General Parenting and Family Books

This page contains reviews of the best general parenting and family books I've found over the past nineteen years.

These are books that look at how a couple creates and manages their family.

general parenting and family books, three childrenMy gorgeous trio: Oliver, Annabel and James

If you're anything like me, this might not be something you've thought much about.

You might also think the idea of planning and managing your family is a bit weird. I mean, this is a family, not a business, right?

But when you think about it, most things in life work better if we have a vision in our heads of what we're trying to achieve and families are the same.

Life is so busy these days that it can be surprisingly easy to lose sight of what we're aiming for.

This is where general parenting and family books can help.

You might not like every idea in the general parenting and family books on this list and some of the stuff may seem very obvious. But there are also loads of ideas guaranteed to get you thinking.

Ideally, read these books when your children are small. Although some of the issues may not seem relevant to you yet, reading them will start you thinking about the type of home you'd like to create for your family and the way you'd like to bring up your children.

You can buy most of these books online - with free postage! - from the Book Depository. 



The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families

the 7 habits of highly effective families

If you've read Stephen Covey's 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' you'll be familiar with the ideas in this book. Some of them - like developing a family mission statement - may seem a bit corporate or, on the other hand, a bit cute, especially to Australians. But it actually seems like quite a sensible idea.

This book is the one which gave me the idea of creating a list of general parenting and family books. It basically focuses on the goal of creating a happy, peaceful home where everyone feels valued and problems are solved in a respectful way. What a great goal to aim for!

One of the good things about this book is that it's highly practical. There are lots of strategies and examples that you can follow in your own family, especially with regard to solving problems using the win-win philosophy. 



The Good Enough Child

the good enough child

I found this a very confronting book because it made me aware - painfully aware - of some of the expectations I had of my children. These were totally unconscious, a product of experiences I had had well before they were even thought of.

Sachs is a psychologist whose theory is that a lot of the issues we experience as we raise our children have to do with inappropriate or unrealistic expectations of them. This book explores this idea and looks at strategies to help parents understand their expectations and relax them so that they can enjoy a more loving, supportive relationship with their children.

Chapter headings include:

  • Eight Self-Defeating Reactions to Our Children's Problems
  • Uncovering
  • Acknowledging
  • Understanding
  • Forgiving
  • Our Unspoken Expectations

There are also chapters on divorce, changing and marriage.

This is a very interesting book, probably best suited to parents of school-aged children. 



Emotional Intelligence

emotional intelligence

This book is not strictly-speaking a parenting book but I've found it incredibly valuable over the past 15 years and I think it's a good book to include here.

If you're not familiar with the term 'emotional intelligence', it basically refers to the role played by our emotions in the way we think and make decisions.

The term was, as far as I know, first coined by Daniel Goleman in this book when it first appeared in 1995, although there's now quite a lot of good information on the web about nurturing children's emotional intelligence. 

In a nutshell, Goleman believes that things like self-awareness, persistence, impulse control and empathy are far more important factors in determining success at school and work and in our social relationships than our IQs are.

The book is quite detailed and long but quite fascinating to read and there are loads of practical ideas for developing these qualities in our children.

All in all, this is a book that's well worth reading. 



Teaching Your Children Values

teaching your children values

The values discussed in this book include honesty, courage, respect, self-reliance and potential, self-discipline and moderation, unselfishness and sensitivity, kindness and friendliness. There are more but this gives you the general idea.

The authors have nine(!!) children of their own and have developed some great strategies for helping children learn these values. Each chapter focuses on one value and includes ideas and games for teaching that quality to pre-schoolers, primary-schoolers and teenagers.

Sounds a bit forced, I know, but there's actually quite alot of good stuff in this book. I found it very useful. 



Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It

why first borns rule the world

Michael Grose is a former primary school teacher. He has written a number of general parenting and family books and also speaks on parenting issues.

The book really is fascinating. It outlines the way in which birth order influences children's behaviour and personality development. For example, it explains the personality characteristics shared by many first-born children, middle children and so on, taking into account the gender(s) of the children in relation to each other. The idea is that, once you know why your child is behaving a certain way, you're in a better position to know how to respond.

The books aims to help parents make sense of sibling rivalry and to offer guidance about how to match your parenting to each child, according to their birth order. But, like 'Daughters and their Dads', it also helps you understand your own personality, motivations and parenting style since these are likely to be influenced by your position in your birth family and your experiences growing up.

Having read the 'The New Birth Order Book' by Kevin Leman, it's pretty clear that Michael Grose has drawn heavily on some of the content of Leman's book (with appropriate acknowledgement).

The beauty of 'Why First Borns Rule the World' is that it's shorter and written from an Australian point of view, while Leman's book is American and much more detailed. I enjoyed both books but I actually like detail so preferred Leman's book. Having said that, each book has its advantages and both provide useful insights into how families work and how they can be helped to work better. 



The New Birth Order Book

the new birth order book

This book was published well before Michael Grose's Why First Borns Rule the World and Last Borns Want to Change It and is, for my money, a much better book. If you read both you will see that Michael Grose borrowed heavily from Leman's book so, if you want the whole story and only want to read or buy one of the two, make it this one.

Kevin Leman is an American psychologist and a father of five children. His book outlines the way in which birth order influences children's behaviour and personality development by explaining the personality characteristics shared by many first-born children, middle children and so on, taking into account the gender(s) of the children in relation to each other. The idea is that, once you know why your child is behaving a certain way, you're in a better position to know how to respond.

The books aims to help parents make sense of sibling rivalry and to offer guidance about how to match your parenting to each child, according to their birth order. It also helps you understand your own personality, motivations and parenting style.

This book may be a little hard to get hold of but is usually available in libraries. 



Parenting for a Peaceful World

parenting for a peaceful world

This book was recommended to me by my wonderful GP when we were talking about parenting. It was written by an Australian psychotherapist and psychologist and was first published in 2005.

This book is not a parenting manual as such, although it does provide loads of thought-provoking ideas about the implications of different parenting styles.

But the book goes much deeper than this, delving into the sociological and anthropological aspects of parenting through the ages. In effect, parenting practices shape the world we live in and the choices we make for our children affect not only them, their lives and our relationships with them but also the society in which we live.

This is a well-researched and quite dense book which took me a while to read. That was actually a plus though because I found so much to think about as I read that I valued the opportunity to progress through it at a slower rate than I normally read in order to have time to digest it. I found the chapters about child-rearing through history and across different cultures particularly interesting and, at times, confronting.

Highly recommended for parents with children of any age. 


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