I can’t forget the time I held an “Ask Anything Monday” on Instagram and someone asked me for my five favorite parenting books. I answered honestly: I don’t have five! I barely read any. My kids are ages 5, 3, and 4 months at the time of writing and I’ve read two ?? parenting books so far. Honestly, I find most parenting books either behavior-focused or too lenient and child-centric. I don’t like labels and I’m very selective about who I listen to regarding parenting. That leaves me with not many options.
All this to say: the fact I’m reviewing this parenting book says something. Josh and I read it together, discussing each chapter as we went.
How to Really Love Your Child is written by a professional family counselor. Its primary focus is the emotional needs of your child; what will “make them feel truly loved and accepted”. D. Ross Campbell begins the book by discussing the problem parents run into with their children: their children don’t feel loved. Yes, their parents love them; this is known in theory. But the children do not actually experience the unconditional love of their parents (even godly parents!).
The second chapter deals with the setting for that problem: family and home life, personality of the parent, and quality of the parents’ marriage. All of these things affect whether or not a child feels loved. Then, before jumping into specifics, Campbell discusses how to lay a foundation of trust and love in your family: eye contact, physical contact, focused attention, and discipline. The middle chapters focus on each of these areas in depth, and he concludes with specific chapters on:
- Appropriate and Inappropriate Love
- A Child’s Anger
- Discipline and how to do it
- Children with Special problems
- Helping Your Child Spiritually
D. Ross Campbell is a Christian and his book definitely has Christian themes. However, it is not an overtly Christian book. If you’re coming to the book looking for a doctrinal breakdown of parental love, this would not be it. Even so, it adequately represents the biblical requirement of parents to love their children and reflects the Father heart of God we see in Scripture.
What is particularly powerful is how Campbell presents discipline as an expression of love toward the child. Discipline is not punishment (though many parents perceive it that way). It is the quest for love, Campbell says, that drives most misbehavior:
“A child who does not feel loved by nature is compelled more earnestly to ask, ‘Do you love me?’ through behavior. We may not like this behavior because there are only a limited number of ways a child may act, and many of these ways may be inappropriate for the occasion. It stands to reason that when anyone is desperate enough, behavior may become inappropriate. Nothing makes a child more desperate than the lack of love.” (page 125)
Our disciplinary response can affirm our love to a child or can make them feel its absence. How we love them shapes their view of us, but mostly, it shapes their view of God.
Other areas where doctrine comes into play is in the discussion of the nature of love (32), how to convey love (page 43), forgiveness toward our children (131), and the discussion of God’s presence as a child’s greatest need: “the treasurable, peace-giving possession that every heart craves” (page 165).
This is one of the most balanced books I’ve read, in general. Campbell goes back and forth between questions and potential extremes, addressing them with personal anecdotes from his experiences as a counselor and a dad. These engaging stories serve to illustrate the point he makes regarding loving our children – filling them up emotionally, guiding them affectionately, and disciplining them with grace.
Neither Josh nor myself had any theological concerns with the book.
In conclusion, we found this book to be a heart-check in our parenting: do we assume our kids know we love them, or do we actively show it? Campbell’s notes regarding girl/boy differences also made an impact on how we relate to our oldest daughter. Both of us were reminded to make eye contact and physical contact a frequent part of our interactions with our kids, taking note of their personal love languages along the way. His short paragraphs on tone of voice, discipline method and more were perfect for our season.
If you need a parenting book, start with this one!