One of the parenting mistakes I see the most is parents not taking the time to really listen to what their children have to say. For Christian parents, getting to know your child through listening, is especially crucial. What they tell you and share with you will give you glimpses into their hearts. As Christian parents, it is really the heart we are trying to mold towards God. It is almost impossible to mold what we don’t know.
One of the reasons parents don’t really listen to their children is that they don’t know how. Many current parents were not heard by their own parents. In fact, there are still many people alive today who believe “children should be seen and not heard”. If your parents never really listened to you or you were raised in a dysfunctional or abusive environment, how do you learn what to do differently?
Milan and Kay Merkovich may just have the help you need in their book, How We Love Our Kids. (You can read the first chapter here for free.) They have analyzed parents and have discovered five main types of parenting styles. Each of the styles has its own ways of not giving children the attention and real listening they need. Sadly, the children are often blamed for the resulting conflicts when it is the parenting style that is causing many of the issues.
My favorite quote in the book is when the authors share the following observation, “And what is the effect when children are overlooked? Gifts are not developed, adult voices never mature, talents are not cultivated and dreams are never realized. What does occur? When kids’ feelings are dismissed repeatedly, they become resentful, angry, disconnected, depressed, anxious, hopeless.” (p. 22)
The authors do a great job breaking down what your parents may have done in parenting you that is causing you to parent in one of these five ways. They describe in great detail what each of these parenting styles looks like in action and how to work towards a healthier parenting style. The book includes lots of practical suggestions which I believe would help any parent.
My main issue with the book is the problem I often have with materials written by professional psychologists. They must be trained that everyone is dysfunctional in the way they live and in this case parent. Personally, while I understand no parent is perfect, I do believe there are a number of parents who do parent in healthy ways. I can usually tell within just a few minutes of meeting their children!
Although I may have misunderstood them, I do believe the authors come from this basic viewpoint. Which means that although the advice they give is valuable, the book is not as helpful to all parents as it could have been. The core belief in disfunction, means they did not find a basically “healthy” parenting style to describe. Every parent is painted as a varying degree of dysfunctional and remedies prescribed, but no “ideal” to which one could aspire.
I personally could see one or two traits in more than one category that might be a weakness without everything in that category applying. The authors did mention there are ranges within a category, but did not mention what to do if no one category described your upbringing and parenting style. I believe they needed to focus more on the specific behaviors that were unhealthy for children and how to correct them, rather than trying to group and label parents.
They also spent most of the book making it seem as if every personality difference in your child is caused by some parenting mistake. Then suddenly towards the end, they admit that children are born with certain personality traits that will make them naturally trend towards certain behaviors. I believe having the information on children who are determined, sensitive, pre-mature, introverted and free-spirited should have been placed at the beginning of the book. They also brushed over children with special needs including gifted and talented children. Many parents’ issues can probably be handled with that information alone.
If you struggle with your own difficult up-bringing, I do believe this book has valuable information and tips which can help you parent your own children better. If you are parenting in a basically healthy manner but are questioning how to parent a child who may be different from you in personality, this book can help. I would just skip to those sections first before reading the beginning of the book. The beginning of the book has good advice for every parent, I just believe it was buried to deeply under a layer of “everyone is dysfunctional”. My suggestion would be to take their advice, but reject the labeling.
If you are searching for a Christian parenting book with a lot of scripture, you will be disappointed. Although the authors do mention God from time to time, this book is more psychological in tone. Their notes refer the reader to primarily other psychology or therapy books. It doesn’t necessarily mean the material is not godly. You just won’t find a parenting Bible study within its covers.
If you have read this book, I would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to share in a comment below.
This book was provided to me for free in exchange for my honest review. I have shared the concerns I have, but do believe the book has valuable information for parents.