what we were looking for. Few people can read though this book, most people use it as a reference. I don't have a better book to recommend :-(

Baby Book by the Sears family. This is the classic text which advocates a permissive style of child rearing. While we think there is great value in deep bonding, we also believe it is appropriate to have firmer boundaries than what the Sears advocate. We also like their emphasis on observing your child to figure out what is needed, but we believe that even infants exhibit selfish behavior which sometimes need to be restrained. Baby don't know what is best for themselves, and they depend on us to intervene at appropriate times.

Babywise by Robert Bucknam and Growing Kid's God's Way by Ezzo.  Advocates setting a highly structured environment for infants and young children.  Cornerstone is setting and sticking to a schedule, arguing that this helps the child feel safe and secure. While we found that setting boundaries, and developing a schedule, and a consistent set of rituals which were repeated at transition times to be extremely useful, we thought the books advocated an approach which was too rigid and legalistic Many of their ideas went too far and I think could actually be harmful. Extensive critiques of their positions can be found at


We have found it very useful to have a detailed description of common development stages that children go through. It helps you answer the question “is this something normal, or something I should be worried about.”  It helps you understand what your children's needs are today. Understanding what the children are capable of (or not) has made it much easier for us to be patient. For example, it takes years for nerves to be fully insulated. Because of this, children can't have the same fine motor control as an adult. Knowing they can't help avoid splitting things sometimes makes it much easier to be patient.

Touchpoints by T. Berry Brazelton does a good job covering the first few years

Your "X" Year Old Series by Louise Bates Ames & Frances Ilg of the Gesell Institute of Human Development provides the best information we have found on development. These books are short, but packed with information. Highly recommended. Don't look for solutions, but look for great descriptions.

Core Family Values

20 Things I Want My Kids to Know by Hal Urban. Now out of print. This inspired me to start to write down my Lessons from Life. I think Never Mind the Joneses and some of the books listed under Character Development cover the same topics well.

Never Mind the Joneses by Tim Stafford is a gracious and encouraging book which suggests 14 core values than any family would be well served to embrace

Seven Habits of a Healthy Home by Bill Camichael.

Character Development

The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness by Edward Hallowell discusses five key steps which lead to contented life. This book is rooted in a significant amount of research. Alas, the author tends to mention the research only in passing, and then provide stories from his family life rather than fully reporting the research results and provide footnotes to the original work. I believe this book has a very sound basis, but don't explore the issues as completely as I would like... but it's the best book I have found so far.

Growing Compassionate Kids by Jan Johnson

The Youngest Minds by Ann Barnet & Richard Barnet

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Teaching Children Values by Linda & Richard Eyre. The Eyre's have written a number of books which have been well received. I have not read this book, but will shortly.

Discipline Them, Love Them by Betty Chase a workbook which will help you explore building a child’s sense of self through responsibility, trust, and honor. 

Why Children Misbehave by Bruce Narramore. A huge emphasis on grace and positive investment in children. While I don't agree 100% with Narramore, there is a great deal of valuable information in this book.

Character Matters! by John & Susan Yates. Looks good but haven't read yet.


How to Really Love Your Children by Ross Campbell will help you touch your children's hearts.

The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell expands on How to Really Love Your Children an examines the different types of "love heart languages", e.g. the different ways that children will perceive that they are loved. Each child is different. You need to know your own child.

Parenting Children with Love and Logic by Cline & Fay.  Great advise for loving older children.

Parenting is Heart Work by Dr. Scott Turnansky & Joanne Miller. Turnansky & Miller have written a number of books which seem pretty good

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elzine Mazlish.  Not the most readable book, but one of the most complete books on parent / child communication

Spiritual Development

There are a lot of books we have looked at.  A number of the books were fairly legalistic and seem to have recipes for raising legalistic, judgmental, pharisees who are ruled by fear and hate rather than love.  The following books were not like things. Instead the advocated for a path which I believe is more likely to result in children who are in love with God and their fellow man.

How to Disciple Your Child by Walter Henrichsen. A very basic book about loving your child and helping them grow in faith.

Nurturing a Child's Soul by Timothy Jones

FaithTraining by Joe White

Raising Kids Who Hunger for God by Benny & Sheree Phillips

Habits of a Child's Heart by Valerie Hess & Marti Garlett.  Sort of like Foster's Celebration of Discipline, but written for kids.


Almost Everything You Need to Know About Early Education by Fujiawa

What to Look for In a Classroom by Kohn

Teach Your Child How to Think by de Bono

Frames of Mind by Howard Gardner