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When I met Ananya a few weeks after she had delivered her baby, her eyes were bloodshot, shoulders sagging, and hair dishevelled. I, of course, knew that bringing a baby into this world (having brought two of my own) is no mean feat but she seemed overly rattled. She was undoubtedly sleep-deprived, hurting and felt like a cow from nursing night and day, but there was something deeper.

She felt that none of this was enough, that she was failing as a mother because of which her daughter Mia was crying so much through the night.

In the course of such conversations with thousands of parents over the last 12 years of being in the early year’s education space, I get this eerie sense that parents are increasingly becoming paranoid. It is not limited to parents of new-borns or toddlers but also of teenagers and young adults. Things that used to come naturally to parents — bonding with the baby, feeding the baby, putting the child to bed, playing games with them, are all under the microscope and different self-proclaimed experts provide contradictory recommendations. This feeling of just ‘not being enough’ as a parent becomes increasingly stronger as the child grows older.

best parenting books

I have been no different. In my quest to find answers I have spoken to experts, pored over existing research in the area of child development and read more books than I care to admit. Some of them have been life-shaping, fantastic reads. 5 of the top parenting books are listed below.

These books are not recipes to raise great children, they do not provide any how-to guides; however, what they do is help broaden your perspective and understand your child and yourself as a parent a little better. In fact, many of these books are not about parenting at all.

Here are the 5 best parenting books that every parent should read:

  1. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk
  2.  How Children Succeed
  3. The Gardener and the Carpenter
  4. Originals- How Non-Conformists Will Rule the World
  5. The Element — How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

1. How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber

How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will talk by Adele FaberThis book was a game-changer for me; not only in my interactions with children but also in my engagement with other adults. The one big life-changing skill that the book taught me and I am continuing to develop is ‘ listening with full attention’ as opposed to ‘distracted hearing’. In this world of myriads of devices and uninterrupted notifications, it is a difficult skill to cultivate. This one is the top parenting book in the list when it comes to a parent staying connected with a child and keeping the channels of communication open.


2. How Children Succeed by Paul Tough

How Children Succeed by Paul ToughIn this fast-moving, performance-driven world of today, it often seems that the journey of our children’s lives is the story of them moving from one milestone to another, from one test to the next. It starts from the APGAR Score (given at birth) and then goes on all the way to IIT JEE and SAT/ACT and even beyond. And as a parent, we get pulled into this vortex of getting our children to succeed at this game. Some children thrive but many lose their way. This parenting book attempts to answer the very difficult question of what any of us as parents or educators can do to prepare our children for adulthood and steer them away from failure and towards success.

Also read: Life Lessons From The Little One

3. The Gardener and the Carpenter by Alison Gopnik

The Gardener and the Carpenter by Alison GopnikA brilliant analogy by one of the most prominent researchers in the field of children’s learning and development helps us understand the nuances of parenting. As parenting has become a goal-directed verb over the last five decades — it is akin to a job and we have come to believe thanks in part to the multi-billion dollar industry dedicated to making us

all better parents that the ‘ right kind of parenting will produce the right kind of child who in turn will become the right kind of adult’. This vision is closer to the role of a carpenter who takes a block of wood and can shape it into a piece of furniture that s/he envisions.

She argues in this parenting book that this prescriptive picture is deeply flawed from all angles -scientific, philosophical, social.

The role of a parent is more like a gardener who creates the optimal conditions for growth and development. Different seeds require different kinds of environment and care to thrive. However hard the gardener tries- a rose bush will never be able to become a pine tree.

Related: What kind of parent are you?

“I like the things around me to be beautiful & slightly dreamy, with a feeling of worldliness.”

Elliot Forson

4. Originals- How Non-Conformists will rule the World by Adam Grant

Originals- How Non-Conformists will rule the World by Adam GrantThe reason, I included this book in this list is because most often it is the non-conformist children that parents end up worrying about- Children who refuse to take instruction and colour within the lines. These children refuse to conform to the regimen of classroom education, they are quickly labelled as disruptive, having attention deficit disorder, and become a problem to be fixed by the teachers and parents.

‘Originals’ brings together stories from the field of sports, business, politics and entertainment to make a simple but a powerful point — it is the incorrigible non- conformists who refuse to accept the status quo and attempt to seek a different or a better option who are changing the world and will continue to do so.

5.The Element — How finding your passion changes everything by Ken Robinson

The Element by Ken RobinsonThe Element by Ken Robinson whose TED Talk is one of the most listened TED Talks ever is a wonderful exposition of how one can have a fulfilling life journey by finding the convergence of natural talent and passion. A theme that runs through the book, by means of hundreds of life stories and references to research is about understanding not ‘if’ a child is intelligent but ‘ how a child is intelligent.




This article was originally published on Pooja’s Medium profile and has been used here with her permission

Pooja Goyal

Pooja is an acclaimed educator working to transform early childhood education through application of neuroscience research to learning in the early years. She is the founder of Intellitots Learning (acquired by Founding Years) which is known for its ground breaking work in the field of early childhood education and care. Pooja is an angel investor and a mentor to many start ups, business leaders and educators.


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