Motherhood is a game you are thrown into without experience. Even if you have been around kids a lot it is different when they are ALWAYS THERE, kicking you in the face at 3am, asking for pancakes at 5am, fighting with their sibling from the time their eyes open….it’s just a lot that is new and hard and confusing.
My parenting has been all over the map in my humble 8 years of doing it. I have failed and learned and when I got the hang of something, things would change.
Over the years I have read a lot of parenting books, blogs and petitioned the advice of many other moms. I like to think my parenting is an adapting flow of all that I take in from those around me, interpreted in my own strengths and passions as a mom, and trusting that God’s grace covers up all else – because I’m only human.
I am far from a parenting expert, but as I have relied on other moms to do with me, I will take the opportunity to share what has worked for me in my mothering journey. So, here are THREE books that have changed how I mother.
THE SECRET OF HAPPY FAMILIES
Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More
THE FAMILY REQUIRES MANAGEMENT
I am appreciating more and more that our homes and families are also run like a business in a way. This book is about the ‘operation’ side of a family: the finances, the team, the meal times, the discipline, the hard conversations. It can be a nice break to pay attention to the structures we need to function better as a family.
EFFECTIVE FAMILY MEETINGS
Reading this book encouraged us to start having family meetings. I followed a lot of his framework and have see such cool and unexpected results from having family meetings. You can read about how they have changed our family here.
THE FAMILY IS A TEAM
I love the connectedness and the camaraderie of feeling like my family is a team. The book outlines the power of knowing your family mission and values. Knowing what is important to you and where you want to go is the basis of life on purpose – so doing it on a family level can really help a family become proactive, powerful and connected.
I especially love that when we are all on the same team, we can curb a lot of the fighting. When we all are working towards the same thing, and thinking about the good of the team we can recall that ‘we are on the same side’ and be less combative.
The author echoes something I have heard Sally Clarkson talk about – the power of sharing your family history through stories and photos. It helps your kids feel more secure and a sense of belonging into this big ancestral bond that they have.
HAVE MORE FUN
My biggest takeaway (and probably because it came at a time where I really needed it) was to have more fun. So often we get caught up in the routine and the to-do list and correcting bad behaviours – it really sucks the joy out of the day, we become task masters. Every day we can look for ways to have more fun. I spent all last year working on this (When Did I Stop Enjoying My Kids) and it opened my eyes to being more relaxed and ready to enjoy the people and the day in front of me.
NEVER SAY NO
Raising Big-Picture Kids
To me this book is all about how to manage your own baggage that your bring into your family unit, and raising kids with character and confidence
WRITTEN FROM THOSE WHO HAVE LIVED IT
This book was written by the parents of the dudes in the band Switchfoot. You can tell this book was written by parents who are on the other side of the long game.
WHAT AM I SAYING NO TO?
Why do I say no so much? So often it is because I don’t want to do the work, or deal with the mess, most of all it is because I don’t want to take the time. I am saying no because I don’t want my comfort and routine disrupted.
This book helped me see that I am actually saying no to opportunities. Opportunities for my kids to listen closer to the way they are made to be in the world. The opportunity to build something, or learn something, or try something, or do something.
SAYING YES MORE OFTEN
This book is the reason why there are legos across my living room, a whole dresser of craft and building supplies in the kitchen, why my kids dress themselves and I tell them they look awesome because they feel awesome, and drop off hands of bananas to their friends on a Tuesday afternoon.
These are all ways they learn who they are and build up confidence in what they bring to the world. Creativity and curiosity are the backbone of our kids living out a life that they are passionate and purposeful in. They are also the first things we stifle in an effort to get them to fall in line and obey.
I think all of us adults can see ways that we have shut this part down in ourselves over the years. The less we say YES to our kids, to ourselves – the quieter that voice inside gets.
LOVING THEM FOR WHO THEY ARE
I am the first to admit I expected all my kids to be little clones that would love what I love and deal with life the way I deal. Then you have kids and they are their own person. This book reminded me to let my notions of what my kids should be fall away to see they awesome kid that is right before me.
