It’s a new year and whether you’re working on adding books to your 2024 TBR list or you’re a new parent who just needs to know which books are worth reading, we’re here to help! We’re Claibourne Counseling, an award-winning therapy practice in Scottsdale, AZ. We asked our licensed children and family therapists about their recommendations for the best parenting books to read in 2024. Stephanie Nilsen, Ph.D., T-LAC, and Claire Karakey, LPC-S certainly understood the assignment. They put together this list of 14 of their favorite parenting books, some old, some new so that you don’t have to keep searching. Here they are.
Books for Parents with Kids Under 5
Parenting Right From the Start: Laying a Healthy Foundation in the Baby and Toddler Years
by Dr. Vanessa Lapointe
First Published: 2019
Length: 272 pages
Like many books we’ve talked about in our list, Dr. Vanessa Lapointe addresses the need for a strong and stable sense of connection between parents and children. She explains at length, along with scientific evidence, how this connection helps children learn how to regulate their emotions, master social skills, and develop a sense of identity. She calls the reader to self-reflect on their own reactions to their children’s behavior and to ask, “why” often. Why am I embarrassed when my kid misbehaves at the grocery store? Why does it make me angry when my kid has to be told to clean their room for the fourth time in a row? The book doesn’t seem to leave any topic uncovered. It talks about everything from general parenting advice to divorce, to potty training to family genetics. Don’t let the breadth of topics or thoroughness of details intimidate you though. Dr. Lapointe writes in a way that’s easy to understand and feels like you’re just reading an email from your best friend. This is a must-read for any new parent or parent of toddlers.
Tiny Humans, Big Emotions: How to Navigate Tantrums, Meltdowns, and Defiance to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Children
by Alyssa Black Campbell, M.Ed and Lauren Stauble, M.S.
First Published: 2023
Length: 304 pages
If you’re into learning about how to become more emotionally intelligent, this book is for you. A lot of the reviews for this book recommend it for both parents and teachers of small children. It gives clear, easy-to-understand, and easy-to-implement strategies about what to do in real-life situations with young children. Just like its title implies, the book is less of a book and more of a guide. It’s a guide for navigating what to do when your child throws a temper tantrum, how to react when your child hits or bites, what to do when your kid pushes back on things like going to school or bedtime routines, how to anticipate and end meltdowns before they begin. The authors go into detail about the Collaborative Emotion Processing (CEP) method which uses current brain science and time-tested child development concepts to interpret challenging behaviors in innovative ways. Whether you’re a parent of young children, plan to be, or work with young children, we recommend giving this book a read.
The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups
by Erika Christakis
First Published: 2016
Some say this book reads a bit like a textbook. Some say it reads like you’re having an intellectual conversation with your best friend…about preschool. We can see both perspectives. The author, a Yale-educated early childhood development expert, doesn’t shy away from the obvious deep research she’s put into the forensic and far-reaching analysis of today’s entire system of early learning, including pedagogy, history, science, policy, and even politics. While at the same time, with these in-depth topics, she is still discussing the importance of a three-year-old playing pretend, and coloring, and that maybe test scores aren’t as important as some make them out to be these days. We love this book, but it does delve into some more systemic and less parenting topics. So, we recommend that you maybe skip this one for light weekend reading.
Why Play?: The Role of Play in Early Childhood Development
by Christopher Pancoast
First Published: 2017
Length: 126 pages
One of the first things we learn in any early child psychology class is about the importance of play. When kids play pretend, it’s about more than just acting out what they see us do. It’s forming the foundation for life-long growth and development. Christopher Pancoast walks parents and educators through all of the reasons why play is so important for kids, at a clinical level that’s easy to understand. He also talks about the different kinds of play and how we can help promote play along with educational philosophies.
Books for Parents with Kids Under 13
The Whole-Brain Child: Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind
by Daniel Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D
First Published: 2011
Length: 192 pages
Complete with charts and illustrations, The Whole-Brain Child is ideal for parents who want to understand that grocery store tantrum or that preteen refusal to eat anything green. It teaches parents 12 key strategies to handle some of the most real-life parenting scenarios, including:
- Name it to tame it: In this strategy, parents are taught to encourage storytelling to calm big emotions. The right brain holds the emotions, while the left brain orders the narrative of the story. The two work together to calm emotions.
