Brené Brown on Raising Children Imperfectly — A Book Review

Photo Credit: Geena Crawford Photography

I recently finished listening to The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion, and Connection by Brené Brown on Audible. 

imperfect parenting book

All judgement, views, and parenting styles aside — this book for me at its core offers something (even if it is just one thing) for every parent to learn. In this book, Brown presents 10 guideposts to creating what she describes as “wholehearted” families.

I highly recommend you download this book to your Audible library. It inspired and motivated me to work on being a better mom and also made me feel more confident. I often feel alone in this journey and in many ways I am as a single mother, but single or not I imagine we all feel alone at some point. 

You don’t have to agree with everything, but I hope that at least one thing will resonate and change your world the way it did mine. Here are six things I learned from this Audible book, but please just download it as there were SO many incredible points, examples and takeaways. 

  1. The impact that using Shame vs. Guilt has on your children on your parenting journey. In her book Dare to Lead she covers these definitions found HERE, but I love how she recapped them as it relates to parenting. When you parent and use Shame, it focuses on the fact that our kids actions have done something to render them as unlovable or that they themselves are “bad”. Guilt, however, puts the focus solely on the decision. You are a great girl, but you made a very bad choice. She shares from her research how kids whose parents used shame, their children had a much higher rate of suicide, sex and drugs (aka risky behavior). gratitude
  2. The importance of Gratitude. I grew up blessed and my daughter is also growing up very blessed, so I constantly have fears of raising a “spoiled brat”. My parents were very well off, but for things beyond what we needed, we were required to work for it. I had a job at 15 (lots of chores prior to the that), I volunteered as a young child and my parents were very active in their communities. They led by example and without telling us we should be grateful, we were because of how they raised us. In this book she talks about this big fear of mine and this quote just gave me SO much peace as we embark on raising our kids in a very advanced society, where the majority of kids act (to me) very entitled.

    “What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.” ~Brené Brown

  3. Help your kids set and navigate boundaries. Don’t become their friends. She talks about a research study she did on high school-aged kids, where they were asked about the strictness of their parents. She watched as it became a battle between the students of whose parents were “stricter”. They were having fun with it, and the kids who had “strict” parents were more outspoken and involved. A few of the kids didn’t respond or engage in this portion and when pulled aside after, she asked why they didn’t respond. Their response was that “they didn’t have any rules, their parents were the “cool” parents”, and so forth.

    Her recap of this session, which happened twice with two different groups is that kids are hardwired to push boundaries and it’s our jobs a parents to hold them. She went on to say that parenting without boundaries (like the kids who didn’t have rules) is like sending your kids down a bridge with no hand rails, and that boundaries give kids the railings to hold onto and to successfully cross the bridge. I just LOVED this example, because it is hard to hold boundaries, and I know it will just get harder as my daughter gets older. 

  4. Actions are more powerful than words. She talks about this a few times throughout this book and shares that we can’t give them what we don’t have. Meaning, if we are telling our daughter how beautiful she is and that outfit is cute, but then we look in the mirror and our self talk is “ugh I look so fat” or “I hate my figure,” then our words become meaningless. OR another example she gave was if we make a mistake or we spill and we say things to ourselves, like “Ugh I am such an idiot why did I do that” (shame vs guilt). We can be “perfect parents” by not using shame when parenting, but if we are showing them something different it still can have a negative affect on how our kids grow up. 
  5. Engage in play and creativity with our kids, even when they get older. She described “play” time as an activity where you lose track of time and how important it is to find something as a family where you all are fully engaged and to help your kids finds those things too. She talks about 4th grade being a very important time and the research behind the “4th grade creativity slump”, which was new to me. She focuses on the importance of having our kids watch us engage in creativity and playful activities ON OUR OWN and WITH them.  Showing your kids to value simple pleasures in the small or everyday aspects of life. She refers to research by Stuart Brown that shows a high percentage of violent offenders come from homes where creativity is blocked and / or parents that didn’t allow or encourage play (i.e. super strict parents).
  6. Stop rescuing our kids from struggle. Share parts of your day that were hard. Teach them that it is just a reality that sometimes things are hard, but to keep working at it. Share vulnerabilities and love without shame. 
Photo Credit: Geena Crawford Photography

It scares me when I think about the fact that my daughter is growing up during these challenging times. With child suicide rates on the rise, additional bullying factors and the extra pressures that are placed on kids (and parents) that weren’t there when I was growing up — this book really spoke to me. 

I want my daughter to be tough as nails, but to also care and love wholeheartedly. I want to raise her as a focused and motivated leader, who cares and has an empathetic whole-heart. I want her to raise her hand in class and tell everyone how “strict” I was, but also how much love and connection we shared. 

Don’t forget to download the Audible book, there was so many other applicable practical parenting tools and also I found this resource The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto on Brené Brown’s blog, that I found really helpful. If you are struggling out there with this whole thing called parenting like myself, please know you aren’t alone. What are some other great books you loved?

Disclaimer – Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, the San Diego Moms Blog will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.


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