These are the books that have influenced how I parent my tinies. I can’t say that I’m a card-carrying adherent to everything here, rather these books provided me with tools, insights, resources, language, freedom, faith, and trust in our instincts. (And I frequently loan these books out to friends. As a result, they are dog-eared, underlined, and a few of them are not pictured above – sorry.)

Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year by Megan Tietz & Laura Oyer. This is a new book, but it’s the one I wish I would have had earlier. It’s not just for the baby-stage of life. I find myself often referencing Megan and Laura’s book for my older tinies. Making decisions for our lives that are based on a growing and transformative relationship with God is very different than making choices out of fear. (And if you pick it up, check in the first few pages of the endorsements – you’ll see my name there.) This is the book that I purchase and hand out, like candy, at baby showers or to new mothers. Instead of strict schedules or crippling anxiety, this book gives the gift of freedom to mothers (and fathers).

Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D. I was at a bit of a loss for discipline once I made a conscious decision to pursue gentle discipline (which avoids spanking). My parents were not spankers, and yet we were very well disciplined children (for the most part…). When I read this book, I saw many of the practices and habits of my own parents there. It was surprisingly affirming. It helped me learn to nurture close connections, use play as a form of discipline (and to stop viewing “discipline” as an event, instead of a lifestyle), manage power struggles, and minimize poor behaviour. I found it most helpful during those intense two-and-three-year-old times, but I still refer back to what I learned here (and from my own parents, obviously) for raising confident children.

Grace-Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel. This was one of the first books I read that ran counter to most Christian parenting books. Most books that were recommended to me did NOT line up with the God that I knew and loved, let alone the type of parent that I wanted to become, nor the type of humans I wanted to raise. This was the first book that showed me how to major on the majors, to avoid the checklists and rules, to release fear-based decisions, and overall, to model and embrace grace in our home. I can’t tell you how much hope it gave me, I can see myself returning to it more in the coming years as the tinies continue to grow up and learn to make their own choices and decisions.

The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections by Amanda Blake Soule. I came across Amanda’s famous blog, Soulemama, years ago, and I was instantly hooked. (And okay, so I went a bit overboard in trying to make my life look more like hers. I’ve since discovered what works for us and what does not – for instance, I can’t rock the head scarf look.) This book gave us fun projects to puruse, sure, but what I loved most was the motivation and heart behind it. I highly value creativity and imagination in our tinies, and Amanda helped me to see everything around us as opportunity for creativity. I stopped yearning for specific toys or “stuff” to make that connection, and it helped me to embrace the natural mess that comes with being creative. We go through a lot of art supplies now.

The Baby Book, Revised Edition: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two (Sears Parenting Library) by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears, R.N. The Sears parenting library has been invaluable resource to me. I have worn out my copies of The Birth Book: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Safe and Satisfying Birth (Sears Parenting Library) and The Breastfeeding Book: Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Your Child from Birth Through Weaning, but this one was my Bible for my first baby. Everything from nursing to development to attachment parenting to babywearing to sleeping (and co-sleeping), this book was my primary reference for that season of my life. The Sears’ were also my “gateway” to gentle, Christian parenting.

The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child’s Heart for Eternity by Sally Clarkson. Although I struggle with some of the exclusionary language of the book (no greater calling than being a mother, etc.) this book helped me to see the big picture of why and how I parent my tinies. It helped me to give this calling, purpose, the focus, prayer, and grace that it requires. I loved Sally’s heart for her children, and she reminded me of my own mother in many ways.  It helped me to define the type of home we wanted for our family, the “feel” of our family, directly connected to the heart of God.

The Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ’s Example in Reaching the Hearts of Our Children by Sally Clarkson. Another Sally Clarkson, but I couldn’t help it. This book helped to inform much of what I was already feeling by my instincts. I struggle mightily with “how” to teach my faith to my tinies, I am not exactly into the whole Romans Road thing, or most modern Disney-fied children’s ministry stuff. Sally Clarkson talks about faith in the context of family, character development within a home of love. She articulates a practical way of living out what I learned in much of my faith-changing-books, about the nature and character of God, and how we translate that nature and character to our tinies. For instance, this book influenced how I discipline my tinies, as well as my committment to draw closer to the tinies when I want most to pull away in response to their childish behaviour. I had already made a decision to parent my tinies in a way that I feel reflects how God has “parented” me, this book helped make that commitment a reality.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by the La Leche League. I’ve written often about how much breastfeeding transformed me, spiritually, but this was my reference book for all things breastfeeding. The thing I loved most about it is that it took breastfeeding from a mystery to a normal part of life, while also affirming the art and wholeness and spirituality of the practice.

