Open-hearted parenting


Do you long to become a more effective, joyful parent? One who both truly listens and is truly heard? These six simple steps can take you there. When undesirable behaviors occur:

1. Breathe
Your work as the adult is to stay centered and calm. Take a deep breath and stay quiet. Open your heart, and turn your attention toward your child.

2. Listen
Ask your child – as lovingly as you can – to explain the source of the conflict. Then truly listen to the answer. You might be surprised that many behaviors we think of as “naughty” are benign at their core. Let your child speak without interruption or correction.

3. See the need
At the heart of every behavior is a need. (Needs that are sometimes hard for adults to see.) Open up and look deeper than the behavior. Is your child expressing a need for fun, for exploration, or for learning? Or is their action driven by a feeling of fear, anger, embarrassment? Dig deeper and peel back the layers. Now we’re getting to the heart.

4. Validate
Validation shows your child that you listen and you care. Speak your understanding in simple words. (Example: “It makes you afraid to go to the doctor because you friend told you about her stitches and that was scary. It is scary to think of having stitches.”) Express empathy.

5. Speak your truth
Speak clearly and respectfully with your child about your needs without putting aside their needs or feelings. (“I understand that you wanted to feed the dog your hamburger. But I worked hard to cook our dinner and the dog has her own food. Please keep your food on your plate.”)

6. Find the yes
Inside of every “no” is a yes. ("No, you may not cut up library books, but here is an old magazine you can use instead." "Let's use our words instead of our hands to tell him to stop." "Let's give the dog a treat after we finish our own dinner.") As we transform our no's into yes's the sooner our children learn that everyone's needs can exist in harmony, and many frustrating behaviors will disappear.

By reaching for connection instead of correction the family dynamic transforms. Everyone benefits when there is less conflict and resistance; when there is more compassion and understanding.

Know that you won't always get it "right" but every effort makes an impact. Keep trying! There's not a perfect parent in all the world. 

I put the steps above in a handy little graphic below. Print it out and tape it on your fridge if you're inspired. 

Find more peaceful parenting tips for children and teens here:


One thought on “Open-hearted parenting

  1. Mama Jen says:

    Thanks, I was thinking as I read this I am going to print this and put it on my fridge and cabinet and door to my closet and then scroll down and you have a nice print out. 🙂 Thanks! I really needed this. Everytime I return here you have just the thing I need. Blessings on the work you do in the world – keep up the Love Revolution!

    Mama Jen

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