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My husband was raised by great parents.
By comparison I was raised by wolves.
His parenting instincts are usually right and flow naturally from his personality.
My instinct is to protect the pack and go for the throat.
He is a great parent.
I struggle to be a great parent.
This is no coincidence.
A large part of how we parent is engrained in us by our parents, for better or for worse. I have gotten a lot of help to become a better parent. The books on this list have helped me relate to my kids in a more loving way, and they helped my husband understand why the things his parents did worked so well.
1. The Five Love Languages of Children
Gary Chapman did a great job of breaking down the five ways that people feel love in the first book, The Five Love Languages. He has taken these different approaches to love and applied them to kids so that parents can effectively communicate love to their children.
This has been a particularly good book for me because my oldest son (6) is a hugger, and I am not. After reading The Five Love Languages of Children, I now understand that physical affection is one of the main ways he feels love. This knowledge has helped me to parent him much more lovingly because I know how he feels love.
For Dax, he couldn’t care less about the work I do around the house all day. Cooking meals, washing clothes, vacuuming – none of those acts of service equate to love in his mind. He’d feel totally loved eating an old granola bar in dirty clothes sitting in my lap on a dirty living room floor.
So I focus a lot on giving him plenty of physical affection throughout the day even though it doesn’t come naturally to me. And on the days that I’m busy or just let it slip my mind, his behavior is different. He is slower to obey, rougher with his siblings, and just much more grumpy. He literally needs more hugs to cheer him up.
Dr. Chapman recommends that parents start evaluating their child’s love language when they’re around four years old. His book has several ways to help you figure out what your child’s primary love language is.
2. Parenting with Love and Logic
This book is pretty amazing.
It’s based on the idea that we can parent lovingly while guiding our children to see the fallacies in their reasoning and decision making thus leading them to make better choices on their own.
If parents were able to institute the principles in all situations, they’d raise children who felt completely loved by their parents all the time and were able to process and think through their actions beforehand.
So this is basically a manual for an entire parenting style. You constantly let your kids know that you love them while consistently applying logic to all situations. Eventually, they’re able to reason through their decision making process without you.
For example, if you have a child that isn’t getting dressed quickly enough in the morning, you calmly tell them that they have five more minutes to get dressed because it is time to leave. You let them know that if they don’t get dressed in five minutes, they’ll have to carry their clothes with them.
Then, if they don’t get dressed in five minutes, you bring them a bag to put their clothes in. You express great sympathy at the fact that they are having to carry their clothes instead of wearing them. You calmly ask what choices they could have made that would have resulted in them being about to wear the clothes instead of carrying them.
At no point do you ever express frustration or anger.
You express loving sympathy and kindness the entire time and turn all conversations back to the decisions they made.
I actually got to hear Jim Fay speak at a conference a few years ago. We began implementing some of the techniques into our parenting methods back then, but one of our goals for this year is to use Love and Logic as our primary parenting method.
3. Parenting in the Pew
As a parent who has struggled mightily to get my kids to act right in church, this book is a breath of fresh air.
Author Robbie Castleman, reminds us that kids are at church for the same reason as their parents – to worship God. And while there are seasons of life where all we can do is just get to church and try to make it through the entire service without a meltdown, that shouldn’t be where we stay.
I am totally guilty of bringing a bag full of stuff to keep my kids entertained during the service rather than focusing on teaching them how to worship and fully participate. Because the latter is hard. Teaching kids to worship means that I’m not getting to just sit back and be poured into.
And while I normally don’t care if my kids are bored, I don’t want them acting up while we are sitting on the front row with all eyes on us. Okay, maybe everyone isn’t actually watching us, but some days it really feels like it.
And I’ve said it multiple times before, but Sundays are hard for us.
Sundays are my husband’s busiest days and while we are at church, he is at work. Sure, he’s there in the building with us, but he is not in parent mode. He’s in pastor mode, and that means he’s focusing on a zillion things besides whether his three year old is learning to fully worship God during the song service.
This leaves most of the responsibility on me to make sure that the pastor’s kids don’t end up running wild and living up to that dreaded PK reputation.
Parenting in the Pew is easy to read and nonjudgemental. It is filled with real, actionable steps for parents to take which is exactly what I need. I need someone to take my hand and tell me exactly how to teach my kids to worship, and Robbie Castleman does just that.
4. Bringing Up Boys
James Dobson is well known for giving great parenting advice built on solid biblical principles. This book is no exception.
In Bringing Up Boys, Dr. Dobson tackles a difficult question – what does it mean to be a man? In today’s society, boys are often discouraged from behaving like boys.
Masculinity is frowned upon.
Some parents are even trying to raise their children without any gender influence at all.
Side note: this sort of cracks me up because my girls will take a toy race car and wrap it in a blanket and carry it around like a baby doll. My boys will take a baby doll and use it as a baseball bat. That’s certainly not something I’ve taught them. They were just born with different instincts.
Dobson discourages parents from trying to remove gender influences, and instead encourages parents to celebrate and embrace the biological differences between boys and girls. He writes from a biblical perspective about raising boys to be strong men who will lead their families and understand their own masculinity.
He also wrote a fantastic book for raising girls based on the same idea. We should encourage and embrace the differences among our children and teach them how to work within their God given strengths.
5. Rich Dad, Poor Dad
This book was all the rage about a decade ago. If you haven’t heard of it, the premise is that rich people raise their children to make money work for them and middle class people raise their kids to work for money.
And while I don’t agree with everything it says, I think there is a lot of validity in raising our kids to be smart about money. This is much easier said than done. Talking about money with kids is difficult.
I once went through our monthly budget with our oldest daughter (9) to help her to understand what we spent our money on and how much things cost. Later that week, I overheard her telling a group of kids how much money her dad made every month!
While this information is pretty much public knowledge because it’s printed in the budget that’s distributed at our monthly business meetings, it’s still not something we typically talk about with fourth graders. Our next conversation about money was how it’s private and not something we share with people.
So talk to your kids and be honest with them, just be sure to let them know who they can share that information with!
For some more great books about money, check out our post Four Must Read Finance Books for Christians.
I hope you find these books helpful for parenting. And though this probably goes without saying, one of the best books you can read to make you a better parent is your Bible.
If you struggle to understand your Bible because of all the “thees” and “thou shalts,” maybe it’s time to get an new Bible that’s written in a little bit plainer English. My favorite version is the English Standard Version (ESV). For a more exhaustive list, check out our post The Nine Best Bibles for Every Stage of Life.
Because no matter how many books you read, parenting is hard.
It takes every bit of energy and compassion that you have and leaves you praying every night that you will have more the next day. You may not have the energy to read a book about parenting, but if you can lean into it and learn from these books it gets easier and easier… at least until they turn 12.
What are your favorite parenting books for Christians?? Tell us in the comments!