14 of the Best Parenting Books to Raise Resilient, Successful, and Self-Sufficient Kids

Inside: A list of the best parenting books with advice on how to raise kids who are grounded, successful and ultimately grow up to be self-sufficient. 

The best parenting books

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Before giving birth to my first daughter I didn’t read a single parenting book. Not one.

In my overconfident pre-parenting state of mind, I felt I knew everything I needed to know. I didn’t want to be influenced or swayed by seeming experts who probably had no idea what they were talking about anyway.

Then baby #1 entered my life and I was filled with doubt. Suddenly, those parenting books looked a lot more attractive.

My mind was swarming with questions:

If I can’t see how much breast milk my baby is getting how do I know it’s enough?

Do infants REALLY go through twelve diapers a day?

How in the world am I going to encourage this tiny creature to sleep?

My husband and I had our own theories and sometimes found ourselves in heated debates. With no answers of our own, we reluctantly cracked a few parenting books and suddenly those seemingly irrelevant experts had a lot more knowledge than us.

Ever since these first few days of parenthood I’ve been a bit more open to parenting advice. Not all of it is stellar and not all of it works for our family, but I’ve certainly learned a thing or two.

Among my most cherished takeaways from parenting experts is that less is often more.

Meaning: the less we try to control our kids and the more we instead try to coach them, the better our relationship with them and the more self-directed, creative, and grounded they become.

Parents need to guide and yes, even discipline – but too much hovering and structure, and kids won’t develop the ability to think for themselves.

The following are a few books I’ve found helpful for my parenting journey. Hopefully, they’ll provide insights for you too.

The best parenting books to read when your kids are toddlers (but beneficial for all ages)

Toddlerhood can be a challenging time for parents as their sweet babies grow to form opinions and throw tantrums. These books are invaluable to help you make sense of this stage. The advice in these books not only helps to make sense of what’s happening with your child but when put into practice will lay a solid foundation in your connection, communication, and discipline of your child in the years to come.

And what if you no longer have a toddler? Still read these books. Their advice is applicable to parents with kids of all ages.

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

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Best for: Better understanding your child’s development, temperament and emotions

The Whole-Brain Child is one of the most popular and best-selling parenting books of modern time. Through accessible language (you do not need a Ph.D. to understand this book), the authors explain why your child experiences outbursts, meltdowns, irrational fears, and tantrums, among other emotions. In addition to references to the left and right side of the brain they also describe the “upstairs brain” (rational) and the “downstairs brain” (emotional). These easy to digest explanations lay the foundation for the author’s well-explained practical strategies for how to respond to your child (no matter their age) when they’re in the midst of experiencing strong emotions. By putting this advice in to practice early in childhood, or even when your child is older, you’ll not only be strengthening your relationship but also equipping your child with the emotional regulation skills they’ll need throughout life.

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, Listen so Kids Will Talk

by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Best for: Learning how to effectively and peacefully communicate with your kids

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, Listen so That Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, is a classic for good reason. This book is a very easy read and the ideas in it are indispensable for any parent’s relationship with their child.

By reading this book and putting the ideas into practice, you’ll be able to lessen the number of arguments you have with your child, learn how to calm tantrums and explosive emotions, and best of all make your child feel loved, respected and heard. You’ll also begin to form a trusting bond with your kids that will allow you to effectively support them as they mature.

Positive Discipline

by Jane Nelsen

Best for: Learning the basics of positive discipline and how to put it into practice.

Jane Nelsen, a psychologist, educator and mother of seven wrote this classic in 1981 and it still continues to be relevant today. Throughout Positive Discipline, Nelsen helps the reader understand why punishing children is harmful, can exacerbate challenging behavior, and strain the parent/child relationship. Whereas, positive discipline techniques not only teach children how to behave better they also strengthen the parent/child relationship, allowing parents to have more influence. Children who are raised with positive discipline understand boundaries but also feel secure in their parent’s support and love. As a result, these kids grow up to be confident, independent, self-reliant, and empathetic.

