I must first start with a confession: I may be a little biased toward this book and its “big brother,” How We Love. They are authored by Milan and Kay Yerkovich, a husband/wife therapist team out in California. (The farthest west I’ve been is Arizona, so California is WAY out there to me! 🙂 ) I listen to Milan and his cohorts pretty much every day on my favorite radio show, New Life Live. It is a VERY well-done call-in counseling program. I frequently am interested in books they talk about on the show, but when they started talking about How We Love, I knew I definitely had to read that one.
How We Love deals with the idea that the vast majority of adults have “injured imprints” that are a result of situations they experienced in childhood. It thoroughly describes each of five types of injured love styles (Avoider, Pleaser, Vacillator, Controller, and Victim), includes an almost-overwhelming amount of soul-searching questions to help you really dig into who you are and what experiences in your past have led to that. Then the book explains combinations of those styles to help spouses understand each other better and function well together.
As I read the sections on Avoiders, I felt like I was reading my own biography. It nailed me perfectly – both in current personality/behavioral tendencies and what I experienced in my childhood. I also connected with Vacillators to a certain extent. The Brain is very much in line with the Pleaser sections in the book, with a fair amount of Avoider thrown in for good measure. I would say at this point I am a Recovering Avoider and The Brain is a Recovering Pleaser. We’ve done a lot of work thus far to build our awareness of those tendencies and to not instinctively fall into those behaviors.
Now that I’ve explained more than I intended to about How We Love, skip forward several months to Spring of 2011, when How We Love Our Kids was released. As The Brain and I had read the original book, we, of course, had also been thinking through our kids’ behaviors and comparing them with various categories. When the kids book came on the market, we were practically first in line to get it. (Okay, so we didn’t get around to reading it until a few weeks ago, but we did BUY it right away!)
The first section gives shorter descriptions of the adult love styles so that parents can identify their own buttons that get pushed, then moves into descriptions of children love styles. In addition to the basic five, it includes 5 other categories: Introverted Child, Free-Spirited Child, Determined Child, Sensitive Child, and Premature Child. The fourth section is titled, “The Healing Journey for Parents and Children” and includes a list of gifts: insight, comfort, power, frustration, confession, laughter, and “The Gift of God: The Perfect Parent.” I haven’t gotten to that section yet, so I have no idea what those gifts are about. Then the book ends with a Parent Toolbox with things like Conversation Starters, Listener Guide, and Speaker Guide.
As I already pointed out, I have not yet made it through the whole book, but so far it’s just as powerful for me as its big brother. As I read tonight, a four-paragraph section really stood out to me, and I wanted to share it with you, my two beloved readers. 😉
So, if you’ll permit me to share, here is a quote from How We Love Our Kids by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. (I’m going to use bold type for sentences that especially spoke to me. I’ll do my best not to write the entire passage in bold!)
Engage and Speak the Truth in Love
“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
As the parent, it is your job to be the initiator and engage with your children. The goal is to create a safe environment for feelings and upsets to be discussed and explored. Over time, your children will come to you when they need to talk. You will need to initiate almost all the time with introverted kids, as they are more reserved and less likely to open up.
Safety means your kids have permission to speak truthfully and can trust you to tolerate negative feelings even if those upset feelings are about you as a parent or something that is going on in the family. The goal of engaging is to invite dialogue.
Over time, teach your children to deal with anger by speaking the truth in love. Respect must be modeled, not just required. Ephesians 4:15, 25-26 instructs us to lovingly speak truth, dealing with anger quickly before it festers inside and turns to bitterness. Kids are not going to automatically do this perfectly. It takes time, self-control, and maturity.
To engage means you will be a good conversation starter and a good listener to keep the conversations moving in a helpful direction. Instead of reacting (“I’m sick of your attitude and you better shape up”), try inviting (“You seem extra irritable and grumpy. I often feel that way too when something is on my mind or I can’t solve a problem. I wonder what’s on your mind.”)
[Editor’s Note: Now, let’s see if I can remember that last quote tomorrow when my kids and I are on the verge of having a “who’s the most irritated right now” contest!]