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“What comes from the heart goes to the heart.” This is one of my favorite quotes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and I refer to it often when I talk about parenting. I’ve found most everything in life is more effective when it’s done heart-to-heart—especially discipline! This next article is an excerpt from a new book I’m working on, and it’s a concept I teach in my Joy of Parenting classes. It’s my tip to help keep you in your heart, even when your children are testing you.
The Heart Connector
New and future parents, your children will challenge you. A lot. They will challenge your old way of doing things, your old way of thinking about the world, your patience, and at time times your sanity. In the most wonderful ways.
And as a result, during the first few years, you may be a little more tired than you’re used to.
Don’t worry. We have a great tip for you for these moments when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed. It works in all situations, on children of all ages, and even with other adults. It’s called the Heart Connector.
Sometimes when we are tired, stressed, annoyed or angry, we end up reacting in ways we regret later. We might yell or slam things around, or we might be a little rough when we handle our children. Later, after we cool down, we might feel badly for the way we reacted. This only makes us even more tired, stressed, and angry with ourselves. It’s a whole cycle of negativity that needs to be broken.
Viktor E. Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
The key to handling challenging moments in any scenario will be first recognizing that you’ve been triggered, then creating a space to remind yourself to respond to the situation from the heart.
Easier said than done—yes, we know! That’s why I came up with the Heart Connector to help anchor parents during these moments!
Steps for the Heart Connector
- When you have been triggered, or sense you are about to be triggered, put one or both hands to your heart. Keep your hands there for as long as you need to in order to calm down. This is creating “the space.”
- With your hand(s) still to your heart, remind yourself of your love for your children, and your commitment to kind and firm parenting. This is being in the space where you choose your response from the heart.
- When you’ve calmed down, confidently follow through on what you decided when you were in the space. Depending on the situation, it might be doing nothing until you’ve thought about it more. The important part is that you are consciously responding, and not just reacting.
Example of Heart Connector Moments from Newborn to 6 years
- When your baby is colicky and won’t stop crying for anything
- When your baby spits up on your best suit jacket right before leaving for an important work meeting
- When your two-year-old throws his meal all over your freshly-mopped floor
- When your toddler decides to throw a tantrum in the middle of _____________ (insert most inopportune moment and place)
- When potty-training isn’t going so well
- When your kids are fighting over a toy (again)
- When your child refuses to go down for a nap or bedtime
- When your partner, boss, colleague, friend has said/done something to offend you
We’ll address all these scenarios and more later in the book, but know that handling all of these challenges always begins with the Heart Connector.
The Heart Connector Has Its Rewards
It might take self-discipline to practice the Heart Connector at first, but the results will be both instant and far-reaching.
Instant Benefits of the Heart Connector
Lasting Benefits of the Heart Connector
Gives us a the “space” we need between the stimulus (our kids’ button-pushing) and our response
Serves as a kinesthetic reminder to us to lead with the heart
Serves as a visual cue to our children that we need a minute to collect our intentions
This little action can break the tension of the situation
Can work when dealing with spouses, friends, co-workers, anyone!
Builds on the mutual respect between parent and child.
Nurtures the parent by giving them the confidence that they can handle future conflicts in a calm fashion.
Reassures the child that though mistakes are made, they are still loved.
Keeps the parent and child connected, even through discipline
Models to children how to handle challenging moments
Less stress and strife overall for both child and parent.
I challenge all of you to practice the Heart Connector with your loved ones. Teach it to your children and your friends. You can modify the actions to suit the situation. Make the movements more subtle or make them bigger for the kids! A friend of mine teaches her children to trace the shape of the heart with both hands onto their chests as they breathe in. For kinesthetic kids, this added motion may help center them quicker. The key component is getting yourself calm enough to remember what your true heart’s intentions are—and that’s to guide and teach your children.
About Susie Walton
Susie Walton has been a parent educator since 1991, teaching live parenting courses and leading seminars, hands-on workshops, instructor trainings, teacher in-services and one-on-one coaching sessions. Walton has helped over 10,000 families create more peaceful relationships and stronger connections. In 2005, she opened Indigo Village, a unique and dynamic virtual community that provides educational and experiential-based programs in parenting and child development. Walton is also the author of the book, “Key to Personal Freedom: How Myths Affect Our Family Lives”, published in 2009, and is now teaching her own parenting curriculum, "The Joy of Parenting" to families live and online. Find her www.indigovillage.com.