Category Archives: Books

The best ten books on discipline

I keep promising you all a list of some of my favourite books on discipline. It's been hard for me to get down to a definitive list because there are bits and pieces that I think are great in so many books out there. So the challenge in making this list is to not overwhelm you with 40 books that you have to sift through reviews for while still being comprehensive in terms of hitting the biggies. But I AM skipping some great ones, and I hope we can think of this list as a starting point and get some feedback from readers about what's been mBooksost helpful to them as well.

Another few caveats: (1) I tend to prefer books that describe a general approach, rather than one specific technique. I like to pick and choose different techniques from various sources, but what I most value in a parenting book is a different perspective, a new lens through which I can reframe my challenges. Every time I read or re-read any of the books on this list, I am usually inspired to think differently about discipline challenges IN GENERAL. And I find that it is this fresh perspective that helps me parent more flexibly and tune into my child more consistently. (2) You'll see that the books on my list also don't generally use the term "discipline" in their titles (except for one) and that's because the authors are concerned with giving us the tools for raising happy, kind, empathic, non-aggressive children… and that's not ONLY about displine, but the whole big whack of parent-child relationships. (3) The the books on this list are ones that I continue to return to, rather than read once through, get what I need, and then give them away. So that's the last criteria I used for the final top 10 and that's why some of the more obvious ones did not make it. (4) Finally, I'm generally old-school when it comes to my favourites. I'm oddly skewed towards books that were written a few decades ago. I think they've stood the test of time for a reason (but beware: some of the language in these more dated books are off-putting, what with all the assumptions of mothers being at home all the time, fathers being secondary figures in the house, and general language that's downright sexist in our current thinking). 

My Top Ten Books on Discipline (NOT in any particular order…):

1. Playful Parenting: I can't tell you how many times I still pick up this book. It's on my night table and I often find myself rifling through my dog-eared copy to remind myself to Chill-the-f$#@-out! The book reminds us to HAVE FUN with this whole parenting gig. Easier said than done, but I find that the general approach of the book continues to inspire me to come up with new ways to approach old problems. Instead of the power struggles, the book shows us how to make conflicts into games. Instead of focusing on "discipline" and the "rules" of the house, the author shifts our focus to laughing, rough-housing, joking and bonding with our children. It doesn't solve EVERY discipline problem, but for me it gives me the gentle reminder that my toughest conflicts with my kids can often be solved better through flexible strategies that engage my children's compliance through play and imagination rather than through power and force of will. 

2. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk:  This is another on my bedside table. From the same group that brings you #3 and #7 on the list, this is chock-full of great insights about how to approach conversations with children of all ages so that they're more receptive to your wishes and so that you understand your children better. As the title suggests, the authors provide you with ways to create a context that encourages really effective communication skills — I think their approach helps us reframe communication with not only kids, but with spouses, coworkers, etc. It's compassionate, effective, concrete and can result in some seriously fabulous results, from my experience.

3. Between Parent and Child: Yes, it's dated, but I love, love, love Haim Ginott. Here's a famous quote of his, that I continue to use: “If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.” It's a classic, more suited for older kids (over 3 or so) than younger ones. Here's one of a bajillion review/summaries out there: "Perhaps Haim’s genius was helping parents capture the meaning behind children’s words and deeds. There is nothing quite as soothing
for children as being understood. There is nothing quite as helpful for
solving parenting problems as the feeling of parents and children
working together. Ginott’s approach was unique because he joined great compassion with solid limits" (from the website).

4. Parenting with Love and Logic: I like this book because of its straightforward, practical approach. I like its emphasis on parental modeling of "responsible" behaviour and problem-solving. I also appreciate some of the techniques that are offered up as very concrete ways of teaching children how to make responsible choices on their own (and helping parents deal with commonly occurring conflicts like back-seat battles in the car,
homework, and keeping bedrooms clean). I have some beefs about it too, but I think it's worth the read. 

5. The Mother of All Toddler Books: Ann Douglas is awesome for so many reasons, but one of the most straightforward is that she is amazing at pulling together a whole bunch of resources, methods, techniques, and so on into one definitive compendium. This book gives you a bunch of approaches to try out with your child, depending on age, temperament, and you parenting style. It's a really great resource not only for discipline (how to deal with whining, tantrums, and so on) but also deals with other typical toddler challenges like potty training and eating.

6. Raising Your Spirited Child:  I've recommended this book before. Here's the review, which says it all… "Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's first
contribution is to redefine the "difficult child" as the "spirited"
child, a child that is, as she says, MORE. Many people are leery about
books that are too quick to "type" kids, but Kurcinka, a parent of a
spirited child herself and a parent educator for 20 years, doesn't fall
into that trap. Instead, she provides tools to understanding your own
temperament as well as your child's. When you understand your
temperamental matches–and your mismatches–you can better understand,
work, live, socialize, and enjoy spirit in your child. By reframing
challenging temperamental qualities in a positive way, and by giving
readers specific tools to work with these qualities, Kurcinka has
provided a book that will help all parents, especially the parents of
spirited children, understand and better parent their children." (From

7. Siblings Without Rivalry: From the same lineage (Haim Ginott) that brought us "Between Parent and Child," these followers of Dr. Ginott tackle siblings specifically. Lots of you mentioned sibling jealousy issues that may be underpinning the most difficult discipline episodes. This is a great book to re-think how to raise children as team members in a larger family. It provides a thoughtful, compassionate perspective on the sibling relationship in general and then gives practical approaches for addressing episodes of sibling conflict (with lots of examples).