- Connect Through Conflict: Parents are taught to encourage their children to see things from others’ perspectives in this empathy-inducing strategy.
- Engage, Don’t Enrage: With simple action items for both parents and kids, this strategy teaches everyone to react less and think and listen more.
The end of each chapter gives real-life examples of ways to use the strategies described in the book. Like most Dan Siegel books, we can’t recommend this one enough.
No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind
by Daniel Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D
First Published: 2014
Length: 290 pages
We understand that this may be one of the more controversial books on our list of parenting book recommendations. We’re OK with that. If you’re looking for a book that justifies parenting the old-school ways, like spanking, time-outs, or other highly punitive methods, you might want to keep looking. No shade to that type of parenting, but this ain’t it. No-Drama Discipline teaches parents about their child’s brain development and what kinds of discipline may work best for them at their age and stage in life. It highlights the importance of connecting with your child and ensuring that they understand you’re on the same team, rather than fostering a parents vs. child relationship. It harkens back to the lessons learned in The Whole-Brain Child, so we recommend reading that book first. But if you can’t that’s OK. This book still does a great job of redefining the word “discipline” to focus on a more modern version of gentle parenting that we know you’ll love as a parent in 2024.
Books for Parents with Teens or Preteens
Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain
by Daniel Siegel, M.D.
First Published: 2011, Revised: 2014
Length: 336 pages
We can’t play favorites with kids, because we’re parents. But we can with books, right? I hope so, because this one is probably our favorite of all the books for parents to read in 2024. It was first published in 2011. You’ll notice in our list that lots of our books are written or co-written by Daniel Siegel, M.D. Brainstorm is about what’s happening in the minds of teens and how to embrace it rather than fight it. We love Dan Siegel because he breaks down the complicated science of the teen mind in ways that everyone can understand. Are there other books that go deeper into the neuroscience of today’s adolescents? Sure. But do you want to read those at the end of a long day of parenting a teenager? No, you want to read an easy-to-understand book from an expert about why adventure and social connection are so important for your teen daughter’s brain circuitry and development. You want to learn about how your teen son’s moodiness and curiosity will later grow into a zest for life and great leadership skills. The reasons go on and on for why we recommend this book. But, we must move on to the next, another Dan Siegel gem…
Books for Parents of Kids of All Ages
Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive
by Daniel Siegel, M.D and Mary Hartzell, M.Ed.
First Published: 2004
Length: 272 pages
Parenting from the Inside Out is yet another gem from Dan Siegel, written with Mary Hartzell, M. Ed. Rather than focusing on what’s happening in your child’s brain, this one puts a bit of a twist on parenting books and focuses more on what’s happening in your brain as the parent and how to repair relationships after a rupture. Relying heavily on the attachment theory, the authors explain how your relationship with your parents and your childhood directly impact the way you parent and raise your children today. This book offers easy-to-digest scientific examples of why we do the things we do as parents, like lose our tempers and yell when we should be communicating and listening more effectively. These examples help to break down the walls of guilt and shame for parents and build up a deeper understanding of raising more compassionate and resilient children. We absolutely recommend this book for parents with kids of all ages.
The Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, and Resilience in Your Child
by Daniel Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D
First Published: 2018
Length: 208 pages
Surprise, surprise, it’s another book by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. We told you we loved them. Nearly every review for The Yes Brain talked about how this book is a great read for everyone, not just parents. It talks about being “receptive vs. reactive”. An example that most parents can relate to, for both themselves and their child, is when your son or daughter becomes grumpy because they haven’t eaten, instead of giving in to a temper tantrum or reacting negatively to the grumpiness, parents can teach their kids why they’re grumpy. The book gives detailed instructions of a “red and green zone” to teach your kids about in this specific example. The Yes Brain is chockfull of examples like this one that help to teach your child about empathy, empathy for others, and empathy for themselves and their emotions. This understanding of empathy helps your child to become more compassionate, resilient, and balanced as they grow. The Yes Brain is a bit less scientific than other books written by Siegel and Payne Bryson, but every bit as insightful and informative.
