How We Love Our Kids: The Five Love Styles of Parenting
This book takes a look at some of the dysfunctions parents may have that might be keeping them from having healthy, loving relationships with their children, and may in turn negatively impact their children’s future families as well. The book is divided into four parts, each which explore different personality types and try to help parents figure out how best to help their child where he or she is at.
Part 1, which seems like the bulk content of the book, on which everything else is based, challenges parents to determine how they parent and why. The biggest issue I had with this book is that all five of the so-called “love styles” are negative, and create an environment that is quite un-loving. Obviously, we’re not perfect parents by any means, but I was rather taken aback when this book kept trying to pigeonhole me into one of these “types” — either an avoider (an emotional robot who tries to distance themselves from their children), a pleaser (who lets the child run the show), a vacillator (who is hot and cold, with no in between), a controller (who is essentially emotionally abusive), or a victim (who is passive and overly compliant to all demands). I had a lot of trouble relating to this part of the book, and was confused that these were the only options presented. Perhaps if I had read the authors’ first book on Love Styles, it would make more sense to me, and perhaps I’m missing an essential element, but telling me that I must fit into one of these categories left me confused and frustrated. Since the rest of the book seemed to pivot on the idea that your children are the way that they are because of your so-called “love style,” I found a lot of it hard to connect to my own personal life.
This section also hammered home another of the author’s assumptions that I struggled with accepting: that your deficiencies as a parent are the fault of your parents. In their examples, the authors hammered home that each person they talked to with these personality flaws came from families where the same problems were played out in the previous generation. While I’m not going to argue against environment having an effect on one’s temperament and parenting styles, I was kind of surprised that the authors made such a blanket statement, seemingly not even taking into consideration other factors (mental stability, influences in their adult life, “nature” over nurture, etc). It seemed all too simple for them to imply if you have a problem, it’s probably your parents’ fault.
I also was a bit surprised and somewhat put-off by the examples the authors gave of each of these people — a number of their examples were based on complete strangers! These were people that the author saw at the park or the grocery store or elsewhere that, based on a singular interaction they observed, they made some rather condemning assumptions. A parent who gets exasperated at trying to get her infant to look at a camera for a picture is obviously a “controller.” A father who is distracted at a park and doesn’t show enough sympathy when his child gets hurt is obviously an “avoider.” Parents who hustle their child out of a store when he throws a tantrum must be “victims.” Apparently, parents aren’t allowed to have even a single bad day without a stranger throwing a label on them and then drawing conclusions about their miserable childhoods! Yikes!
Part 2 focuses the attention back on the child and talks about how to identify and help the five “types” of child, and Part 3 identifies unique types of children who may require special care and attention. These parts I found a bit more useful, as they contained more practical advice and help, rather than “get counseling to deal with your own mommy/daddy issues before you wreck your kids.” I could definitely relate to the descriptions of the “unique” children, though there are certainly more in-depth books that go into how to best relate to and help these “spirited” children.
Part 4 then goes on to describe the seven gifts which children need from their parents, which was really the only part of the book where I saw any sort of connection to Christianity or God’s grace. This section alone, expanded upon, would have made a great book about practical ways to help develop and enrich your relationship with your children.
The appendix is actually the part of the book that I found to be the most useful. It’s full of strategies and tips for parents for understanding, connecting, and communicating with their children. For instance, the list of “soul words” (basically just words that describe feelings) are referenced throughout the book as a way to help children learn to identify and define their emotions so that parents can help them work through them more effectively — a useful tool for any parent. The conversation starters may also be useful for parents, particularly if they’re not used to having deep, meaningful conversations with their child, but want to turn a new leaf.
Parents who feel frustrated, anxious, and out-of-control in their relationship with their children may do well to read through this book and examine their own shortcomings and personal history which may negatively effect their present parenting choices. Counselors, teachers, pastors, and those who find themselves in the middle of these parent/child battles may also learn more about why some people have the parenting struggles that they do. This is not, however, a one-size-fits-all book, and is really more for those who recognize and want to solve a problem in their parenting — not necessarily for parents who already have healthy relationships with their children. It certainly was not what I expected, nor did I feel it really helped me personally learn more about my parenting style, which was disappointing, but I will definitely still be able to take away some of the ideas and resources!
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy! My opinions are, as always, my own!