It is so important to listen closely to yourself and know who you are and what you want (the premise of the Life on Purpose workbook). It seems to me that we spend our childhood years slowly shutting down our ability to listen to ourselves, then we go to high school and listen to everyone else’s voice, then we become an adult out in the world and try harder and harder to unearth that voice and tune our ears back to our hearts.
Even if I don’t understand my kids, I get to love them and guide them and let them be who they are. Which is the greatest gift we can ever give anyone we love.
The book does talk about God, but really, if you pick up this book and read any chapter at random you will learn something useful and profound. There is so much wisdom and freedom in this book.
RAISING AN EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT CHILD
(by John Gottman! Find it here)
This one was so impactful for me that I wrote a whole bigger blog post about it. You can read it here.
I’ll share some big takeaways:
HOW WE HANDLE OUR KIDS’ EMOTIONS
The book outlines different types of reactions we have to our kids anger or sadness or any negative emotion.
The dismissing parent would treat their kids’ feelings as unimportant, minimize them, or downplays them – often telling them ‘it’s ok, you’re fine’.
The disciplining parent views negative emotions as a form of misbehaviour and might punish them or criticize them for what they are feeling and how they are acting.
The laissez-faire parent avoids their kid or brushes it off as them ‘getting it all out’, they don’t offer any guidance.
The book offers a fourth option called Emotional Coaching and the book centers around tools and stories to teach a parent how to do that.
ADULTS WITHOUT EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE RISK RAISING KIDS WITHOUT EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
I think this is a tricky thing because so many of us adults are low in emotional intelligence. We are in what therapists and coaches call ‘emotional childhood’. I know I was there for many years. I would shut down any negative emotions instead of working through them. I didn’t develop many skills to inquire into my thought and feeling life and process it in healthy ways. I think that is why I love life coaching so much now, emotional intelligence is the foundation work lay with the client and the art of daily practice we guide them through.
ANGER IS AN INDICATOR + AN OPPORTUNITY
When my kids showed anger my first reaction was to discipline it. In my own personal growth I had started to learn that anger is actually the tip of the iceberg, it is a ‘secondary emotion’ indicating that there is something else going on.
When I am quick to shut it down in my kids, we are all missing the deeper issue going on with them. I should be guiding them through these feelings but instead I am slowly taking away their practice of being mindful about their emotions and processing them in healthy ways – which is termed Emotional Intelligence.
This book helped me see the warm and intimate experience we can have with our kids when we coach them through their negative emotions instead of just dismiss them.
ADDRESS THE FEELINGS THEM GUIDE THE ACTIONS
This book was making me feel panicky that I would have to process every single emotion all three of my kids had in real time — there wouldn’t be enough hours in a day. This book offers guidance on how to address emotions in the time crunch.
It also addresses another fear many of us parents have – we can’t be ruled by feelings and use them as an excuse for bad behaviour. We can’t skip the feeling and skip to punishing the action. We need to address the feeling first then provide consequences and guidance on the action.
I appreciate this quote from the book
“all feelings are permissible; not all behaviour is permissible, And, the parent-child relationship is not a democracy; it is the parent who determines what behaviour is permissible”.
THE CHANGE IS REAL
The reason why this book is top of my list is because it helped transform a fragile relationship with one of my kids. Over the years this kid was becoming more and more angry to everyone in the home, most of all me. And I was angry at them. I felt at a total loss with them and feared we would never have warmth and respect in our relationship.
This book encouraged me to listen, validate, empathize and offer guidance to this child on a daily basis. They started to trust me more. It also encouraged me spend more one-on-one time with them, so we started spending a couple hours together alone every other week. They began enjoying my company more. What a difference it made.
I had prayed that God would change my child’s heart, but reading this book allowed me change mine and when I did that, they had the space and security to change theirs too.
I think it comes down to what every single person wants – empathy instead of shame.
Join in Simple Saturdays
Simple Saturdays is bi-weekly encouragement to help moms simplify their life and live with more passion and purpose.
It is an email newsletter, also in podcast form!
It isn't just any old email! It is a fun, quick read of insights, tips and references for everything simple, on purpose, and waffles.