Different Parenting Books for Different Purposes
By H. Wallace Goddard

Editor’s Note:  The books mentioned in this column connect the line of reasoning in the last two Myths of the Month with specific book recommendations.

There are almost as many different kinds of parenting books as there are different kinds of parents. Some of them are tender, some are tough. Some are insightful, some are irrational or angry. Some are warm and friendly, some are cold and distant.

For example, John Rosemond provides loads of confident advice on parenting in books and columns. He challenges the child-centered approach, recommending that children’s concerns should take a backseat to adult concerns. His no-nonsense approach appeals to many parents. But most professionals cringe at his advice. His dogmatic counsel is often insensitive to children’s situations. Further, he seems dangerously short on the compassion that Jesus recommends. I strongly encourage parents to look elsewhere for sensible parenting advice.

Building a Relationship

In stark contrast to Rosemond’s books are those by Haim Ginott. His gentle and compassionate voice speaks to my soul (and, over the years, to the souls of millions of other parents). While his focus is not control issues, he clearly believes in setting bounds. His clinical work directly with hundreds of children informs his warm and sensible description of children. He provides dozens of examples of parents responding to children in ways that honor their dignity while setting clear limits. His Between Parent and Child is a classic.

Ginott’s recommendations are consistent with those from John Gottman, even though their voices are very different. Gottman is a scientist. His advice is sensible and insightful but he has fewer stories to tell than Ginott. Still, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child is an excellent book. Both Ginott and Gottman make very effective recommendations for relationship-based parenting.

Setting Limits

Foster Cline and Jim Fay have written many “love and logic” books such as Parenting with Love and Logic. These books help parents set effective limits. They also show ways parents can help children learn from consequences. These books are especially useful for parents who have a hard time making rules and enforcing them. Unfortunately these books are not sufficient. They have few helps for the foundational task of building relationships.

The Philosophy of Parenting

To the mix of familiar titles I add a new entry. Seamus Carey, a philosophy professor at Manhattan College, has written The Whole Child. He writes of restoring wonder to the art of parenting. He observes that “it is often necessary to alter our basic disposition toward others from one that seeks to measure, control, and manipulate to one that seeks to understand by welcoming that which is constantly revealing something new to us” (p. 5).

While Carey does not provide tidy formulas, he does invite us to see children and the tasks of parenting in better ways. He almost invites us to have a change of heart. His gentle manner challenges us to slow down and enjoy the blessing of children. He says that parents, “in caring for their child[ren] are responding to the highest calling of human life. In the face of the child is the infinite or trace of God” (p.152).

Choosing the Book that is Right for You

With so many choices, parents can pick a book that fits their needs. Do you find that your responses to your children often injure them and are ineffective? If so, read Ginott.

Do you find that you want structured guidelines for responding to children’s emotions? Then read Gottman.

If you enjoy the luxury of time to think about the philosophy of parenting, I heartily recommend The Whole Child.

If you need help setting limits and enforcing consequences, the Cline and Fay books are a good choice.

In Conclusion

I agree with Carey: “Nothing can bring a parent, a family, or a child peace but the triumph of principles” (p. 160). Best wishes in your parenting.

Recommended books:

Ginott, H., Ginott, A., & Goddard, H. W. (2003). Between Parent and Child. New York: Three Rivers Press.

Gottman, J. (1997). Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. New York: Fireside.

Carey, S. (2003). The Whole Child. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Cline, F., & Fay, J. (1990). Parenting with Love and Logic. Colorado Springs, CO: Pinon Press.