Loving Our Kids On Purpose: Making A Heart-To-Heart Connection by Danny Silk. I was introduced to this book through The God Journey podcast, and I can’t tell you how much I’ve appreciated both the heart behind the book, and the concepts/practical help of it. I particularly benefitted from the blend of holistic grace-based parenting with natural consequences. It helps me to help the tinies make better choices, out of a heart motivated for Love and life, instead of harsh punishments. It changes the focus of parenting from behaviour modification to heart-motivations.

The 5 Love Languages of Children by Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Ross Campbell. It’s amazing to me how often I think about this book in my daily life. Most of us are familiar with the love languages concept for marriages by Dr. Chapman, but this book for children has been a huge help for the ways that I don’t receive love in the same ways as my tinies. I often catch myself, remembering to “love” the tinies in the ways that they most receive and give love themselves, to ensure that they “feel” loved. With Joseph, for instance, he craves physical affection, while I don’t naturally require (let alone give) that as an expression of love. I’m more likely to write love letters (hello, words of encouragement!), but now I know and intentionally hold, wrestle, tickle, kiss, hug, and snuggle that boy. He’s never happier than when his hands are wrapped up in my hair, and I hold him quiet, but it helped me to see that that wasn’t just snuggling, it was how he knew he was loved.

Honourable mention: Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. We’re committed to getting our tinies outside, in the wide world, away from the playgrounds and manicured lawns and paths. We try to hike, to garden, to spend time in the outdoors. We’re fortunate that we’re right between mountains and oceans in Canada, so we have plenty of opportunity. Of course, from a faith perspective, this also gives us all appreciation and connection with God, sometimes it feels better than church out there, truly holy. This book is a convincing argument for getting your kids dirty, and making sure they are outside – and it’s benefitted me, as well.

Your turn: What books have most influenced your own parenting?


We’re talking about 10 Books a Day for a Week. Share your own favourites on your blog, and share your link in the comments. We’re having a great discussion about faith-changing books already, if you’d like to weigh in on Sunday’s post.

Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing the 10 books by Canadians I wish the world would read. But if you have another idea for your own site, go for it. We’ll put our libraries to work, shall we?

Sunday: 10 books that changed my faith

Monday: 10 books that influence my parenting

Tuesday: 10 books by Canadians I wish the world would read

Wednesday: 10 books for tinies and 10 books for older tinies

Thursday: 10 books I read over and over (and over)

Friday: 10 spiritual memoirs

Saturday: My daily books + 10 books of poetry


Disclosure: Affiliate links.




In which I share 10 books that changed my faith
In which I share 10 books by Canadians I wish the world would read
thank you for sharing...
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  • Cathy Van de Casteele

    I’m just loving this series.  Adding some more books to my “to read” list. 

  • Alexandra Kuykendall

    The Wonder of Girls by Michael Gurian. He is better known for The Wonder of Boys, but my house is full of girls and this book changed how I look at their mood swings (even in the early years).
    First Time Mom by Kevin Leman was my favorite my first year of mothering. He brought a great combination of parenting and professional experience to his writing with practical tips for the mom who has never done it before. The First Ten Days chapter is worth the whole book.

  • Alexandra Kuykendall

    The Wonder of Girls by Michael Gurian. He is better known for The Wonder of Boys, but my house is full of girls and this book changed how I look at their mood swings (even in the early years).
    First Time Mom by Kevin Leman was my favorite my first year of mothering. He brought a great combination of parenting and professional experience to his writing with practical tips for the mom who has never done it before. The First Ten Days chapter is worth the whole book.

    • Alexandra Kuykendall

      One more that was great when my first went to kindergarten was Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive In Public School written for Christian parents. It really is for any parent that wants to send their child into the world (regardless of their education method) by setting their hearts on truth so they can make solid decisions.

      • That will be VERY appropriate for me this year, Alexandra! Thanks for sharing it. Will check it out.

    • Those sound great.

