Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With, by Brenda Garrison
[Note: I got this book for free from Booksneeze/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
This is a book that was written by a mother about her attempts to preserve a relationship with a stubborn and strong-willed daughter who had made decisions that she disagreed with. The book is targeted mostly to parents who think that if and because they are godly parents that their children will turn out to their liking, only to find out to their sorrow that their teenage and young adult children have different plans and their own personalities and visions. This book was written in order to encourage those parents to maintain loving relationships with children who simply have decided to live a different way than their parents would wish. Being childless, I am not a part of the target demographic of this book, but I know very well what it is like to be on the other side of this picture, and in reading this book I could not help but think that my mother could stand to read the book.
As I was reading this book I thought of all kinds of personal stories that could illustrate the points that this book made. As I made my way though this short book, though, I realized that if I wrote the stories I had thought of while reading this book that it would be far too long of a review that anyone would want to read it and that it would cause great personal offense (especially to my mother) if I gave personal details of our relationship and how it exhibits some of the concerns this book brings out, since I am far more open than most members of my family, and a frequent cause of family drama is the problem between my own compulsion to speak out about what I experience in order to preserve my sanity and the goal of the remainder of my family to not talk about embarrassing or unpleasant things, which make up just about all of the family stories I could possibly think to write. So, I will only say that I can really relate to this book and its contents, perhaps too much, especially given that I don’t think that the decisions I have made have been all that foolish or wicked given the wide distance that exists between me and a lot of my relatives (even though I will certainly own to being a strong-willed and stubborn person).
This book is organized around ten relatively short chapters. The first five chapters deal with what makes parent-teen/young adult relationships fraught with discomfort and problems. The first chapter deals with the alienation parents often feel when their children grow up and are no longer the “good kids” that they were when they were younger. The second chapter looks at the sort of decisions that parents disagree with, dividing them into a variety of categories (preference, foolishness, immoral, illegal). The third chapter advises parents on how to get out of the way and not let their own stubbornness interfere with a loving relationship with their children, showing how a young person’s decisions are their own responsibility to make and to deal with as best as possible. The fourth chapter looks at some of the mistakes parents make—and all parents (and children) make mistakes. The fifth chapter then looks at some lies and truths about parental guilt and its limits. This chapter seems to assume that people come from generally decent families, as those families which are more abusive clearly have more parental guilt to deal with.
The second half of the book then examines some practical tips on how parents can stay involved with their children while not endorsing their decisions. The sixth chapter looks at how parents can short-circuit the understanding their children have of God and how to avoid this serious problem. The seventh chapter looks at constructive ways that parents can build lifelong relationships with their children, as well as some behaviors to avoid that are sadly all too common in troubled parent-offspring relationships. The eighth chapter looks at the learning curve that teens and young adults face in growing in maturity. The ninth chapter deals with the fact that people are generally pretty gossipy which means that discretion should be used in order to avoid antagonizing people who do not like their private life made public. I could probably stand to improve in this matter myself. The last chapter deals with writing the rest of the story of life, recognizing that the decisions that parents make (assuming them to be the more mature and responsible parties in the relationship) will have impact for years. There is then a short appendix that looks at the troubled youth talked about earlier and their experiences up to the book’s publication, as well as a large amount of discussion and reflection questions and a short bibliography and note section.
This was, overall, a very well-written book, even if it makes some clear assumptions about the parents and the teens and young adults who will read this book. As just about any parent will assume that they gave the proper love and care for their children, most parents will be pleased by the generous assumptions as to their own goodwill and concern, which will make the sensible advice to parents easier to take, if they will take the effort to apply it. This is one book I would like my mother to read, and to talk about with me, but while I wait on that to happen (if it does), I can easily see how many parents will benefit from this book, especially those who have children who are making serious decisions (about money, education, and relationships) that they might think to be unwise. And let’s face it, that is a very large target audience.