I can not more highly recommend Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
I will forewarn that Unconditional Parenting may be a bit more scientific than some parents would prefer, but the beauty of the book is that it really shows you why you should move away from punitive parenting practices. It left me with no doubt that I had to change my parenting ways, but I still wasn't exactly sure what I should be doing instead.
That is where How to Talk... comes in. I had received both books at the same time and had opened How to Talk... first. I'd laughed at all the "silly" comics inside and left it for my mother to read. But, several months after I had read Unconditional Parenting, I picked it back up, and this time I was hooked. It no longer seemed silly or obvious; it seemed like an answer to my prayers. Faber and Mazlish spell out exactly how to deal with most situations you will face day to day, and they teach you how to do it without resorting to punishments and compromising your relationship with your child.
Reading both books gave me a solid foundation to stand on for the difficult transition from punitive to non-punitive parenting, and gave me the knowledge necessary to explain my parenting techniques to others and help other parents to foster a gentler relationship with their own children.
Also, for parents with children who are more challenging than the typical child: Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka is a LIFESAVER. I have struggled with my first child from the very beginning and all along I failed to see what he is. He is me. He digs his heels in like a mule at the thought of anything new, he notices things that people around him would never see, he can argue anyone into submission, he is impossible to please, he is a quick thinker, an endless talker, and one of the most sensitive and loving people I've ever met in my life. It wasn't until I read this book that I understood why he is like he is and saw the same qualities in myself. It has helped me to learn how to cope with life as a spirited adult and given me the tools to make life easier with a spirited child. It has also helped my non-spirited husband to understand how our son and I perceive the world and why we act like we do. Raising Your Spirited Child has been absolutely invaluable in our relationship, and it came just in time. This book helped me to love my child again; frighteningly, before I read it, I was in a place where I wasn't even sure that I could anymore. Yes, some children that hard, and no, you are not a bad parent if you feel this way.
I would encourage every parent (or parent to be) to read Unconditional Parenting and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. I wish I had read them long before I developed those ineffective and harmful habits that were so difficult to break. And, any parents dealing with a kid that seems to be "more" than the other children you see should pick up Raising Your Spirited Child and experience the sweet relief of knowing that you aren't alone and that your child is not hopeless.