The Successful Child: What Parents Can Do to Help Kids Turn Out Well

by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears

Best for: General parenting advice 

A few years into parenthood, I’d read a few books, learned a thing or two but hadn’t really found a philosophy that resonated with me – until I came across The Successful Child.

Picking up this book, I had no idea it was written by the founder of “attachment parenting” – a philosophy I envisioned being used by back-to-the-earth hippies who indulge their babies every whim and need.

This book proved me wrong. Attachment parenting is often associated with infants, but I soon discovered that its message is relevant for kids of all ages. The main objective of author Dr. Sear’s philosophy is to help kids feel a sense of security – with their parents, teachers, and the wider world. This security is accomplished through empathy and responsiveness but also trust and reasonable boundaries.

The ideas I gleaned from this book stay with me to this day. I’m certainly not the poster-child for attachment parenting, but The Successful Child helped me better understand how I can connect with my kids and how this connection benefits them.

Best parenting books to read for parents of school-aged children

While it would be beneficial for any parent to read the books below, in general much of the advice in these books isn’t applicable until a child is school-aged (pre-school through high school).

Many of the books in this section focus on topics related to academics and learning but that advice spills over into supporting our kids independence, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving.

Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Relationship with Your Child

by Ross Greene, PhD

Best for: Learning how to better communicate and support your child through collaboration

If you struggle with communication, cooperation or helping your child through challenges, this book is for you. After reading Raising Human Beings you’ll better understand why trying to control or dictate to kids doesn’t work and often has the opposite effect of what we’re trying to achieve. Instead, Greene lays out a compelling case for why collaborating with kids is not only more effective and helpful to children but also strengthens the parent/child relationship and allows parents to be more influential. While Greene demonstrates how this method of collaboration can be used by parents of toddlers, these techniques are most applicable to parents of school-aged kids including teenagers.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

by Carol Dweck

Best for: Any parent who wants to help their kids achieve their full potential.

While not exclusively a parenting book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success has had enormous impact on the world of education and parenting over the last decade.

In her book, author Carol Dweck explains how research lead her to conclude that a person’s mindset plays a large role in determining if they’ll be successful in academics, in their careers, and even in the relationships they have with other people.

People with a growth mindset tend to show the greatest success. Dweck defines this mindset as one that believes abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. IQ and talent are just a starting point.

While many articles have been written about growth mindset it’s worth the time to read Dweck’s book to fully understand her research and conclusions.

The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go so Their Children Can Succeed

by Jessica Lahey

Best for: Parents who want to raise resilient, successful, and self-reliant kids.

Jessica Lahey’s book, The Gift of Failure, could almost be a companion book to How to Raise an Adult. Both have similar messages for parents: that protecting kids from hardship and failure actually hurts children more than helps them.

During her time as middle school teacher, Lahey came to the conclusion that overparenting has the potential to ruin a child’s confidence and undermine their education. Instead, if parents allow their children to make mistakes and experience disappointment, kids will more readily learn resilience and self-reliance.

Lahey also offers specific advice for handling homework, report cards, social dynamics, sports as well as guidance to help parents learn to step back and embrace their children’s failures. 

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

by Angela Duckworth

Best for: Any parent who wants to help their kids achieve their full potential.

Grit, by Angela Duckworth is very similar to Growth Mindset in that it isn’t exclusively a parenting book. But it too has heavily influenced education and parenting philosophy since it was published in 2016.

In a nutshell, Grit highlights what really contributes to someone’s success. It’s not genius, but instead a combination of passion and long-term perseverance. Through studying a wide range of professions and interviewing a number of high achievers, Duckworth discovered that it’s ultimately one’s mindset when faced with challenges or failure that makes the difference between achieving success or not.

Best general parenting books to read to raise resilient, successful, and self-reliant kids

In general, the books below provide both insights and guidance on how to raise children who grow up to be self-motivated, resilient, confident, secure, and self-reliant. These books could be read by parents with kids of any age, but most of the advice pertains to children who are ages five and older.