  • Daniela

    I loved Barbra Coloroso Kids are worth it! Giving the gift of inner discipline.

  • Mairlyn

    I had to laugh when I saw your honorable mention book.
    Around the time I read Last Child in the Woods, we moved. Inspired by the book,
    we bought a house in the woods. Much to my disappointment, the woods were
    filled overrun with mosquitoes and overgrown by poison ivy. What a reminder
    that we’re not in control!

    Three secular parenting books I highly recommend:

    Optimistic Child by Martin Seligman – If an author were to write a parenting
    how-to around Romans 3:4-5, this is the book I think would result. Seligman
    tells us that emotional resiliency comes from perseverance and mastery of hard

    Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman –
    Great for a parent like me whose family of origin didn’t provide templates that
    help children identify, express, and appropriately respond to strong emotion.

    How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk
    by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish – Great how-to tips for active listening
    techniques, despite a framework that isn’t consistent with my worldview.

    • Ha! That’s the same conversation (re: Last Child) that Brian and I have, over and over. Your others also sound fantastic. 

  • Christina

    Just curious if you’ve read “How to talk so kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk.”  It’s not by Christian authors but lines up with grace & mercy.   I just did a book club with some Christian friends & we felt it transformed our view of our children.  Was curious if you read it & it didn’t make the list or just hadn’t read it yet. 🙂
    Next on our list “Mission of Motherhood”! 🙂

    • I haven’t read it yet but now you’ve got me intrigued! Sounds good…

  • kim

    I have never read any parenting books which have seemed all that helpful. Then again, I haven’t read any of these you mention. I will though. Thanks.

    • Well, I’ve read a lot that were absolute crap, too. 😉

  • positive parenting connection

    Oh I like so many of the books you listed,from your list, Playful Parenting would be my favorite. I also really like The Whole Brain Child from Siegel and Bryson, and Attached At the Heart from Nicholson and Parker and Helping Young Children Flourish by Aletha Solter. 

  • To see our book mixed in with these others …. I just don’t even know what to do with that. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sarah Bessey. You are the best. (And pretty much every single one of the other books on this list are in my library, too!) (And you are not surprised.)

    • You are on my list too Megan and I’m not even done it. 🙂

    • You wrote my own heart, Megan. So thankful for you and Laura!

  • Slmcf5

    I loved both “Six Ways to Keep the “Little” In Your Girl” and “Six Ways to Keep the “Good” In Your Boy” by Dannah Gresh and also “A Mother’s Heart” by Jean Fleming. 

    • I hadn’t heard of these ones – will check them out! Thanks.

      • Briannaevangelina

        A Mother’s Heart is THE BEST! Excellent.

  • Abbystanger

    I’ve read all but two of these books and since I already knew we were on the same page, I can’t wait to read the two I haven’t.  (Spirit Lead Parenting and Creative Parenting).  Thank you for these lists.  I’m excited to add them to my wish lists!  I always look forward to your posts.  You make me feel like I’m not alone!

  • Loving this series. Some of your are my favourites, some like Playful Parenting I like but struggle with. (My introverted nature tends to be too serious and not enough fun loving some times.) I couldn’t help but join in:

    • I struggle with that, too, Leah. It’s always a learning curve. I take myself too seriously.

  • Amylepinepeterson

    This is a really helpful list-thank you! I don’t think I could come up with 10 parenting books that I read and liked… Too many of them made me angry.

    One book I do find helpful at some times is Parenting with Love and Logic.

    • You know, so many people have mentioned that Parenting with Love and Logic to me! Actually, that Danny Silk one above references it often as well (he used to teach that course, I believe). Will check it out.

      • Amy Peterson

        Oh, also Simplicity Parenting!  I agreed with that a lot.

  • Amylee

    good choices – thanks for sharing!

  • Here is my list… I only picked 3+1 because I found they are the 3 I can honestly say I’ve read every word and some more than once. Most parenting books I think I mostly skim, and most parenting stuff I read has actually been blogs! Yours included. 🙂

  • Thank you for these recommendations! My library list is growing, compliments of you =) Now if I can just manage to actually read them… =)

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  • Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne was incredible! Changed the way i thought about many parts of our life, not just when related to the littles.

