The following is a list of books that we frequently recommend. For your convenience, they are arranged in categories related to the keys identified in our book, How’s Your Family Really Doing?
Key #1- Talking and Listening
Messages: The Communication Skills Book by Matthew McKay. 2009. Includes active listening, reading body language, developing conflict resolution skills, talking to children, communicating with family members, public speaking, and handling group interactions.
The Messages Workbook: Powerful Strategies for Effective Communication at Work and Home by Davis, Paleg, & Fanning. 2004. This workbook helps you apply communication skills with worksheets, fill-in exercises, and case stories. Includes how to communicate with teens and children.
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and How to Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. 1980. This book is still in print because it is a classic. It helps parents acknowledge kids’ feelings while still being in charge, how to treat others with respect and also giving praise and recognition.
The Wisdom of Listening by Mark Brady, Editor. 2003. A beautiful anthology of spiritual contributions on the art of listening by teachers from varied disciplines, including Hospice workers, Ram Dass, Joan Halifax on council circle, Almaas on the Diamond Heart approach, Marshall Rosenburg on Nonviolent Communication, etc.
People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others, and Resolve Conflicts by R. Bolton. 1986. A communication-skills handbook that includes skills around listening, assertion, conflict-resolution, and collaborative problem solving —with each building upon the others.
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion by Marshall Rosenberg. 2003. Guidelines to express yourself and listen to others by focusing your consciousness on four areas: what you are observing, feeling, needing and requesting to enrich your life. These skills foster deep listening, respect, and empathy, and engender a mutual desire to give from the heart.
Why Don’t We Listen Better? Communicating & Connecting in Relationships by J. Petersen. 2007. Concrete strategies to improve communication skills through Talker/Listener cards, especially for tough conversations.
Key #2- Expressing Feelings
Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ by Daniel Goleman. 2006. This classic book is the first to explain the importance of emotional intelligence. Goleman argues that our emotions play a much greater role in thought, decision-making and individual success than is commonly acknowledged. Emotional intelligence is defined as a set of skills, including control of one’s impulses, self-motivation, empathy and social competence in interpersonal relationships.
Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships by Daniel Goleman. 2007. In this companion volume to Emotional Intelligence, Goleman draws from research in the emerging field of social neuroscience. Despite the different title, he covers new research on the topic of emotions as well. Describing what happens to our brains when we connect with others, he explains how relationships have the power to mold not only human experience but also human biology. From a neurobiological perspective he describes sexual attraction, marriage, parenting, and much more.
The Healing Power of Emotion: Affective Neuroscience, Development & Clinical Practice by Fosha, Siegel and Soloman. 2009. A dialogue among eminent neuroscientists, clinicians, attachment researchers, and body workers, drawing on cutting-edge neuroscience to better understand emotion. Explains how emotions can become powerful catalysts for the transformations that are at the heart of the healing process. Both positive and negative emotions are examined from research and clinical observations. The role of emotion in bodily regulation, dyadic connection, marital communication, play, well-being, health, creativity, and social engagement is explored.
Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting by Gottman & Declaire. 1998. Helps parents assess their parenting styles and levels of emotional self-awareness. Teaches a five-step “emotion coaching” process to help children recognize and address their feelings; recognizing that dealing with emotions is an opportunity for intimacy; listening with empathy; setting limits; and problem-solving.
More on dealing with anger:
The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships by Harriet Lerner. 1985. An excellent book about women who often handle anger indirectly rather than openly. Discusses the usefulness of anger in intimate relationships and healthy ways to express it.
The Anger Workbook by Lorrainne Bilodeau. 1994. Exercises and insights for healthier anger management. Begins with investigating your attitudes about anger with a checklist, explains the role of anger and how it works biochemically, and details the use of constructive anger.
The Dark Side of Love: The Positive Role of Negative Feelings by J. Goldberg. 1999. A convincing argument that hate is the counterpart to love and will always surface in intimate relationships. If not denied, it can be used as a constructive force.
