A guide to better parenting through self-assessment.
Chosak is a mother of three with a doctorate in psychology, and a licensed psychotherapist specializing in mother-daughter relationships. Her debut draws on these experiences, as well as the work of psychologist Erik Erikson, therapist Virginia Satir, and others, to present various “styles” of parenting, defined as “typical ways of interacting with your child, especially when you are under stress.” The book begins with general concepts in family psychology, which underpin the whole book. Chosak looks at Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, how parenting norms are passed down through generations, and how notions of unconditional love, bonding, boundaries, and letting go influence parenting. Much of this material can be found in other parenting and psychology books, but the short chapters, clear writing, and abundant examples here make Chosak’s a valuable reference. The majority of the work is devoted to a comprehensive “Parenting Styles Inventory”—20 chapters outlining 20 different styles. For each, the author describes its effects on children and provides anecdotes; offers a rating scale to help readers recognize the style in themselves, their spouses, and their parents; and delivers helpful tips for strengthening or curtailing behaviors. Most of the styles are “seemingly dysfunctional,” such as those of the critical, smothering, helpless, jealous, or user parent. But, with some exceptions, such as abusive parenting, which is “never warranted,” Chosak urges readers to aim for objectivity, yet also remain compassionate in their assessments of themselves. She clearly believes that all parents have the best intentions and that they all, on occasion, fall into several of these styles. Indeed, most parents will find mirrors of themselves, as well as good advice, throughout these chapters. But although compassion is a reassuring goal, objectivity can be difficult to achieve. Chosak deliberately presents “extreme examples” of each style, which are meant to be illustrative but may be too stark to allow for genuine self-evaluation. The laissez-faire, for instance, as described here, “seems not to care at all about her child,” while the user parent is said to see “her child as a pawn.” Although Chosak acknowledges that “the biggest challenge will be honesty,” ticking such boxes may be more alarming than some readers bargain for.
Sage words, but tough love, for mothers and fathers.