Here’s my dilemma as I sit down to review this book: how to write openly and honestly about my opinion of a wisdom-filled and incredibly useful parenting guide, without turning the post into a private therapy session. Forgive me if I stray off the objective path a bit during this review, because I am still reeling from the effects of Liking the Child You Love: Build a Better Relationship with Your Kids– Even When They’re Driving You Crazy, by Jeffrey Bernstein, PhD.
Immediately drawn in by “Dr. Jeff’s” descriptions of ‘Parent Frustration Syndrome,’ I found myself reaching for the highlighter that would thereafter reside next to this book at all times. While his coined term is pretty self-explanatory, I found this simple checklist for determining if one has become entrenched in PFS to be frighteningly familiar in so much of my own parenting struggles:
- moderately to highly frustrated
- resentful of their children’s misbehaviors, their lack of expressed gratitude, and possibly even their struggles
- moderately to significantly sad or even depressed
- pessimistic in their outlook of their children’s lives
- desiring to escape family pressures
- questioning their own value
- a sense of inadequacy in thinking their children’s struggles compare worse to those of extended family and friends
- confused about why their children act in ways that don’t make sense
- less joy
- disheartened and guilty that family life is less gratifying than hoped for
While it’s not necessarily a comfortable topic to discuss, I found myself nodding in agreement (and marking the book with exclamation points) as Dr. Jeff discusses ‘toxic thinking’ patterns that parents may fall into, as well. When a parent finds him or herself always at some level of frustration with the parenting experience, it becomes much too easy to fall prey to thinking that his child always behaves in a certain way or deserves a label such as lazy, out of control or melodramatic. Feelings of being overwhelmed and lacking control can readily transform into emotionally overheated moments and quick-to-blame reactions on the part of frustrated parents.
After several eye-opening chapters of presenting the many ways parental thinking and approaches can negatively influence children when they are done under the influence of this ‘Parent Frustration Syndrome,’ Dr. Jeff then offers a solid course of advice. With logical lessons on eradicating those ‘toxic thoughts’ and easing the ‘parenting-stress habit,’ I found the second half of the book to be more reassuring that in fact, all was not lost! While I may not find these techniques immediately natural or simple to turn to, especially in the heat of the moment, I’ve been attempting to implement much of what is presented as a more positive approach in response to the parenting challenges I experience with my own three children.
As a resource to parents who are familiar with the “I can’t take this anymore” refrain playing in their own heads, Liking the Child You Love is a straightforward, honest and sometimes challenging read in that it inspires extreme introspection and calls on parents to make changes in their own thinking and behavior to bring about the desired changes in their family lives.
Dawn strives to be a good parent, and finds introspection to be addictive. Just like blogging about her own introspective habits at my thoughts exactly.