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Chasing adventure & living mindfully while parenting through mental illness

Parenting Books To Help With Challenging Kids

Parenting Books To Help With Challenging Kids


Everyone has moments where their kids are hard. Both of my kids are healthy and relatively neurotypical, so I know my experience doesn't compare with people whose kids have medical issues or other challenges. And I am grateful for it. But every day they push my patience to its breaking point.

Breccan tends to push boundaries more, and still lacks some essential regulatory and self-control skills. But Olin is no slouch, and he makes up for being easier to parent by being LOUD. There is so much about the little stage I like, but, damn, is it ever hard with these two.

I struggle with blaming myself for their wildness. I have tried so many things, like sticker charts, organization systems, earlier bedtimes, cutting down on sugar, strict schedules, open schedules, staying out all day, staying home more, some sensory techniques, etc. Some things work; some things work but are impossible to maintain; some things work for one kid only; some things just flat out fail. Through it all, I fall back on blaming myself, telling myself I am just not strict enough, not structured enough, not gentle enough, not fun enough, not clever enough,etc.

It is so easy to get into this cycle. No kid is easy, or at least few are. They all have their challenges. It is easy as parents to blame ourselves. But blaming ourselves is futile. It neither solves the problems we are having nor gives us the motivation to solve them. Shame spiraling isn't a motivator for action - it just makes you want to hide under a rock.

Luckily, I have found a few parenting books that help me take it easy on myself. Each of these books has helped me breathe a sigh of relief that I am doing what I can, and has given me tools to manage some behaviors better.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk

This books is a basic of parenting. Simple ways to phrase things so you get into less battles with your kids. It is a bit dated (it was written in the 80s), and it may not seem that revelatory. Here's where it both dates itself AND makes you feel better - the author admits to spanking/hitting her kids. And the way the example parents talk to their kids is pretty harsh, too. For me, reading this was a reminder that, even on my worst parenting days, I am still kind, affirming, and non-violent with my kids. Plus the tips are classic.

Buy How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk

Raising A Secure Child

Our family therapist recommended this book. I fell in love with the Circle of Secure theory behind it. It not only says that perfect parenting is impossible, it reminds us that trying to be perfect is actually detrimental for our children. If we are always striving for perfection, we don't prepare them to relate to partners, friends, teachers, etc that are not perfect. And they will always feel pressure to be perfect themselves. This theory was freeing and revelatory for me.

On top of eschewing perfection, the mantra of “bigger, stronger, wiser, and kind” is one I repeat OFTEN when dealing with B especially. He has more brain power and energy to hold onto a fight. But, at least while he is young, I will be bigger and stronger. I have more years of wisdom to help him. And I can always be kind.

The only thing I dislike about this book is that I find it somewhat of a slog. They start off saying it is an easy read, but I find the prose style to actually be very complex. Which would be fine if they hadn't said it was going to be easy! So keep that in mind!

Buy Raising A Secure Child

The Explosive Child

The Explosive Child has been helpful for me reconciling that I do not feel comfortable as an authoritarian parent. So much popular wisdom says we have to set limits firmly and with authority. But I feel like an asshole when I dictate to my kids. So I figured if I am not authoritarian, I must be permissive, and so I had to change me.

This book has changed my mindset. It is based on the idea that kid's who can do good will do good. It feels much better than “kids are manipulative and cruel”. And it teaches cooperative problem solving as the core of parenting, which is much more my jam. And, I feel, much more helpful for teaching my kids than a blanket “listen to the person in charge”. Given that future jobs will involve more and more collaboration, this theory not only jives with my natural style of parenting, I can also feel like it is preparing them for the future.

Buy The Explosive Child

I have a few on my reading list next, including Differently Wired, 8 Keys to Raising Quirky Kids, and the classic Siblings Without Rivalry. What parenting books have helped you with your kids’ challenges? Any you recommend?

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