Book Review: Winning the Heart of Your Child by Mike Berry

From the back cover:

Many of us enter parenthood with a perfect vision of what our family will be. But along the way we discover that the children we’ve been blessed with are real human beings, with their own minds, ideals, and views of the world. Our influence only goes so far, and when those children reach the pre-teen and teenage years, it may seem to have disappeared completely. Yet at no time in a kid’s life is their parents’ positive, godly influence more critical.

If you’re a foster/adoptive parent and you’re unfamiliar with Mike Berry, then you’ve inadvertently done yourself a disservice. Allow me to introduce you. Mike (along with his wife Kristin) is the adoptive dad of eight (EIGHT!) kids, many of whom were adopted from foster care. On top of that, he writes for the blog Confessions of an Adoptive Parent, hosts The Honestly Adoption Podcast, speaks all over the country, and is the author of multiple books, including his newest one (which I had the pleasure of reviewing): Winning the Heart of Your Child: 9 Keys to Building a Positive Lifelong Relationship with Your Kids.

From having the opportunity to have conversations with him at Road Trip and consuming a great deal of the content he’s created, it’s abundantly clear to me that there aren’t many experiences in parenting that Mike hasn’t had. This extensive resume bleeds through every page of Winning the Heart of Your Child. Mike isn’t a stuffy psychologist with a million letters behind his name, nor is he one of those out-of-touch children’s pastors with pat answers. He’s been put through the wringer of foster/adoptive parenting, and the nine keys he presents in this book were learned from his own practical experience.

Unlike many other (often “Christian”) parenting books that promote cold, arrogant, and almost dictatorial methods of raising children, Mike’s nine keys are dripping with grace, humility, self-sacrifice, messy engagement, and unconditional love. How freaking refreshing!

My wife and I have always been uncomfortable with traditional forms of parenting that are predicated on imposing Mom and Dad’s will through control and consequences (although we do fall back into these patterns at times). However, in trying to parent our adopted teenage son differently, we feel as if we’re “kicking against the goads,” so to speak, especially when people who don’t understand our son, his background, and the effects of trauma try to give us their traditional parenting advice.

But then there’s Mike, who once more invites us to think differently about the way we raise our children. Instead of believing that we progressively and inevitably lose all influence in our kids’ lives, Mike insists that parents will always be a powerful influence, and we should take this responsibility very seriously. Instead of fighting for control of our kids, Mike challenges us to fight for our kids’ hearts. Instead of taking on a “do as I say and not as I do” approach, Mike exhorts us to be the model of the kinds of people we want our kids to become. Instead of growing weary of our children when they make bad–even downright devastating–choices, Mike calls us to continue to go deeper in love with our children, even in the darkest, most hopeless times.

If we do these things with consistency and love, Mike believes that parents and children can develop meaningful and lasting relationships with one another. To some, that might sound too good to be true, but I believe there isn’t a drop of naivete in this book. As you’ll find out in these pages and in the other content Mike has created, he and his family have been through some tough shit over the years. Any rose-colored glasses he might have been wearing have already been trampled underneath eight pairs of feet, and what’s left is Mike’s unflinchingly realistic yet alluringly hopeful outlook on parenting.

In a time when so many people have been so deeply wounded by the way they were raised, a drastic shift in how parents approach their children is vital. Mike is on the frontlines of that struggle, and Winning the Heart of Your Child is an important addition to the growing body of literature advocating for change.

If you’re a parent of any sort, please read this book and let its nine keys challenge and transform the way you interact with your kids. As Mike points out, “Your family is worth it.”

(Apparently, I have the legal responsibility to take precious time out of my day to inform you that I was given an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review of it. So here we go: I was given an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review of it. Sheesh. Get off my blog, The Government.)

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