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Parenting is the best job in the world and – at times – the hardest. It’s often been said there’s no manual but that’s not entirely true. After all, there are literally hundreds.
But when you’re sleep-deprived and time poor, choosing the right one is a tough call.
That’s why we’ve done the sifting for you. Here are the best parenting books around right now.
Best for nurturing good relationships
The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did) is a gold standard book for all all parents. Whether you’re starting out or at the teenage stage, it’s packed full of insight and advice.
Written by psychotherpaist and parent Philippa Perry, she brings a wealth of experience to the fore and writes in a warm, non-judgemental way.
Rather than focus on particular issues, her approach is holistic. She emphasises the importance of building good relationships. Naturally, looking at your own parenting legacy is the starting point to help you choose the best bits and avoid repeating the worst.
Perry explains that by learning how to relate well to your child, there will be fewer battles – whether that’s about bedtime, getting dressed or walking home from school on your own. The aim is to be reflective rather than reactive.
Thought-provoking, wise and a really good read.
Best practical guide for new parents
The perfect book for new parents, What to Expect The First Year is a manual that sets out how to do everything really clearly.
Almost as reassuring as having a health visitor on hand 24/7, it tells you what to expect every month.
It’s informative, packed with detail on everything from how to bath your baby to advice on sleeping and immunisations.
Keep it handy, it will be invaluable any time you want a question resolved without scouring the internet.
Good for the first six months
Another manual-style parenting book, Your Baby Week by Week is a straightforward guide to what should be happening when.
With a new baby – even if it’s your second or third – life can feel like a blur of eat, sleep, feed, change nappy. This helps you see the wood for the trees with just enough detail.
Reassuringly, it’s written by a health writer and a paediatrician, with clear information and advice that leaves enough room for you to develop your own, informed parenting style.
There’s advice on controlled crying – not a course of action that suits all parents – so ignore that if it doesn’t suit you.
There’s a helpful step-by-step guide to weaning, which appears at the 17-week stage. That’s not to say you should start then, just that the info is there for whenever you are ready (current advice is around six months).
Best parenting book for dads to be
Chatty and informative, the Expectant Dad’s Survival Guide is written by journalist and father Rob Kemp, who draws on experts including a male midwife.
For first-timers, especially now when expectant fathers are feeling excluded from pregnancy during lockdown, it’s a good inroad into understanding all about your partner’s pregnancy.
It takes you through how to support her, how to prepare and what to expect, with expert advice on everything from breastfeeding to choosing the right car seat.
What works particularly well is the blend of practical info and first person accounts. We know too few men share their worries and this book gives the expectant dad a window on other men’s uncertainties and feelings.
Good for new mums
Holly Willoughby’s Truly Happy Baby has a lovely mum-to-mum approach, though of course all the advice and info is backed up by experts.
There are practical chapters on sleeping, feeding, wellbeing and lifestyle, which include all the developmental stages and pointers on play.
Looking after yourself gets a chapter all to itself, which is refreshing. It’s only natural that your entire world is focused on your baby but unless you take care of yourself, you won’t maintain the energy levels you need for a happy mum and a happy baby.
Written in a down-to-earth style, this has a very posisitve, can-do feel.
Great for developing parenting skills
In Calm Parents, Happy Kids clinical psychologist, parenting coach and mother of two Dr Laura Markham outlines a three-point plan that will help you maintain your equilibrium in the eye of any storm.
Much of the focus is on managing your own behaviour with an explanation of how that feeds into happier relationships. A calm, respectful and constructive approach is something we all aspire to but reading about why and developing strategies is super helpful.
Fostering connections and coaching rather than controlling are the other key parts of this book. Dr Markham acknowledges the importance of being loving and establishing fair boundaries, with reminders not to sweat the small stuff.
What’s helpful is that she has sections on different ages. She aslo covers difficult children, which is not something all parenting books acknowledge. There are also great sections with tips to act on like 10 Ways to Become a Brilliant Listener.
Bringing together the latest research in brain development and emotional awareness, this is a worthwhile investment for any parent with babies and primary age children.