When Anger Hurts: Quieting the Storm Within by McKay, Rogers & McKay. 2003. An excellent resource for parents using yelling, put-downs, and anger in their discipline. Draws on research about anger, including chapters on emergency anger control, the interpersonal and physiological costs of anger, and road rage. Includes techniques for creating an anger-coping plan and anger inoculation.
More on help for mood states:
The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by E. Bourne. 2005. An award-winning workbook with step-by-step directions for relaxation training, assertiveness, elimination of negative self-talk, changing mistaken beliefs, coping with panic attacks.
Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Greenberger & Padesky.1995. Offers deceptively simple but powerful and sophisticated strategies for coping with depressed and anxious moods and interpersonal difficulties. Researched based step-by-step instructions and tools.
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns. 2000. An excellent best-seller that teaches effective cognitive-behavioral methods to free yourself from anxiety, guilt, pessimism, procrastination, low self-esteem, and other “black holes” of depression without drugs.
Key #3- Adapting to Change
Raising Resilient Children: Fostering Strength, Hope, & Optimism in Your Child by Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein. 2002. A practical handbook with a treasury of suggestions for nurturing a child’s strengths and self-esteem. The authors also have a number of other books on this topic, such as The Power of Resilience.
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey and Eric Hagerman. 2008. Filled with case studies, the authors comprehensively explore the connection between exercise and the brain. Exercise can help with symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADD, addiction, aggression, menopause, etc.
The Promise of Sleep by W. C. Dement and Christopher Vaughan. 2000. Covers topics like sleep debt, biological clock, circadian rhythm, insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and why we need sleep and dreams. Learn to assess your personal sleep situation, measure sleep debt, evaluate risk of sleep disorders and adopt a “sleep-smart lifestyle.”
On dealing with loss:
How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Melba Colgrove, Harold Bloomfield, and Peter McWilliams. 1991. A short and sweet little book with a hundred suggestions about taking care of oneself while in the grieving process.
The Grief Recovery Handbook. by J. James and R. Friedman. 2009. A step-by-step program with very helpful exercises for moving beyond loss.
Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst. 1986. Beautifully written book that addresses how loss is an inevitable part of life and helps us become more human. Learn how to release feelings about losses and how they can help us to develop a positive identity and self-image.
On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. 1970. Dr. Ross introduced the now-famous five stages of dealing with death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Helps normalize the process of grieving and all the stages before bereavement is completed.
Who Dies?: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying by Stephen & Ondrea Levine. 1989. A combination of Eastern and Western spiritual perspectives to help those anticipating their own or someone else’s death.
Helping Children Grieve: When Someone They Love Dies by Theresa Huntle. 2002. This straightforward book helps adults talk to children during a time of crisis. Explains common reactions (emotional, physical, and behavioral) parents can expect from children of all ages, and offers adults tools to help children cope with a significant loss.
Key #4- Sharing Time Together
The Book of New Family Traditions: How to Create Great Rituals for Holidays and Everydays by Meg Cox. 2003. Fresh ways of commemorating holidays and creating observances for birthdays, bedtime, dinnertime, and a host of unexpected traditions: sports rituals, pet rituals, homework rituals, vacation rituals and family meetings, etc
The Art of Family: Rituals, Imagination, and Everyday Spirituality by Gina Bria. 1998. A book to help create a personal family culture around the domestic rituals associated with family, assigning special meaning to the everyday tasks that make up home life.
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim Payne and Lisa Ross. 2010. Covers four levels of simplification—environment, rhythm, schedules and filtering out the adult world. Parents can tackle extraneous stimulation by simplifying, limiting scheduled activities, providing valuable downtime, storytelling and periods of quiet.
Key #5- Who’s in Charge?
General parenting books:
Emotionally Intelligent Parenting by Maurice Elias et al. 2000. This excellent book picks up where Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence leaves off, translating basic principles into specific parenting tactics for solving daily family issues. Includes exercises for raising the family “humor quotient,” becoming aware of feelings, praising and prioritizing, and coaching children toward responsible action.