8. The No-Cry Discipline Solution: In the spirit of her other "No-Cry" books, Pantley offers some concrete strategies that pull parents out of power struggles and into a place of confident guides for children's appropriate behaviour. I like the fact that there ARE some concrete methods that you can pick and choose from and that she's very much into taking the child's perspective in these discipline struggles. She encourages parents to remember that they know their child best and to choose the methods that will best suit their child's temperament and needs, as well as their own goals. 

9. All the Louise Bates-Ames books: If you're looking for actual techniques or methods, these aren't the books for you. But her series of books (e.g., Your Two Year Old: Terrible or Tender; Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy, etc) is fabulous for giving you a real sense of the developmental challenges and the cognitive and emotional milestones that are being hit at each age. She's also very compassionate and often funny when empathizing with parental challenges at each age.

10. Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense: Because so many of you mentioned that mealtimes were big battle grounds with your children, or that feeding was a real source of anxiety for you as the parent, I wanted to include this one. This is one of the better books I've seen out there on helping parents relax and enjoy mealtimes with their kids. There's good, solid advice about nutrition and stage-specific issues that will come up around feeding. Many parents report feeling a whole lot better after reading this book and implementing strategies to avoid power struggles.

OK, that's my top 10 list… for now. What have I missed? What book have you found indispensable when it comes to discipline or general parenting approaches?

The US edition of Bedtiming is HERE!

I am THRILLED to let you all know that the US edition of Bedtiming is out! For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, a couple of years ago, my husband (Marc Lewis) and I wrote a book that was first published in Canada. The US edition is now out (published by The Experiment) with a brand spanking new cover and subtitle (nothing else of substance has changed from the Canadian version, for those of you who have asked).

Book cover
We wrote Bedtiming while trying to figure out the ins and
outs of our own children’s sleep habits and how to ultimately change
those crazy habits so that we could regain our sanity. The book goes through the best ages and stages to attempt your favourite sleep-training method. There are several chapters outlining the developmental research that points to several sensitive stages across infancy and early childhood — these are the stages we recommend that you avoid sleep training. There are other stages that children are more resilient, more focused on the "external" world of objects, and less anxious about separations — these are the stages we recommend giving your favourite method a go. The feedback I've received from several readers is that they have found the chapters that outline all the cognitive and emotional developmental stages useful in and of themselves, just to understand what is going on in the mind of their own child. I LOVE this because it was exactly our intent — we are developmentalists and so consider these developmental milestones so intrinsically fascinating and useful to understand for a range of children's issues (including, but not limited to, sleep training).

In terms of sleep issues: We are very clear in the book (like I am on this blog) that there is not one perfect sleep-training technique that is right for all children and all families. There's a chapter in the book that summarizes the pros and cons of the top 5 or so sleep-training
methods, but we don't recommend one over any
other. The method is yours to pick, according to your parenting philosophy, your own upbringing, cultural background, support system, your child's temperament, and so on. The main message of the book is that the TIMING of sleep-training may be just as (or more) important to success than the method you pick.

This blog was
first developed as a place to talk about the issues raised in Bedtiming, to highlight particular research findings that form the basis
of the book and, most importantly, to provide readers a space to ask
questions and trouble-shoot through their own sleep-training highs and
lows. If you go through the archives for the first 6 months of this blog, you'll find loads of Q and A's associated with the issues raised in the book. I hope that I can continue to use this space for that purpose, for those of you who pick up a copy and have additional, more specific questions.

For those of you who HAVE read the book, may I ask you to share with people what you thought of the book? I'm VERY open to critical feedback (as much as lavishing praise ;-)). I'm not good at this self-promotion thing at all, but I think it would be very useful to readers of this blog if they could access honest feeback about the book from real parents in the trenches (I promise I do not delete any comments, btw).

(To purchase the book, just go through any of the links under BUY THE BOOK, over on the left hand side of the blog… or go old-school and visit your nearest bookstore. Pssst… it's a bargain online at $10 and change).

Is the book coming out in the U.S. (or anywhere else)?

I've been getting several emails about whether the book will be available in the States. Short answer: I don't know. The book is published by HarperCollins CANADA. They (and we) have plans to try to sell the rights in the U.S. But it's not happening in the next month or two. I suspect we have to show that the book did really well in Canada first, and then the American publishers will be willing to consider also taking it on (and even that may be a long shot with the state of the economy down there).

I know the shipping cost is a real pain and I'm very sorry about that. Unfortunately, it's completely out of our hands (but hey!  The cost of the book is only about $12 which converts to something like 75 cents American, right ;-))

And YES, the book DOES ship to the States, no problem, it's just a pain when you see that the shipping is as much as the book. <sigh>