The best books for loving and raising challenging kids

Dona J. Matthews Author Of Being Smart About Gifted Learning: Empowering Parents and Kids Through Challenge and Change
By Dona J. Matthews

The Books I Picked & Why

Beyond Behaviors: Using Brain Science and Compassion to Understand and Solve Children's Behavioral Challenges

By Mona Delahooke

Beyond Behaviors: Using Brain Science and Compassion to Understand and Solve Children's Behavioral Challenges

Why this book?

In Beyond Behaviors, Mona Delahooke makes a clear, strong case for parents’ self-compassion and for parents’ compassionate responses to their children’s “bad” behavior. Using solid brain science evidence and case histories from her decades of working with very challenging kids, Dr. Delahooke illustrates that children begin to thrive when they feel understood—not judged, not punished—when they lose control. The reader comes to see that misbehavior is a precious clue to a child’s troubled inner reality. A parent’s impatience, irritation, annoyance, or anxiety not only exacerbates the problem, increasing the child’s suffering, but is also a sad, wasted chance at providing the sense of security the child needs, which is a necessary first step on the road to doing better. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Sensitive Children Face Challenges and How All Can Thrive

By W. Thomas Boyce

The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Sensitive Children Face Challenges and How All Can Thrive

Why this book?

Thomas Boyce not only has impeccable credentials as a pediatrician, academic, and epidemiologist, but he also has deep personal history motivating his writing of The Orchid and the Dandelion. That is, he not only knows this topic, he feels it. On top of all of that, he writes with a warmth and poetic sensitivity so often lacking in evidence-based books like this. Boyce writes about orchid children being exquisitely sensitive, so they absorb their environment and thrive under the right circumstances, becoming remarkably insightful and creative. Under adverse circumstances, however, orchid children wilt. Dandelion children, by contrast, are more resilient and can accommodate more adversity without showing too much harm. Another interesting dimension Boyce explores is how the family, school, community, and society can all have an impact on an orchid child’s development.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children

By Ross W. Greene

The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children

Why this book?

One of Dr. Greene’s basic beliefs, reiterated often in this wise and compassionate book, is that “Kids do well if they can.” Instead of seeing their child as manipulative, attention-seeking, stubborn, controlling, or defiant, readers learn to understand that really, the child lacks some necessary skills: flexibility, adaptability, frustration tolerance, emotion regulation, and problem-solving. Using a combination of exposition, explanation, and stories from his decades of practice with troubled kids in many circumstances, Greene shows parents how to put the Collaborative and Proactive Solutions model into action. He reassures readers that—even if they’ve been doing it all wrong until now—there’s always room for growth and change, starting now. “Kids are resilient,” he writes. “They come around if we start doing the right thing.”


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Raising Your Spirited Child

By Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

Raising Your Spirited Child

Why this book?

Mary Sheedy Kurcinka has been working with parents of difficult children for decades now, except she doesn’t think of the kids that way. Instead of ‘difficult,’ she says, we should learn to think of these kids as ‘spirited.’ When we want to describe our kids as irritable, negative, demanding, and strong-willed, she recommends that we admire their sensitivity, insight, confidence, and insistence on getting what they need. This book is packed with practical ideas for creating a peaceful and loving home environment, and for helping parents learn to soothe their own reactions to behavior that might otherwise be experienced as aggravating, trouble-making, embarrassing, and provocative. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Rested Child: Why Your Tired, Wired, or Irritable Child May Have a Sleep Disorder--And How to Help

By W. Chris Winter

The Rested Child: Why Your Tired, Wired, or Irritable Child May Have a Sleep Disorder--And How to Help

Why this book?

The Rested Child puts a different spin on parenting challenging kids. Chris Winter is a neurologist and sleep specialist who has seen countless situations where bad behavior is a symptom of sleep problems. He writes that irritability, ADHD, mood disorders, obesity, and diabetes are only a few of the possible manifestations of sleep disorders. Winters makes some great recommendations, including reassuring kids about “bad sleeps.” Everyone has nights where they don’t sleep so well, he writes, and that’s okay. Because sleep is so important, you want your kid to feel confident and optimistic about their sleeping, not worried. He has some surprising advice, including strongly recommending against sleeping medications of every kind, and advocating for a later start to school, especially for kids from about eleven years old and up.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists

Random Book Lists