If you’ve been following my series on love styles, then by now you’ve discovered your love style. If not, you can do so here. Your first lessons in love form the way you give and receive love and comfort today. If you aren’t familiar with what it means to have a pleaser love style, reading about that here would give you more insight to today’s blog. The last blog in the series I’m an Pleaser. What Now? gave insight into how a pleaser can change and grow, deepening their integrity, growing into a more mature, whole-hearted person. Today’s blog looks at how someone with a pleaser love style parents. It offers transformational ways to improve their relationships with and parenting of their children.
The Positives of Pleaser Parenting
Pleasers have great qualities and are often very nurturing, attentive, and caring. Excellent at reading the moods of others, they are often very aware of what is happening with their child- from infant to adult. Pleaser parents often volunteer to help out with programs and activities their child is part of. They are loyal, helpful, courteous, and friendly, so they make a good addition to coaching teams, after school program leaders, and other protective supervisory roles. For some, their deep river of anxiety can be quelled if they stay close to their children.
Pleaser parents are good with planning and provisions. They tend to be the ones who come ready with all their kids could possibly need. Look out for them if you’re not prepared but need an emergency diaper change. Likely, they will not only have the diaper, wipes, and hand sanitizer, but will also be toting an extra pair of clothes that can fit your child.
What Could Be So Bad About Pleasing?
What could be the problem? Pleasers tend to be:
- Easily manipulated
Let’s look at how this works.
Imagine a parent that never has to face criticism, confrontation, and disapproval. That scenario simply doesn’t happen. If it isn’t coming from another adult, from that helpful relative to the random stranger in the grocery line, it’s definitely coming from the child. Ever heard a child say, “You’re so mean!” This pangs the heart of a Pleaser parent. (It sure has mine!) Children often learn this is an easy button to press- criticize or confront my parent and maybe I’ll get my way. Put the pressure on, and maybe they’ll give in. (I know I have!).
Pleasers tend to believe that if they are doing their job correctly, their children will be happy and satisfied. When that doesn’t happen, pleasers can sometimes feel the dissatisfaction and complaints personally. Pleasers tend to garner the least respect of all the love styles, due to their tendency to not set appropriate limits and stick to them. The pleaser parent would rather tolerate disrespect than be hated by their child. This can be very damaging to a child, who desperately needs their parent to be a parent- setting protective limits that stick (in an authoritative not an authoritarian way).
Pleaser parents tend to find negative emotions overwhelming. Because of this, they assume their child does as well. They rush in to protect or soothe, often when the child didn’t need protected or soothed. This anxiety in the parent is absorbed by the child. The parent may think they are soothing their child, when in reality, they are actually seeking a way to soothe their own anxiety.
Here’s how it works. The child is getting ready to sing a solo, and they are excited. The nervous parent takes them aside to “soothe their fears,” but end up confusing the child who is really just excited. By “soothing the child,” the parent is really soothing their own anxiety (but creating it in their child!). This obviously doesn’t help the child to deal with their own emotions, which may be very different than their parent’s.
Children can begin to feel the world not a very safe place, and they are only safe at their parent’s side. The parent’s fear rubs off on the child, creating a fearful little replica of Mom or Dad. Absorbing the fear of their parent and taking on a fearful perspective of the world can be damaging.
There is also great damage done in that pleaser parents may be tuned into fear and not other emotions. They may be good at talking to a child about fearful situations, but not about talking to them about other emotions. Children desperately need their parents to be able to help them with all of their emotions.
How do parents act out their fear? Usually by being over-protective. When their children are very small, they helicopter around them, always by their sides. Yet, as children develop, they need the freedom to explore alone and then return to the safety of their parent when they need a break. If they aren’t allowed to do this, children can’t develop healthy coping skills and tend to be insecure or frightened when not near their parent.
It is difficult for them to see a child in distress. Since children often need to face challenges and work through them to be able to grow, a pleaser parent may be “rescuing” them from very necessary character growth.
Also, instead of holding the child accountable for bad behavior, pleasers can tend to rescue and rationalize. It is easier to excuse than confront. It is easier to minimize pain than challenge a child to face something difficult and work through it. Children must be held accountable for their choices as well, learning to take responsibility for them. They can’t do that if their parent is always taking the consequences for them. If the pleaser parent does bend over backward to bring them the homework assignment they forgot or buy them a replacement for the game they broke, the child will realize that they are not responsible for their daily responsibilities or material possessions- their parents are. This can cause them to end up as underdeveloped, spoiled, over-indulged, individuals that expect to be bailed out of their own responsibilities.
Pleasers can tend to neglect other very important persons in their lives. For example:
- Their relationship with God.
- Their relationship with their spouse.
- Their responsibility to take care of themselves.
The best gift a parent can give a child is to give them the security and example of having a strong, close relationship with God and their spouse.
Pleasers also tend to severely neglect themselves. Speaking from experience, it is easy to completely burn oneself out. I’ve had to learn the hard way that when I care for everyone else in my home and out of it, but don’t take responsibility to care for myself, I end up with nothing left to give. Pleasers must take care of themselves, getting proper rest, nutrition, and emotional support.
Transformative Strategies for Pleaser Parents
Here are some ways to be more successful at training your children into integrated, whole-hearted adults who are respected both for their ability to perform on tasks and to manage relationships.
These tips are gleaned from the Yerkovich’s book How We Love Our Kids: the 5 Love Styles of Parenting. One Small Change in You…One Big Change in Your Kids. It’s well worth the read for more insight.
Don’t send the harmful message: You can’t do it yourself. You need my help
Do learn to say no.