How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success

by Julie Lythcott-Haims

Best for: Parents who want to raise resilient, successful, and self-reliant kids.

As a former Stanford dean at Stanford University, Julie Lythcott-Haims came across her fair share of overprotected, overparented, and overscheduled kids. And throughout her time in this position, she witnessed the negative effects this style of parenting has on students.

While her students may have been accepted to Stanford, many were unable to self-advocate or do much of anything without their parent’s guidance and approval.

Through research and interviews, Lythcott-Haims demonstrates why allowing kids to learn from mistakes and forge their own path, will make them more self-reliant and have greater self-esteem.

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Positive Parenting: an Essential Guide

Best for: Parents who yearn for a peaceful and happy home but also want to raise kids who have self-discipline and confidence.

Many parents believe they need to use strict punishment and shame to get their kids to behave. But author Rebecca Eanes, a mother herself, outlines how using positive parenting techniques can both gently discipline kids and result in kids who are emotionally healthy, empathetic, loving, and kind.

Eanes shows how parents can overcome limiting thought patterns and recognize emotional triggers to become more positive parents. She also shares advice for connecting with kids at each stage – from infancy to adolescence.

Raising Can-Do Kids

Best for: Parents who want to raise kids with an entrepreneurial mindset and are skeptical of society’s inclination to overschedule kids.

There are lots of ways parents define success for their children, but the definition outlined in Raising Can-Do Kids defines successful kids as those who are able to adapt to change, aren’t afraid to roll-up their sleeves and get dirty (so-to-speak), and can brush themselves off after experiencing failure and continue to progress forward. Essentially, kids who have the same character traits as successful entrepreneurs.

And how do parents encourage these traits in kids? According to authors Rende and Prosek, a developmental psychologist and entrepreneur, instead of signing kids up for numerous extracurriculars and scheduling every minute of their day, kids need an environment of freedom that fosters curiosity, independence, and a willingness to figure things out on their own. Only in this environment will kids gain the seven traits that make for a successful adult, the authors say.

See a full review here: Raising Can-Do Kids

The Opposite of Spoiled

Best for: Parents who are fearful of raising spoiled kids and want to teach their kids to manage money well.

Teaching kids about money is important, but even more important is raising kids who are grounded and generous – anything but spoiled.

In his book, The Opposite of Spoiled, Ron Lieber shows parents how, despite first assumptions, teaching kids to manage money doesn’t spoil them but actually makes kids less entitled. Through stories, research, and guidance, Lieber shows how parents can both teach their kids about money and inspire gratitude for what they have.

See a full review here: The Opposite of Spoiled

Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

Best for: Parents who want to reprogram their kids away from a life of entitlement. Also good for Christian parents.

Raising kids is hard. Raising kids who are grateful and show few signs of entitlement can seem downright impossible at times.

In the book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, Kristen Welch takes the reader on a journey of her family’s mission to raise kids who are grounded, grateful, and above all else show few signs of entitlement.

Welch’s story highlights how challenging it is to not give in to her children’s every desire. Such as her and her husband’s decision to not let their kids have smartphones until high school while most kids were getting them in middle school.

The book’s message is very much rooted in Christianity but people of all faiths can gain insight and inspiration about how to raise grateful kids.

See the full review here: Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World

You may also like:

How to Get Kids to Listen to you + Strengthen Your Bond With Them at the Same Time

What Kids Really Need to be Confident, Independent, and Self-Reliant

Now That I’ve Been a Mother For Ten Years, Here’s What I’d Tell My Former Self

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About Kerry Flatley

Hi! I’m Kerry, the mother of two girls and a certified parent educator. I believe it is possible for parents to have a supportive, loving, and warm relationship with their kids while raising them to be independent and ultimately self-sufficient. Over the years, I’ve read numerous books and articles that support this belief and I’ve put these ideas into practice with my own kids. Read more about me and Self-Sufficient Kids here.