You should read this book if you…
want to understand how the quality of your emotional connection with your family of origin impacts your parenting and other relationships today.
“In a nut shell”…
This book teaches parents how to recognize and grow through challenges that come from the five unhealthy “Love Styles.” The authors help parents to develop a secure connection and truly loving relationship with their children.
As children, the “love lessons” we received from our families impact how we love our own kids now. Our parents were also influenced by their own parents in this way. We are broken people raising children in a broken world.
“How we love” is different from “how much we love.” Well-meaning parents, who love their children very much, may be unaware that the way they try to care for their children (or others in their lives) is based in fear, rather than in trust of God.
The Love Styles are not personality traits. Love Styles are ways of relating to others, including our children, that reflect our insecurities rather than cultivate a secure, healthy attachment. Loving securely is the ideal, and Jesus Christ lived out this ideal on earth.
The Five Love Styles:
- Avoider – avoids displays of emotion in themselves and others; values efficiency and hard work; is very private
- Pleaser – avoids uncomfortable situations; is anxious about others’ happiness; is often excessively helpful
- Vacillator – desires an intense emotional connection, and will eventually push away with a grudge if emotional desires aren’t met; becomes angry in order to avoid sadness
- Controller – tries to control other people in order to avoid pain; also becomes angry in order to avoid sadness
- Victim – often in relationship with a controller; tries to keep controller happy and sacrifices their own wellbeing, ignoring their own needs and emotions
The Comfort Circle can help a person move away from their love style and into secure attachment. (See below).
Emotional wounds from a parent’s own childhood can enter the present when something, such as a child’s behavior, causes subconscious recall of a negative emotional memory that was never resolved. This is called a trigger. Triggers can cause negative reactions, such as panic or disproportionate anger.
Seek to recognize your own love style and be aware of triggers that can get in the way of healthy interactions.
The Comfort Circle for Parents is a conversational tool that can be used in difficult situations between parent and child. These four steps lead to a greater level of bonding, trust, and love.
- Seek Awareness – Seek awareness of emotions in yourself and your child. Help them become aware of their own emotions. For small children, the words sad, happy, mad, and scared are helpful. The Bible says: “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being.” Psalm 51:6
- Engage – Cultivate a safe relationship in which feelings and difficult moments can be discussed and explored. (“I wonder if you are grumpy because…” and “I wonder what else you feel besides grumpy?”) The Bible says: “A plan in the heart of a man [or child] is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.” Proverbs 20:5
- Find out More – Continue to listen and ask clarifying questions. Remain curious and find out more about their experience, even if you disagree with their perceptions. Now is not the time for correction. The Bible says: “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” James 1:19
- Resolve – Finally ask, “What do you need?” Respond to the information you have just gathered by offering empathy and meeting needs if possible. The Bible says: “A soothing tongue is a tree of life.” Proverbs 15:4
The authors also describe several “gifts” a parent can provide for their children:
- The Gift of Insight – Help children to be aware of their inner emotional experience.
- The Gift of Comfort – Listen and empathize. One of the most important gifts.
- The Gift of Power – Give children some influence on decisions, so that they can learn about choices and consequences.
- The Gift of Frustration – Allow children to cope with difficult experiences (that are age-appropriate) and experience resolution.
- The Gift of Confession – By confessing their own sins, parents set a good example.
- The Gift of Laughter – Have fun together (i.e. making a game out of chores).
- The Gift of God: The Perfect Parent – Imitate God’s love (as described in 1 Corinthians 13). He sees us, initiates connection, and sacrifices for us, resulting in repair, reconnection, and restoration. Loving like God helps children to recognize him and come to him.
- “Our children’s messy development reveals the mess within us as parents.” – Pg. 16
- “Many parenting methods focus on winning the battle for control and teaching children to obey. While consistent limits help children feel secure, we need to respond in a way that isn’t only about consequences, but about what’s behind the behavior.” – Pg. 212
- “Nurturing, responsive contact, enjoyment of your baby, and minimizing stress should be high priorities for both mothers and fathers during these early years.” – Pg. 222
- “If you don’t know what you feel, you won’t know what you need.” – Pg. 224
- “Comfort is one of the most important gifts we give our children, because it teaches them that people are our main source of help and relief. With this firm knowledge, your child will understand that God comforts us as well (see 2 Corinthians 1:3) What’s more, your child will be far less prone to use addictions of all kinds to find relief. And when she leaves home, she will know how to manage her inevitable stresses well and ask for help from others when life becomes difficult and overwhelming.” – Pg. 225
- “Anger without resolution is always damaging to kids.” – Pg. 236
- “Confession liberates your family to live in reality, be human, and know that mistakes are not fatal or final. It’s truly an amazing gift. When forgiveness is offered, it is balm to a hurting soul.” – Pg. 248
A list of emotions can help parents and children to be aware of their inner experience. One such list can be found at https://howwelove.com/resources/
How this book has changed my parenting…
How We Love Our Kids has taught me to place a greater priority on addressing the emotional needs of my children. As I seek to help my children grow into kind and hard-working individuals, I am learning that it is more effective to connect with them relationally than to react to their improper behavior with panic and harsh discipline. If it is necessary to discipline my child, I can look for ways to do so calmly and constructively. My children are also becoming more aware of their own emotions, and are developing the ability to regulate themselves.
This book has also helped me care for my third infant better. In the first two months of her life, I have responded to her cries more promptly, calmly, and compassionately than I responded with my first two children. She seems to be a happier and less-anxious baby as a result, and she is sleeping better than her older siblings did at her age.
Greater self-awareness has given me greater self-control. I have begun to recognize situations with my kids that can “trigger” old feelings and cause me to overreact. When I acknowledge those old feelings and reflect on God’s love, I continue to heal emotionally and can respond more calmly and lovingly to my children. I have been able to slow down my negative reactions in stressful situations and care for my family better.
Book Title | How We Love Our Kids
Author | Milan and Kay Yerkovich
Year of Publication | 2011
Publisher | WaterBrook Press
Pages | 294 pages
Author’s Website | www.howwelove.com
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