  • Tiffany Norris

    So many new books on my list–hooray! Here are mine, and I realized, after posting, that I forgot to include The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. So that should be one, too. 🙂

  • I love this series….and dread it at the same time…. So many books now to order…and find time to read!!! I thank you-not sure my credit card or the late nights do!!

    I would add Hold Onto Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld, a clinical developmental psychologist from out around your way!! I have been the many of his workshops, have the DVDs and LOVED the book. It is not from a Christian perspective, but very good and counter cultural. 

    Wild Things, the art of nurturing boys-Stephen James and David Thomas-the first book that I thought really “got” my crazy and wild boys.

    You are your Child’s First Teacher-Rahima Baldwin Dancy-so so great, especially as we started to intentionally parent from a more holistic place-from a Waldorf educational perspective, but not focused on that at all-Just so good! I wish I had read it when my oldest was first born!! Great stuff in there.

    Building the Christian Family You Never Had-Mary E. DeMuth-while I was born in a Christian home, it wasn’t one that I wanted to pass on necessarily-a home based on legalism and obedience, rather than on love and grace. My husband had a very very very different spiritual upbringing that I, so thinking of how WE were going to interweave faith into our parenting in an intentional way, this book has been good. 

    and goes without saying, anything by Dr. Sears-I loved the baby books, the discipline books, even their books on eating and health!! 

    •  Wild Things is on my list as well! Loved that book!

      • Allison Redd

         I have three boys and so Wild Things is also going on my list. Does anyone here know about these other two books along similar lines: “Raising Cain” and “Boys Should Be Boys”??!

  • One that impacted me was “How to Keep Your Kids on Your Team” by Charles Stanley.   He is the first person that really introduced me to the idea of letting your children fail, of giving them room to make their own decisions, and being there to guide them through the success and failure.  I read this years ago when My oldest was a toddler.  

  • Brenda

    Sarah, I love your list! The Five Love Languages of Children has been very helpful for me. Here’s my parenting books favorites…

  • Clairezip  thanks for this fun.  I watched some of the silk videos and also liked his very laid back approach with letting kids figure things out.  I also heard Tim Kimmel speak and loved his emphasis on grace and love.  I didn’t read either of the books though. 

  • Here’s my version of this list: Thanks for the wonderful suggestions. We’re entering the “terrific twos” now, so I’m EXCITED to see some suggestions for how to best handle that. Hoping for answers as to how to get her to stop biting the dog, throwing the iPhone in the toilet, and going into total meltdown mode when I refuse to allow her to hurl herself down the escalator at the mall. I may need another list. 🙂 

  • Tara

    Great list.  I have read a few of these and the others are on my wish list.  Thank you for sharing!  I have also loved Tedd Tripp’s book “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”.  My husband and I read through this on together and it has really helped shape the way that we parent our little guy.

  • reb

    i definitely second the sears book! i haven’t had a chance to read the others, though, but i plan to! thanks for this list!

  • kristin

    bought Grace-Based Parenting today. She’s 2 now! 10 pgs in & underlining a ton. Thanks.

  • There are so many on this list that I have not yet read – I’m really loving my to-read list now… Here’s my own list of ten books that truly helped shape my parenting:

  • I haven’t read many parenting books, which kind of surprises me. But I remember the Sears’s book resonating with me, and also The Womanly Art… and The Five Love Languages. Also, Kids Are Worth It, by Barbara Coloroso.

  • Sophia Grace

    Mission of Motherhood was pretty good but it left me with a bit of an inferiority complex…classical music and candles at dinner? Homeschooling 4 children? Who all play musical instruments?  

    Luckily the next book we read was Real Moms, Real Jesus by Jill Savage. Maybe more of a mothering book than a parenting book but good easy read and I still use things I learned from it!

    Other than that, I am not a big parenting book reader.  I do want to read Grace Based Parenting and this!

    Families Where Grace Is in Place: Building a Home Free of Manipulation, Legalism, and Shame by Jeff VanVonderen 
    (he is the author of The Subtle Powers of Spiritual Abuse)

  • Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard

    I saw this on my cousin’s Pinterest and am very encouraged by what I see here.  I haven’t read a parenting book in ages because most I’ve read/skimmed have made me want to throw them at the wall.  But I’ve been craving a good read along these lines. Grace-based Parenting in particular sounds like someone already wrote the kind of book that I was wishing existed – thank you!

