The best picture books to motivate kids to manage their own behaviors and feelings

Gail Reichlin Author Of The Pocket Parent
By Gail Reichlin

Who am I?

As an internationally respected discipline expert, I guide parents in how to get more compliance than defiance from their little ones. I coined the phrase “The Dance of Non-Compliance” between parent and child. In order to change the dance, the parent will usually have to change his/her dance step first. It is often impossible during the heat of the moment, to teach ‘the lesson’ to the child due to the agitated emotional state of both parent and child. A well-executed picture book, appropriately written and illustrated for young children's developmental thinking ability, can open the door for a meaningful discussion regarding their misbehavior and feelings.

I wrote...

The Pocket Parent

By Gail Reichlin, Caroline Winkler,

Book cover of The Pocket Parent

What is my book about?

The Pocket Parent is a classic, trusted A to Z  compendium, with over 200,000 copies in print and 17 translated editions worldwide. Just turn to the misbehavior that's driving you crazy to get some fast, bulleted sanity-saving suggestions to try along with a good dose of humor and compassion from the authors.

Communication is the key to solving all problems. Yet, in the heat of the moment, on one of those really bad days when your child becomes 'parent deaf', you may find yourself losing your mind... yelling, threatening, bribing, and criticizing in a way you’d never speak to your worst enemy. Although a parent’s job is to stop the undesirable/unsafe behavior immediately, that moment is the least effective time for both a parent to teach, or a young child to learn a lesson. 
Calmly revisiting the situation later with appropriate discussion makes way for a successful plan for next time. The Pocket Parent guides you every step of the way ;-)

The books I picked & why

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The Runaway Bunny

By Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd (illustrator),

Book cover of The Runaway Bunny

Why this book?

As a veteran preschool teacher, parent and grandparent, I have found this amazing rhythmic tale of hide and seek to skillfully convey to toddlers and preschoolers, the unconditional love a mother has for her child. Young children do understand and embrace this book’s age-appropriate loving, reassuring words and pictures: “If you run away, I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.” The lesson learned...They, too, can count on their steadfast mother to always have their back, no matter how they choose to test their relationship. This is a fabulous example of how a picture book can effectively communicate words and actions while serving to initiate more discussion with the child regarding his own behavior and feelings.

Hands Are Not for Hitting

By Martine Agassi, Marieka Heinlen (illustrator),

Book cover of Hands Are Not for Hitting

Why this book?

This book provides simple words and warm illustrations to reinforce the concepts that violence is never okay and that toddlers and preschoolers can learn to manage their anger without hitting. I appreciate the gentle, yet straightforward way it addressed the unacceptable behavior while offering positive things to do with your hands like hugging, helping, and shaking. The illustrations are colorful, playful, and age-appropriate. Young children adore this book and ask to listen to it again and again. As a bonus, at the end, the author included additional tips for parents and caregivers about how to handle unsafe hitting.

Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day

By Jamie Lee Curtis, Laura Cornell (illustrator),

Book cover of Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day

Why this book?

This book shows that everyone has moods that can change each day, or within the same day...from silly to angry to sad, etc. The zany, touching verse and the fun mood-wheel that lets the children change a character’s facial expressions will help a parent and child identify and discuss both good and bad feelings and how to manage them. A wonderful book to start a discussion of revisiting misbehavior and deciding what s/he could do next time in a similar situation.

Two Homes

By Claire Masurel, Kady MacDonald Denton (illustrator),

Book cover of Two Homes

Why this book?

Today separation and divorce is common and moms and dads wonder how much explaining is appropriate for their 2- to 6-year old. As a preschool teacher, I found this the very best picture book available to read over and over to give children a positive glimpse of living in two happy, healthy, albeit different homes. There is not a drop of negativity in this book. It is totally upbeat, simple, honest, and encouraging. The main character, Alex (neither male nor female in name nor illustration) is quite comfortable and thankful for his two homes as Alex points out the differences. But, the one most important thing that remains the same is that Alex is loved by both Mom and Dad all the time, no matter whose house he is at. The positive focus is on what is gained and unique at each home rather than what is lost when parents divorce. The child will identify with Alex in both homes with optimism. Fabulous book I’ve recommended to help so many families dealing with divorce.

Armadillo Tattletale

By Helen Ketteman, Keith Graves (illustrator),

Book cover of Armadillo Tattletale

Why this book?

This is a wonderful tale about an armadillo, who loves to hide and spy on other animals and tell tall tales (lies) about what he hears. Cute fable of sorts on why the armadillo has such small ears. The book claims he started with very tall ears and every time he eavesdropped in other’s conversations, his ears got smaller. As a preschool teacher and grandmother, I encourage the children to “tell” us adults what is happening to get someone OUT of trouble, rather than to “tattle” on someone to get them IN trouble, which is not helpful. Through lyrical text and vivid illustrations, children learn that it is important to respect the privacy of others and avoid telling lies that hurt feelings.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in emotions, violence, and hide and seek?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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