Between Parent and Child by Haim Ginott, Alice Ginott, and H. Wallace Goddard. 2003.
This revised edition of the 1965 classic is an excellent parenting text on the use of discipline without threats, bribes, sarcasm, and punishment. Teaches how to praise without judging, express anger without hurting, and acknowledge children’s points of view.
How to Handle a Hard-to-Handle Kid: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding and Changing Problem Behaviors by C. Drew Edwards. 1999. Explains why some children are especially aggressive and disruptive. Understanding is key to helping kids become responsible, competent, and content. Emphasizes support with structure, blending positive and negative feedback, including children in the discipline process, and guiding them toward greater responsibility.
Children: The Challenge by Rudolph Dreikurs and Vicki Soltz. 1964. Raising happier, better-behaved children with a program that teaches parents to deal with common childhood problems from toddler through preteen years.
Parenting by Heart: How to Stay Connected to Your Child in a Disconnected World by Ron Taffel and Melinda Blau. 2002. Based upon a series of parenting workshops, this book aims to debunk the most common, damaging myths of parenthood and replace them with flexible solutions.
Toddler Taming: A Survival Guide for Parents by Christopher Green. 1985. Excellent, humorously written book that teaches use of time-out and other appropriate strategies for parents of young children. Includes toilet training, tantrums, sleep problems, fidgeting, and special advice for working mothers and single parents.
1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 by Thomas Phelan. 2010. Describes a system of discipline using counting and time-outs. Good advice on how to parent unemotionally with a lot of common sense, concrete examples, and humor.
The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries by Michele Borba. 2009. Ways to deal with difficult issues such as biting, temper tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure, and much more. Written for parents of kids ages 3-13, this book helps readers identify underlying reasons for behaviors or problems, and work with 10 essential principles of change.
Childhood Unbound: Saving Our Kids’ Best Selves–Confident Parenting in a World of Change by Ron Taffel. 2009. Helps us understand our sons and daughters from an entirely new perspective: as a distinctive “free-est” generation, born to “post-baby boomer” parents, subjected to enormous cultural change. Kids now act entitled, use back talk, negotiate endlessly, worship celebrity, do ten things at once, conduct independent lives online, and engage in high-risk behavior at younger ages. At the same time, they are more open with their parents and empathetic. Raising kids during the blossoming of the “Virtual Age.”
Uncommon Sense for Parents With Teenagers by Michael Riera. 2004. The author is a high school counselor with great advice for parents that sometimes goes against established ideas: don’t give advice even when asked, embrace estrangement (it’s part of your teenager’s development), and take a demotion and move from “manager” to “consultant.”
The Good Enough Teen: Raising Adolescents with Love and Acceptance by Brad Sachs. 2005. A developmental overview of what parents can expect from their children during adolescence. Delineates five stages in the journey towards accepting a child for who he or she is. Includes prescriptive tools and strategies for parents, including checklists, quizzes, and exercises.
Key #6- Balancing Closeness and Distance
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. 1997. A beautiful book of essays about marriage written by a woman in mid-life. Poetic metaphors help normalize the ebbs and flows of closeness, distance, self, and other.
Dancing in the Dark: The Shadow Side of Intimate Relationships by Douglas and Naomi Moseley. 1993. A good explanation of how parent/child roles get re-enacted in marital relationships and get in the way of intimacy.
The Fragile Bond by Gus Napier. 2010. Translates family system ideas into layman’s terms (e.g. how family of origin issues get replayed relationship with our partner and children, etc.) An excellent book for men struggling with issues of equality with a partner.
Key #7- Accepting Differences
A Mind at a Time by Mel Levine. 2003. Incorporates research to show how eight neuro-developmental systems evolve, interact, and contribute to a child’s success in school. Instructs how to teach directly to a child’s strengths.
An Adult Child’s Guide to What’s Normal by John and Linda Friel. 1990. For people who grew up in dysfunctional families and need some guideposts. Fits with twelve-step programs and includes issues such as perfectionism, boundaries, co-dependency, cognitive interventions and affirmations.