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & How to Listen So Kids Will Talk
by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
First Published: 1980, Revised: 2004
Length: 286 pages
The title of this book really says it all. This is an oldie but a goodie when it comes to parenting books. Unlike the Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson books, this one doesn’t focus on scientific evidence so much as it does common sense parenting advice. Many parents and reviewers praise this book for its no-frills, straight-to-the-point methods for addressing your child’s emotions even when your child doesn’t know how to articulate them yet. It emphasizes how just because you may have slipped up in the past and made mistakes, like yelling at your kid for this or that, it doesn’t make you a bad parent. Rather it offers insight on how we all tend to parent how we were parented and that there is always room for more effective and respectful communication.
Books for Parents with Children with Sensory or Behavioral Problems
by Lucy Miller, Ph.D.
First Published: 2007
Length: 384 pages
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition affecting at least one in twenty children. Some doctors say that SPD is a symptom of other disorders, like Autism, ADHD, or anxiety. SPD causes children to experience sensations entirely different from the way others do. For example, clothing can be itchy, sounds can seem too loud or repetitive, lights too bright, soft touches can feel hard, food textures may make them gag, sudden movements may be frightening, etc…Dr. Miller, the author of Sensational Kids is the world’s most respected and best-known researcher on SPD. Her book gives great tools, examples, and scripts of how to respond and explain to your child and others about these sensory needs. This is an absolute must-read if your child has any sensory issues.
The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder
by Carol Stock Kranowitz, M.A.
First Published: 1998, Revised: 2022
Length: 411 pages
Another book that started as a book strictly focused on SPD and has now evolved into a more in-depth guide for parents, caregivers, and teachers of children who have vision and hearing deficits, motor skill problems, nutrition and picky eaters, ADHD, autism, and other related disorders. In its third edition, this newly revised version covers recent research on commonly misdiagnosed conditions and not only teaches us the differences but also provides easy-to-understand ways to help our children cope with their symptoms while helping us understand the causes. Often recommended by occupational therapists, we second that recommendation of this book for parents who have kids with any spectrum disorder, as well as teachers and other caregivers of kids.
The Explosive Child [Sixth Edition] : A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children
by Ross W. Green, Ph.D.
First Published: 2021
Length: 272 pages
This one is for the parents who have tried it all and just can’t find what works for their kid who keeps misbehaving. Written by world-renowned and respected clinical psychologist and expert on children and families, Dr. Ross Green has over 30 years of experience working with families of behaviorally challenging kids. This book places heavy emphasis on helping parents realize that just because their kid is chronically inflexible and may be the worst-behaved kid in class, it’s not a result of bad parenting. It’s for the parents who have read every other parenting book, and who have tried reasoning, explaining, punishing, rewarding, sticker charts, therapy, and even medication. But their kid still acts like they’ve never been told no. We know it’s not you. Dr. Green knows it’s not you. More importantly, this book will finally help you extinguish some of that guilt you’ve been feeling, because the rest of the world makes you feel like it is you. On top of finally lifting a thousand pounds of parenting shame from your shoulders, Dr. Green will walk you through a new conceptual framework for understanding your child’s difficulties, based on research in the neurosciences. He’ll help you understand why traditional techniques haven’t worked and explain what you can try instead. If you have what some might call a problem child, this is the book for you.
Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic
by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
First Published 1991, Revised 2006
Length: 496 pages
One of the longest and oldest books on the list, though it was updated in 2006. Raising Your Spirited Child has been beloved as a classic parenting book for over 30 years now. This comprehensive guide, much like The Explosive Child, will help parents feel less shame and less alone in this parenting gig. If you’re reading this and you have a “spirited” child or a “difficult” kid”, whatever label society has most recently put on them, we’re sorry. We can’t get on board with that. We agree with authors Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and Dr. Green. Kids just need to be understood. Books like Raising Your Spirited Child help to do just that. The opening line of this book is, “I secretly needed to talk with other parents who understood what it was like to live with a child who could scream for 45 minutes because his toast had been cut in triangles when he was expecting rectangles.” The truth is, that kid isn’t a bad kid and neither is yours. They’re just unique and this book is the ultimate book to help parents understand their child’s uniqueness.
We hope this list of parenting book recommendations from family and children therapists helps you with your 2024 reading list. Give us a follow on social media and let us know which books you’re ready and if you’d add any to the list!
(All book cover photos provided by Good Reads. Claibourn Counseling was not compensated in any way for opinions or recommendations in this article.)