The best books on gentle, non-punitive, relationship-building parenting

Who am I?

Judy Arnall, BA, CCFE, DTM is a certified brain and child development specialist and master of non-punitive parenting and education practices. She is the bestselling author of 5 print books translated into 5 languages, including Discipline Without Distress and Parenting With Patience. She has also compiled a handy tips book titled Attachment Parenting Tips Raising Toddlers To Teens. Her latest book, Unschooling To University: Relationships matter most in a world crammed with content, is becoming a bestseller in an age of parents seeking educational options. She is the parent of 5 self-directed educated, attachment parented children of which 3 have already graduated university, 1 is halfway through, and 1 is enjoying a Masters program.


I wrote...

Parenting With Patience: Turn frustration into connection with 3 easy steps

By Judy Arnall,

Book cover of Parenting With Patience: Turn frustration into connection with 3 easy steps

What is my book about?

This is a quick book to read when you are calm, to use when you are not! Positive discipline has to begin with positive stress management. All families have stress. Make it work for you! Learn how to recognize stress, manage it, and regain your patience before yelling. Learn why children have tantrums at all ages, and how to help them channel anger into lifelong skills for self-control and communication. Learn normal childhood development, capabilities, and temperament, so you can respectfully and non-punitively resolve everyday family issues.

The books I picked & why

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Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children

By Thomas Gordon,

Book cover of Parent Effectiveness Training: The Proven Program for Raising Responsible Children

Why this book?

This is the book that started the whole “learn about parenting” movement. Yes, it has been published for 60 years, but children’s needs have not changed in the past million years, and the premise of non-punitive parenting and relationship skills taught in the book, are still present today in other books under different names. The skills are still essential to learn for building solid parent-child relationships. In this book, parents learn assertiveness skills, active listening skills, and problem-solving skills as well as ideas to resolve value differences with older children. It is totally non-punitive and essential for every parent who wants to meet their children’s social and emotional needs as well as build excellent relationships with their children, without being permissive.


Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting PDEP

By Joan E. Durrant,

Book cover of Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting PDEP

Why this book?

This book gives parents a good insight into how their children think and feel at different ages. Equipped with this knowledge, parents can understand how punishment can damage children’s self-esteem, relationships with others, and essential communication with their parents. It discusses temperament and how to problem-solve with children of all ages, instead of punishing them for parenting challenges.


Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime

By Mary Sheedy Kurcinka,

Book cover of Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime

Why this book?

If you have a “spicey”, high need, strong-willed child, this is the best book for understanding how temperament affects a child’s behaviour. It contains a lot of helpful strategies for parenting or teaching a child with the spirited end of the temperament continuum.


Life Span Development: A Topical Approach

By Robert Feldman,

Book cover of Life Span Development: A Topical Approach

Why this book?

Every parent needs a good book on child development from the ages of birth to adulthood to understand how their child is growing in the physical, emotional, academic/cognitive, and social domains of development. When parents and caregivers understand what to expect at different ages, they can adapt their parenting decisions appropriately. Knowing if their child’s behaviour is a discipline issue that needs addressing or simply a development issue that will take care of itself, as a child ages, is the key to successful parenting.


Learning All the Time

By John Holt,

Book cover of Learning All the Time

Why this book?

Here is another game-changing book that is a few decades old, but has spanned a worldwide movement in the knowledge, research, and growth of self-directed education. This book addresses how children learn everything they need to know through self-directed play, projects, and exploration for grades 1 to 12. It also shows the damaging effects of institutional school, bullying, and how direct teaching can stop a child’s curiosity and creativity needed for 20th-century careers. Children do not need school to learn. Learning is everywhere, anytime, and is available to everyone.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in parenting, developmental psychology, and Christianity?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about parenting, developmental psychology, and Christianity.

Parenting Explore 116 books about parenting
Developmental Psychology Explore 17 books about developmental psychology
Christianity Explore 351 books about Christianity

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Gardener and the Carpenter, The Orchid and the Dandelion, and Free-Range Kids, How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) if you like this list.