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favorite books for understanding young children

Updated: Mar 26

Young children, particularly toddlers, are amazing. They say and do the funniest things, they can finally talk, and their just coming into their own. I love seeing those little personalities bloom. They can also push alllll of our buttons and feel impossible to parent. They rarely listen and scream NO at the top of their lungs. If you only have time to read 2 books, let it be Rest, Play, Grow: Making sense of preschoolers (or anyone who acts like one) by Deborah MacNamara; and No-Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.

Rest, Play, Grow focuses on children's need to rest in attachment so they can play and grow. You'll learn why children need a safe place to express their emotions, and why separation-based tactics are potentially harmful. After reading this book, you'll better understand your child and everything they are going through developmentally, so you can parent them with compassion.

No-Drama Discipline didn't teach me anything new, per se, it just reconfirmed that I was doing all the right things and gave me the confidence to keep parenting that way and that is HUGE. One concept that will stay with me forever is the idea of "shark music". Shark music is when your mind starts to tell you stories about the future based on what's occurring now, taking you out of the present and shifting the way you react or parent your child, based on these attributions or fear-based predictions. They give an example about a time when Tina's daughter got a bad grade on a math test, and her mind spiraled to her daughter always struggling with math and school, not going to college or getting a good job, and ultimately becoming a homeless person. WOAH. Our minds are quite powerful and imaginary. This caused Tina to react with fear and anger, instead of compassion, seeing her child for who she is and what she needed in that moment: a little extra help with math. I've found it SO helpful in my own parenting to recognize my own shark music, pause, and come back to the present.

I also recommend reading the Whole Brain Child by the same authors, but you don't have to read the whole thing in toddlerhood. There's a section in the back where they break it down by age group, so you can just read the chapters and strategies that apply to your todder.

Here are some other books that have been recommended to me (haven't read them yet though!):

So there ya have it, a total of 12 books helping you better understand yourself and your child(ren). Enjoy!

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