reading lists

The 8 Best Books on How to Raise Toddlers, According to Child-Development Experts

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Welcome to Reading Lists, comprehensive book guides from the Strategist designed to make you an expert (or at least a fascinating dinner-party companion) in hyperspecific or newsworthy topics, from microdosing and psychedelic therapy to French cooking. Here, a selection of books on how to raise successful, emotionally healthy toddlers, according to child-development experts.

When you were getting ready to be a first-time parent, you might have read one or two pregnancy and baby books and maybe even took a couple of classes to prepare for the arrival of your little bundle of joy. But what happens after the first year of life when that baby turns into an independence-seeking toddler? To help you navigate the terrible twos and beyond, we consulted child psychologists, therapists, authors, and developmental experts to create a reading list of the best books on how to raise toddlers with patience and understanding.

Our panel of experts include Sarah S. MacLaughlin, author of What Not to Say: Tools for Talking With Young Children and senior writer at Zero to Three; Dr. Stephanie Lee, a psychologist at the Child Mind Institute; Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, author of forthcoming book What’s My Child Thinking?; Maureen Healy, author of The Emotionally Healthy Child: Helping Children Calm, Center, and Make Smarter Choices; child psychologist Dr. George Sachs and author of The Mad Sad Happy Book: Emotional Literacy for Preschoolers; child and family psychotherapist Joseph Sacks; child therapist Michelle Paget; psychotherapist Matt Lundquist; Dr. Sarah Roseberry Lytle, director of outreach and education at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences; British parenting expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith, author of Gentle Discipline: Using Emotional Connection — Not Punishment — to Raise Confident, Capable Kids; and speech-language pathologist Gordy Rogers. As always, each title below was mentioned by at least two of our panelists — and in the case of one our picks, by nearly half of them.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish was by far the most recommended book by our experts, all of whom who cited it as a classic. First published in 1999 by parenting experts Faber and Mazlish, who together wrote a number of books and studied under pioneering child psychologist and psychotherapist Dr. Haim Ginott, the best-selling “parenting bible,” as it’s often called, focuses on how parents can “show empathy toward their children by listening to them and validating their feelings,” says Sacks. “It’s about using gentle, indirect solutions to dealing with discipline problems.” Says Lundquist, “As therapists we work hard to help adults understand what it means to truly listen to children (and one another), and this book does a better job than any book I’ve seen at teaching this.” Paget agrees, saying that good parenting begins with the parents: “This book is a really good friend to help you in reminding yourself no one’s going to be perfect when we’re not calm. It gives you a language to speak person-to-person with your toddler.” This title, as well as the duo’s other books, works well in workshop settings, and their website offers guides for doing so. “I think their books are terrific to read with someone else or even a group of folks,” says Lundquist. “It’s so important to have community when raising children.”

Siblings Without Rivalry is another Faber-Mazlish book that made the cut, and was recommended by both Lundquist and George Sachs. The New York Times best seller lays out practical tools for both parents and children to deal with conflicts that arise between siblings and to foster better family dynamics based on the authors’ experiences with their own children and years of conducting parenting workshops. “I found it very powerful and in fact had my entire family read it,” says Lundquist.

Dr. Laura Markham’s Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids was another favorite among our panelists and focuses on positive psychology — “on problem-solving and not punishment,” according to Healy. “This book really helps parents to understand the importance of their connection with their toddler,” says Ockwell-Smith. “Markham highlights the impact of a parent’s own mental state on their children. Quite simply, if you yell at your toddler, you’re going to have toddlers that yell.” She continues, “If you want raise calmer kids, you need to work on yourself first. This book really helps you to do just that, as well as talking about many common tricky situations parents may find themselves in with their toddlers, such as not listening to you, or doing what they’re told.” Says MacLaughlin: “It really helps parents focus on connecting and understanding their children’s behavior so they can be effective leaders.”