The Good Enough Child: How to Have an Imperfect Family and Be Perfectly Satisfied by Brad Sachs. 2001. Helps parents accept their child’s limitations while truly seeing, appreciating, and nurturing the child they were given. Sachs points out that we have become a clan of overly anxious mothers and fathers who place far too much pressure on our children as well as ourselves.
Parenting From the Inside Out by Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell. 2004. This book explores the extent to which our childhood experiences shape the way we parent. Drawing upon stunning new findings in neurobiology and attachment research, they explain how relationships directly impact the development of the brain.
Now That You Know…What Every Parent Should Know About Homosexuality by Betty Fairchild and Nancy Hayward. 1989. Excellent for promoting greater awareness and understanding. Empathetic to the perspectives of parents as well as gay sons or daughters.
Understanding Your Child’s Temperament by William Carey. 1999. Profiles children’s temperament according to nine aspects: activity, adaptability, distractibility, initial reaction, intensity, mood, persistence and attention span, regularity, and sensitivity.
You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation by Deborah Tannen. 1990. Describes how communication styles either facilitate or hinder personal interactions. Men and women are essentially products of different cultures, possessing different but equally valid communication styles.
Key #8- Seeing the Positive
Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin Seligman. 2006. Pessimists believe that bad events are their fault, will last a long time, and undermine everything. Optimists believe that defeat is a temporary setback or a challenge–it doesn’t knock them down. Pessimism can be overcome with cognitive skills that enable you to take charge, resist depression, and make you feel better.
How God Changes Your Brain by Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman. 2009. An excellent guide on the interface between spirituality and neuroscience, and means of enhancing our emotional and physical well being.
Ancient Wisdom, Modern World: Ethics for the New Millennium, by Dalai Lama. 2001. A spiritual handbook that provides prescriptions for spiritual expansion, techniques of contemplation, and attitudes to approach environmental challenges.
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. 2005. An excellent book that translates concepts from Zen Buddhism into easily accessible practices.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family: 101 Incredible Stories about our Funny, Quirky, Lovable & “Dysfunctional” Families. Jack Canfield, et.al. 2009. Filled with heart and humor, a collection of wacky as well as more poignant stories that highlight the wonderful delights and challenges of being in families.
Live Inside Out, Not Upside Down by Fran Lotery & Sherry Melchiorre. 1996. An excellent resource to help people reconnect to their true selves through a centering process. Readers learn to use their own inner strength and wisdom to resolve life difficulties, make decisions and create a calm and relaxed state of consciousness. Companion workbook and audiotape also available.
Grist for the Mill by Ram Dass and Stephen Levine. 1995. With lots of personal sharing, this book talks about how to see the difficult things in life as “grist for the mill,” or vehicles to become more spiritually aware.
You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought by Peter McWilliams and John-Roger. 1991. An upbeat, accessible book about the power of positive thought. Negative thinking is seen as a debilitating habit that will slowly kill your spirit — and even lead to physical illness.
The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. 2003. A classic book that describes a psychology of love, traditional values and spiritual growth. The happiness of your partner is valued as highly as your own.
A Course in Miracles, by Helen Shucman, 2007. An extremely profound and useful self-study program of spiritual psychotherapy. The Course emphasizes that it is but one version of the universal spiritual curriculum, and includes daily lessons in the Workbook for Students. There are many other paths that all lead to God in the end.
The Gift of Change, by Marianne Williamsen. 2006. An excellent description of principles from A Course in Miracles. Her primary message is that we not submit to our egos, which tell us we are separate from God, but surrender to God, of whom we are all a part.
Key #9- Effective Problem Solving
Our Family Meeting Book: Fun and Easy Ways to Manage Time, Build Communication, and Share Responsibility Week by Week by Elaine Hightower and Betsy Riley. 2002. This excellent book helps families manage their time and priorities through short, weekly family meetings.
