Information Overload: Making the Most of Parenting Books

Being a parent is a complicated job. The hours are long, the rules change constantly, and the end goal often seems out of reach. If you walk into a bookstore, the complexities of parenthood become even more evident.  Simply sifting through all the advice can be a daunting task.

Let me just be blunt: No parenting book as all the answers. Why? There are no hard and fast answers for all families, parents, or kids. However, lots of good information can be gained from parenting books if you keep the following in mind:

Four eyes are better than one. You will get more out of the book if you and your partner/spouse/co-parent read it together. Once you have both read the book, talk about it! Critique it, praise it, laugh about it – but do it together.

Skip the second half. Yes, really. Parenting books can become repetitive and dull. Generally all the information you need is in the first half of the book. So often I see parents who feel like they have to read an entire parenting book to really “get it.” Then of course they get distracted/run out of time/impatient and the whole thing becomes a waste. So, I’m giving you permission to read half the book – or simply skim the whole thing – you’ll get the message.

The kids in the books aren’t real. Just as the cute, smiling family on the toothpaste commercial are all actors, so are the families presented in the books. I myself have become discouraged when my children don’t respond to a parenting technique the way the kids in the book’s examples do.  Don’t let this de-rail you from your parenting efforts. The fact is, no child or family are like those presented in the books.  Think of them as little commercials from the author – entertaining to read about, but in the end nothing like real life.

Take what you can. Leave the rest. As I said, no book has all the answers, but almost all books have at least one or two helpful pieces of advice.  Resist the urge to forgo an entire book just because its author wrote a few weird things you don’t agree with.  Reading parenting books can be just like picking through a bag of candy: some of the pieces are inedible, some passable in a pinch, and a few simply sweet and just what you need.

With all of that said, here are a couple of books I frequently recommend:


This is a great book written by my pal Dr. David Palmiter. I even got to read an advance copy and write a review of the book!
This is a quick and dirty guide to dealing with 38 frustrating behaviors
Helping our kids create lifelong joy? What’s more important than that?

photo by: Brandon SL