As a Baker Books Blogger, I requested to review a copy of Mike Berry’s new book, Winning The Heart Of Your Child: 9 Keys To Building A Positive Lifelong Relationship With Your Kids, anticipating that I could review it and pass it on to one of my daughters. I was a bit disappointed that it failed short; I expected more, perhaps, than it was intended to give.
I have great respect for the author of the book. Berry writes from experience. He and his wife have adopted eight children, many of whom have known trauma from a young age and have faced things that most of us will never know. Parenting such a diverse (and large) group of children has to be extremely challenging. At its core, the advice in the book is good and practical. Berry’s focus on reaching your child’s heart is right on target. He encourages parents to never give up, no matter the age of your child. He stresses the importance of being a good listener, of modeling and living by example, not just instruction, and letting go of the need to elicit an immediate response. That last piece of advice is gold. As a parent, when your child messes up and you have to correct their behavior, the impulse is to demand an immediate change of heart that you can see. Instead, Berry encourages us to simply enforce the (pre-set, reasonable) consequences for the wrong behavior, reinforce our love for the child, and allow the lesson to settle in their heart in its own time. (I’m paraphrasing here, based on my impressions of the teaching.)
My disappointment was that in reading the book, I wanted more spiritual meat. I felt the book addressed parenting more from an emotional and psychological viewpoint than a solid scriptural foundation. At one point in the book, Berry makes a comment that “the Bible is chock-full of very, shall we say, interesting examples. It’s not meant primarily as a parenting guide, though it does provide the essential wisdom parents need.” He goes on to point out parenting failures in the Bible as an example that making mistakes does not disqualify us from being used in great ways. To be fair, he does reference wisdom such bearing the fruit of the spirit, forgiveness, and instructions to talk with our children about the hope we have, but I almost felt he dismissed the wisdom and power of scripture for parenting success, albeit not intentionally.
Berry’s “9 Keys” are worth examining. I especially appreciated his insight on “The Shift,” that point in your child’s life when the parent ceases to be #1 on the list of major influences, along with other adults (#2), friends (#3) and culture (#4). His perspective is that around adolescence, that flips to friends being first place, followed by culture, other adults, and places the parent as number four. His point is that you can still have great influence over your child in “fourth place.” While the reality of this “shift” is obvious, it is largely a product of our modern, culturally-driven families. I would have loved some biblical insights on how to combat it.
If you’re looking for a few practical suggestions on how to better connect with your child, then I would recommend the book. I admire Berry and his wife for their commitment to adoption and their obvious love and appreciation for the precious children God has given them. He does a great job of helping us to see our children as the individuals God made them and takes the pressure off being the perfect parent. He also warns against permissiveness, inconsistency, and instructing at the cost of the child’s heart. I just wanted to hear more about the importance of the work God must do in our children first, and how we can encourage and lead them to let God change their heart.