Parent Effectiveness Training: The Tested New Way to Raise Responsible Children by Thomas Gordon. 1975. Describes one of the first national parent-training programs to teach parents how to communicate more effectively with kids. Step-by-step advice to resolving family conflicts so everybody wins.
Key #10- Parenting Together
The Dance of Intimacy: A Woman’s Guide to Courageous Acts of Change in Key Relationships by Harriet Lerner. 1989. Written primarily for women but equally applicable to men. Teaches how to move beyond blame and projection and to increase self-focus. Good for ideas for intimate relationships with healthy boundaries rather than co-dependency.
Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix. 1988. An excellent resource that shows how patterns of relating learned in childhood become unconsciously transferred to our partner. Includes specific techniques and exercises to help couples get closer and reduce projection.
Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by You by Jordan Paul and Margaret Paul. 2002. A bestseller and one of our favorites about taking responsibility for our own feelings. Describes control patterns, whether subtle or direct, that sabotage communication, and prescribes exercises and techniques that couples can practice together.
Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last by John Gottman. 1995. Written by a psychologist who has spent twenty-five years studying what makes marriages last. Excellent methods to evaluate, strengthen, and maintain a long-term relationship. Includes a series of self-tests (e.g. on style of conflict) to help determine what kind of marriage you have, where your strengths and weaknesses are, including the “Four Horsemen”).
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman. 2000. Most relationship books assert that the key to a solid marriage is communication, communication, communication. “Phooey,” says Gottman. There’s much more to a good marriage than sharing every feeling and thought. Debunks many myths about divorce:- the idea that affairs are at the root of most split-ups, that couples need to resolve every problem, and that occasional screaming matches are necessarily destructive.
Hot Monogamy: Essential Steps to More Passionate, Intimate Lovemaking by Pat Love. 1995. Includes a nine-step program that starts with a self-quiz for each partner to determine “sexual style.” Common problematic issues are communication and resolving differences in desire. Also includes a useful chapter on variety and experimentation.
Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships by David Schnarch. 2009. Asserts that men are more likely to let a relationship suffer in order to hold on to a sense of self, while women are more apt to let their identity suffer to help strengthen it. Explicit tips on how to alter this pattern, and why compromise isn’t always the best route to take when conflicts arise. Teaches how to deal with uneven sexual desire and initiation, battles about sex, self-image problems, and trust issues.
Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel. 2007. Recommends innovative strategies for rekindling eroticism: cultivating separateness (e.g., autonomy) in a relationship rather than closeness (entrapment); exploring dynamics of power and control; and learning to surrender to a “sexual ruthlessness” that liberates us from shame and guilt. Encourages fantasy and play and offers the estranged modern couple a unique richness of experience.
Divorce and stepfamilies:
Mom’s House, Dad’s House: Making Two Homes for Your Child by Isolina Ricci. 1997. This classic book guides separated, divorced, and remarried parents through the hassles and confusions of setting up a strong, working relationship with the ex-spouse in order to make two loving homes for the kids.
The Good Divorce by Connie Ahrons. 1995. Ahrons’ longitudinal study of post-divorce families offers hope that spouses splitting up may be able to handle their breakup in a way that will permit both adults and children to emerge as emotionally healthy as they were before the divorce. Steps to make a “good divorce” more likely.
How to Win as a Stepfamily by Emily and John Visher. 1991. An excellent book that guides readers towards forming remarried families, considering such issues as former spouses, new grandparents, and legal issues involving custody, visitation, adoption and financial arrangements.
Families Apart by Melinda Blau. 1995. Offers ten commandments of co-parenting: heal yourself; act maturely; listen to your children; respect your ex as a parent; divide parenting time; acknowledge your differences; communicate; step out of gender roles; recognize and accept change; and know that co-parenting “is forever.”
Helping Children Cope with Divorce by Edward Teyber. 2001. Describes the stress and pain children experience and explains how best to shield them from the parents’ own conflicts. Guidelines for cooperative child rearing, how to explain the divorce to children, and deal with kids’ feelings of responsibility and reunification fantasies.