That's quite a promise, isn't it? The best parenting book you will ever read. We'd all click to buy that book!
If I were to recommend a parenting book, it would go like this:
#1 - The Bible. It truly lays the groundwork for godly parenting, and I am attempting (however imperfectly) to follow its precepts.
And, as a side note, there is nothing in the world more annoying than a parenting book which claims to be "Christian" and then goes on to ignore, contradict, or belittle everything that the Bible has to say about parenting. Just sayin'.
#2 - Raising Godly Tomatoes. Love this book. It is biblical, it is practical, it comes from a woman with vast experience (that is, ten children!), and it is simply awesome!
Another humorous side note. Have you ever read of one of those parenting books which was obviously written by someone who had only easy-going children? Those crack me up. I read one book which gave an example of child-teaching something like this:
Mommy: "Johnny, when you said such-and-such, you hurt your sister's feelings."
Johnny: *Weeps copious tears of repentance and never says such-and-such again*
Um, yeah. I'll stick with the parenting books written by parents who have experience dealing with challenging children.
But I digress.
Back to the "Best Parenting Book You Will Ever Read." Well, I can't quite come through on that promise. Because the "book" I'm going to tell you about isn't exactly a... book.
It is this:
The best parenting "book" you will ever "read" is.... spending time around good, experienced parents.
That's it. Not reading the newest books by PhD experts, or going to mommies' groups, or any of that. Simply spending time around parents who are doing a good job parenting their children, and learning from them.
When I look back at my parenting career, I can easily see that the times that I have made the most progress in my parenting skills have been from that very thing - being around experienced moms, watching how they interact successfully with their children (loving them, spending time with them, correcting them, disciplining them, discipling them), and then making those good habits my own as I imitate them. Those are the positive changes in my parenting that have had the most lasting and most memorable impact.
Books - not nearly so much. Usually, when I read something in a book, I think, "I should do that!" and then make a few sporadic efforts, only to forget it until I read the book again and think, "Oh yeah, I meant to do that."
A few months ago, I spent just a few minutes with a very experienced, wonderful mom - and in those few minutes, I watched at least three or four specific examples of awesome parenting that were immediately tucked into my mind for future reference. And that same thing has happened to me many times. Learning from other (good) parents is simply the way to go.
And when you think about it, the main biblical model for teaching and training the next generation is through one-on-one discipleship. Jesus spent three years doing one-on-one discipleship with his twelve disciples. And when Paul is writing instructions to Titus, he writes:
"[Older women] are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children." (Titus 2:3b-4a)
Not "Younger women should go and read lots and lots of parenting books to learn how to take care of their children" but "Learn from the older women who have done this all before." Each generation learns from those who have gone before.
I think that the absence of this precept is what often plagues us younger and more inexperienced moms. We don't automatically get this type of discipleship like former generations did. Some older women don't have much to teach, because they abnegated their child-raising responsibilities. And some women don't pass on the riches of their experience because they simply do not make themselves available to disciple the next generation of young mothers.
Older mothers, never think that you are not needed because your children are up-and-out. We younger moms need you desperately. If you do nothing but keep your home, help with your grandchildren, and minister to younger moms within your church, we younger moms will arise and call you blessed. You are greatly needed.
Some young mothers find themselves isolated from older mothers due both of those reasons, and also to geographic isolation (lots of job-related moves, etc.). And all of those factors result in young women who don't receive the discipling that they need from the older generation of experienced mothers.
What happens next?
What happens next is that we younger mothers turn to unreliable sources - either the newest pop-culture parenting books (and we are so vulnerable to all of the nonsense they turn out) or our mommies' groups, where we are receiving the counsel of women just as inexperienced as ourselves (and often women who are greatly misled by the latest disastrous parenting fads). Neither produces the true discipleship that we need.
With all of that in mind, I would simply say...
Older (and more-experienced) mothers, make yourselves available to the next generation. We need your counsel and wisdom and advice so very much. Be willing to spend time with younger moms who can benefit from your experience.
And younger moms (such as myself), take the time to find those older mothers - either the "graduated" moms who have finished their parenting journey and are willing to offer counsel and support, or moms who are simply further down the parenting road and are doing a good job of it.
That is truly the best parenting book you will ever read. I promise.