No is a muscle. Develop it. Grow strong in dealing with conflict, rejection and alienation. Kids crave boundaries. They push at the walls around them to determine- “Am I the one in control here?” If they are, then their world is a scary place for a child. They are looking for boundaries- firm ones- that ensure they are safe and being cared for. Contrary to what it may feel like, your children will feel more loved if you give them firm boundaries (even if they claim to “hate you” for it). This is much better than appeasing them all the time. Now, they may say they don’t want to be near you or that you are mean when you set and hold to boundaries. But, in reality, you are loving them better when you do. Be patient with yourself in this process, as you may lack discernment and end up over-correcting sometimes.
Do learn to receive from others and to care for yourself
Learn to say “No” for yourself. Learn to feel anger to those who may have hurt you, grieve, and forgive after feeling the anger and grieving. Learn to cry with others and to receive (not just give) comfort.
This is one of the hardest ones for me right now. I’m focusing on trying to learn better how to receive- not just give. How to ask for help- not just give it before people even ask. How to accept kindness from others that I cannot repay. I learned very well since I was a child how to read others and try to manage their needs and emotions. I also learned that my emotional needs didn’t have much of a place, and as I grew, my physical needs promptly took the back seat, too. I often feel really guilty when someone is kind to me or helps me. I’m really striving to overcome this compulsive care-giving.
If you tend to be a caregiver out of obligation like me, take a step back. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Do not give care to others reluctantly or under compulsion (unless it’s an infant needing fed in the middle of the night:). Seek to learn to give cheerfully. Learn to take care of yourself so you have something to give joyfully. Learn to tell others your needs (without minimizing them) and ask for help.
Don’t rescue them from distress and responsibility.
If your child leaves their soccer cleats out in the rain, don’t run out and buy them another pair before their next game. Let your child show up in regular tennis shoes or possibly sit out of the next game until they can earn money to buy their next pair. Don’t bail them out of the consequences they earn for themselves by hurrying to bring them things they forgot or ruined, giving them extra money, or defending them or minimizing what they did when they are in the wrong.
Do teach your child skills that will enable them to be self-sufficient adults, such as homework, laundry, doing dishes, cleaning the house, and cooking. Require them to regularly serve as part of the family team to get these daily jobs done well.
Do learn to give your child constructive criticism.
Don’t only praise your child. Give them constructive criticism, too. Do it in a respectful way, but be honest with your child. You may be tempted to just fix things for your child on your own or distract from real issues. What your child needs is for you to go ahead and wade out neck deep into the real issues they are facing and help them problem solve about how they can work through it long term.
Don’t play “bad cop; good cop” with your spouse
Don’t make your spouse be the one to implement all the discipline, and don’t undermine the consequences they put in place. If you are emotionally unable to give constructive criticism to your child or to require them to take responsibility for their decisions, you will lose the respect of your spouse. Think about what kind of adult you would like to raise. Work with your spouse to develop strategies and boundaries to go with them that will help mold your child into that responsible, caring, successful person (however you define success).
Don’t banish a child’s feeling of anger, sadness or fear
Sometimes an anxious parent takes it personally when their child experiences these emotions. The anxious parent can sense these emotions and feel inadequate.
There can be a misconception and projection issue here. The pleaser parent finds negative feelings overwhelming, so they assume their child does as well. This may not be the case. Even if the child is experiencing negative emotions that seem extra big to the child, that child can grow up to have healthy grit towards negative emotions and situations. The pleaser parent need not project to imagine that the child will always feel negativity towards difficult and challenging situations and emotions.
The pleaser parent must fully, calmly, with compassion seek to understand what the child is feeling. Let the child put it in their own words. Then, kindly, fully acknowledge that feeling (without minimizing or dismissing it). Accept process. So much of this life is process, not rapidly reaching an end or solution. Allow working through emotions be a process. Instead of rescuing your child from their emotions, coach your children on how to manage and work through them. Study this if you aren’t sure how yourself.
There is a huge difference between comfort and rescuing. You need to draw out your children’s feelings and help them find relief.
Do You Relate?
If you relate to this, please share in the comments below.
Parenting With A Pleaser
Parenting with a pleaser is can be frustrated, especially if your spouse is undermining you or expecting you to play bad cop.
You may be reading this, because your spouse is an pleaser and it has raised concerns for you. If so, I’m working on a post for you titled Help! I’m Married to a Pleaser! If the avoider or pleaser love styles doesn’t relate to you or those you are close to, hang tight. More styles are on their way.
Want To Know More?
Milan and Kay Yerkovich a number of resources on love styles, such as:
- How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage.
- How We Love Our Kids: the 5 Love Styles of Parenting. One Small Change in You…One Big Change in Your Kids.
They have a whole series for singles, couples, counselors, etc at How We Love. (note, I’m not an affiliate with any of the authors I’ve cited. I just have benefited from these resources and want to share).
I’ll be going through the other love styles in the upcoming posts. Subscribe so you don’t miss valuable information about the vascillator, controller, and victim love styles.
More Posts in the Series
If you’d like to know more about love styles, check out the Entire Love Style Series.
- Milan & Kay Yerkovich. How We Love: Discover Your Love Style Enhance Your Marriage. Christian Audio.
- Milan & Kay Yerkovich. How We Love Workbook: Making Deeper Connections in Marriage. Waterbrook: 2017.
- Milan & Kay Yerkovich. How We Love Our Kids: The Five Love Styles of Parenting. How to End the Struggles and Tension. The Crown Publishing Group: 2011.
Copyright © 2019 Angela Edmonds. All rights reserved.