  • Teddi Sharpton

    Last Child in the Woods looks wonderful! Grace-Based Parenting -yesss….Also loved How Children Raise Parents by Dan Allender;  Boundaries with Kids by Henry Cloud; You can’t make me (But I can be persuaded) by Cynthia Tobias; When Your child is six to twelve by John Drescher and You Have What it Takes (What every Father Needs to Know) by John Eldredge

  • Handsfull

    One I love is called Of Course I Love You, Now Go To Your Room!  The title makes me laugh, and the book is good – it was the first one I’d read that had the idea of allowing consequences to teach your child, while still keeping yourself emotionally available for them… and it’s written by a Jewish New Zealander!

  • Stephanie

    Spirit-Led Parenting is on my Amazon wish list. 

    I’m also going to add “Playful Parenting” because of your recommendation.

    I have to admit that I’m typically not a fan of most “parenting” books. Most of the books that have inspired me to be a better parent don’t necessarily fall in that specific category. For example, I gleaned so much wisdom from “Too Small To Ignore” by Wess Stafford (even though it’s more a memoir and call to compassion than it is a parenting manual). Have you read it, by chance?

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  • I appreciate this list, as I’ve had no idea where to start with parenting books. (It also briefly sent me into a whirlwind of inadequecy…because why don’t I read parenting books? I’m probably screwing my kids up irreparably! What is the matter with me!) (Don’t worry. I have since talked myself down.) Anyway, thanks for the recommendations. 🙂

  • Limejello

    Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Traci Hogg.  The book is great for people who want a “middle ground” in child rearing.  She addresses troubles with feeding, sleeping, and behaviors.  Her method is loving but guided, the perfect blend for me (and most of the moms I’ve loaned the book to over the years.)  I refer to it still, since she goes up to age five for many of her methods.

  • Allison Redd

    Hi! Just found your list through Story Warren, and I LOVE it! I have read about half of these (love Sally Clarkson), the others are either on my shelf waiting to be read or now in my wish list! I’m reading a book right now with a group of moms called “Give Them Grace” which is a bit clunky in the first few chapters but gets better. Though I don’t agree 100% so far with everything in the book, I’m finding it is a different kind of parenting book which does focus on the relationship with your kids to Christ as the most important, and as we are talking through the book I keep seeing areas where I need to preach grace to myself first in order to live out the Christian life I want my kids to emulate!

  • Sarah Mahar

    Sarah, thank you for this list. We have become increasingly convinced that gentle parenting/gentle discipline is what God has called us to. It is very difficult to find Christian books that promote gentle discipline. I really appreciate having a reading list to work through.

  • Lisa

    ‘Wild Things- the art of nurturing boys’is a great read.

  • tanya

    great lists! I always love to find out what other people’s ‘book list’ are – currently reading “hold on to your kids – why parents matter” fantastic (but hard!) read – really makes me think about the choices we are making. Another parenting book i love is “nutureshock” very readable – and turns some common placed ideas on their head.

  • joym

    Love your list!! so great to hear your heart and reflection on each book. thanks for sharing!

  • We share many of the same ones…. here’s one to your list that I adore “Hints on Child Training” by H. Clay Trumbull. It is succinct and clear which lends to making it easier to implement in ones life. What makes it even more stunning is it was written in the 1800s. True today as it was then. It’s in print again and only ~$8 on amazon.

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  • Kasie

    Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Pay e

  • Kasie


  • Heather B.

    Thank you, Sarah! I love the Love Languages. I can’t wait to check out the rest. We are doing everything we can to give our son the foundation he needs to succeed in his faith, but we need all the help we can get. I’d like to recommend a brand new book I’ve been reading by Dr. Tony Evans. It’s called “Raising Kingdom
    Kids: Giving Your Child a Living Faith.” He says, “It’s far easier to SHAPE A CHILD than to REPAIR AN ADULT. Raising kids who recognize and retain their identity as children of the King launches healthy adults who have the capacity to stand strong in their faith.” Equipping and guiding our children starts with us, parents! This is the most solid, thorough, inspirational and affirming parent book you’ll ever read! I love it and HIGHLY recommend it for all parents!

  • jj

    I am so interested and wish I had time to read even two of these books before my kids are 30…. 🙂 Any tips for making time for reading?