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Before I even had kids, I started reading all the parenting books I could get my hands on. I wanted to become an expert so I could be the perfect mom.

What surprised me as I walked along this parenting journey was that some of the books that have shaped how I view my role as a mother aren't, strictly speaking, parenting books at all.

See, I mistakenly believed that parenting was going to be all about taking these little people and shaping them into grown-ups. That's a little part of it.

What I didn't expect was the great deal to which parenting would be about my own growth as a person. Learning patience. Learning empathy. Learning how to see things from someone else's point of view. Learning how to respect others - even those much smaller than myself.

This book is almost like a layperson's guide to counseling. In fact, one of the emphases of the book is that "counsel" isn't something reserved for people with certificates or licenses in a frame up on an office wall. We are all called to counsel, encourage, even warn or reprove people in our lives at various times.

What makes this book so precious is that close to half of it (the first half) dives deep into see ourselves rightly. Because, of course, the best way to prepare to love, encourage, and guide others is with a heaping dose of reality about your own weaknesses, struggles, and needs.

Another similar title I also found helpful is Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Edward Welch. (I enjoyed listening to this one on audiobook.)

Maybe you're guessing that this book is on the list because, well, stable marriages make happy homes for kids. This is true. However, this book impacted my parenting in quite another way entirely.

See, there's a very interesting parallel between the marriage relationship and the sibling relationship. They are both high-intensity, nitty-gritty, good-bad-and-ugly kinds of relationships that provide deep relationship challenges and also an excellent arena for growing in our relationship skills.

In fact, in the Sibling Strengtheners challenge, I included two quotes from Pastor Keller. Both were from this book!

Keller also wrote a short book called The Prodigal God based on a series of sermons he preached. This book does a great job of illustrating repentance and forgiveness as it relates to our relationship to God and also to each other.

This title might not surprise you so much. In fact, if you have more than one child over the age of two or so, it might be fairly obvious to you why this book made the list.

Negotiating sibling relationships is a huge facet of parenthood. This book isn't about sibling relationships specifically, but because it isn't it helped me to see how these general principals apply not only to the disputes I mediate each day, but also how those skills will carry forward into my children's adult lives.

Sande's wife Corlette wrote Young Peacemakers: Teaching Students to Respond to Conflict in God's Way. This book isn't specifically sibling related, either, but the information is presented in a more kid-friendly way with cartoons and illustrations.

While researching for this post, I also came across Peacemaking for Families: A Biblical Guide to Managing Conflict in Your Home by Ken Sande. It's now on my Amazon wish list!

I have struggled with postpartum depression on a number of occasions. So this book has been of personal benefit to me in that respect. And it was for that reason that I first purchased and read it.

However, I've come to think of this book as somewhat of a Physicians Desk Reference of emotions. I learned so much about anger, hope, fear, and so many other aspects of the human experience as I read this book. Though none of my children have ever experience depression (yet) I've still found the insights helpful in guiding and parenting them.

Welch also wrote When People are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Co-Dependency and the Fear of Man. Parenting is full of difficult decisions. It doesn't make the job any easier when we are burdened by fear of what others will think of our choices. Welch also recently published What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? which covers similar topics but is written to a teen and young-adult audience.

I grew up in a happy, healthy home. I was raised in a healthy, supportive church which I still attend with my family. However, I am not a stranger to powerful struggles with guilt and shame.

This book was helpful to me in two different but related ways. First, it was extremely valuable in assisting me to process much of the shame that burdens me as a mother and drains energy I could be devoting to loving and enjoying my children.

But this book also gave me great insight into ways that I inadvertently burden my children with shame by the way that I talk to them or correct them. It was an interesting experience of personal growth to allow this book to instruct me in healthier parenting while also learning not to be burdened with shame for the mistakes it revealed!

  • Thank you for the book recommendations. I’m always looking for another great read.

  • RitaGuihan says:

    My newest favorite: The Teen Interpreter by Terri Apter

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    Lynna Sutherland is the mother of eight kids ages teen to toddler. She hosts the Sibling Relationship Lab podcast and writes about sibling conflict resolution and sibling relationship building. Lynna believes that the gospel transforms sibling conflict from an obstacle to an opportunity and loves to show other parents the freedom and confidence of gospel-centered parenting.