Hey beautiful parent or caretaker of children, it's Lopa...and this is not your Mama's Baby Booklist.
Before I begin, I just want to say: I'm honestly not much of a "read everything about kids & parenting you can" kind of person...mostly because I think that books & philosophies can tend to get in the way of that priceless instinctual knowing that comes with being a parent.
However, our culture is pretty, well, disconnected from Most Things Instinct, and I have found these resources to be the most formative ones for connecting me to the inner Good Enough Parent within.
This is one of those books that I have probably purchased 12 copies of to give to friends over the years. Author Jean Liedloff spends time with the Amazonian Yequana tribe in the 70s, returns to her home in New York City and is plagued by the question, "Why are they so much happier than we are?" She returns to the Amazon several times to better understand this question.
Humans have been raised in the roughly the same way for thousands of years. With modern culture and technology, "suddenly" (in the last 100 years or so, which is very sudden for evolution!) things have changed...but our biology has not yet caught up with that, and so our biology expects one type of experience from infancy to adulthood—the "continuum"—yet we're often delivered something entirely different (in most modern Westernized contexts, that is).
One way-too-quick-way to frame this method of raising children is "non-child-centered attachment parenting." Acting like the world revolves around your kid (in the many ways we unconsciously do in Westernized parenting) raises kids who...think the world revolves around them. 😬
A caveat: the part where she talks about homosexuality being a result of "overmothering?" Kindly throw this chapter in the trash where it belongs and have compassion for some of the ridiculous psychological ideas of the 70s.
The rest of the book is gold, though, and will connect you to your inner parenting instinct and a felt experience of "the continuum" better than anything I know, and will empower you with a mindset that I'm confident will serve you in every parenting interaction of your life.
Author Michaeleen Doucleff is a correspondent for NPR's Science Desk whose work trip to the Yucatan left her reconsidering everything she knew about parenting her then-2.5 year old. She returned to the Yucatan to better understand the Mayan wisdom on parenting, and then ventured on—with 3-year-old Rosy in tow—to learn from Inuit families in Canada and Hadzabe families in Tanzania.
This book builds on some of the wisdom of The Continuum Concept, while also offering practical advice for modern parents to implement today. I started implementing some of the first advice that I read with my 3 and 5.5 year old immediately, and noticed immediate results (less fighting between them, less resistance toward me as we ran errands, more engagement with me!) It was inspiring, to say the least! By the time you read this I'll bet I've finished the book and have ordered several as copies for friends, as well. 😉
This is another one of those seminal parenting books that doesn't so much teach practical advice, give you how-to's and lists, etc...but inculcates you into a way of relating to your children—regardless of age—as whole humans who deserve your unconditional love.
The subtitle, "Moving from Rewards and Punishment to Love and Reason" is an apt descriptor for a book that helps us get beyond the shiny facade of using external motivation to get our kids to do what we want them to, to shifting to awakening their intrinsic motivation and our longer-term asking of a critically important question: "Do we want our kids to be obedient, conforming adults, or do we want them to be free-thinkers centered in their own needs and sense of self?"
Ultimately, it's up to us to decide the values we want to instill in our children, and this book challenges us to look deeply at whether the way we treat our children is in alignment with the adults we hope they will become. Alfie's heartfelt wisdom gently guides us toward that alignment in a way that supports secure attachment and so much more.
BONUS: It's not a book, but it's one of my favorite resources on parenting. I am honestly not a fan of social media and the ways it infiltrates my life, and for months was considering leaving Facebook...and it was this group that kept me on the FB. Seriously.
This is a FB group that is 78K members strong, and I swear to you that these are some of the kindest, most wonderful humans to walk the planet. Even if you just need a reminder that humans are (probably) gonna be OK...this is that place. The group is tightly moderated to uphold the principles of gentle parenting, and the group even offers extensive modules that essentially form a completely-free book on gentle parenting philosophy and implementation.
I recently did back away from Facebook (#highlyrecommend) and was encouraged to learn that the founders of the FB group have a podcast, as well.