Parenting Styles

Defibrillating Your Child’s Heart

Perhaps you’ve watched a TV medical drama in which emergency department doctors hover over a patient, working furiously to save a life. Suddenly one calls for a defibrillator, places the paddles on the patient’s chest, and yells, “All clear!” You see the body on the gurney jump, and all the eyes turn to the heart monitor. If a regular heartbeat isn’t restored, the doctor places the paddles back on the chest, and again we hear “All clear!” The process is repeated as many times as necessary for the heartbeat to synchronize so the patient can live.

Likewise, children can become quite stubborn when it comes to evaluating and adjusting their hearts. Parents then become frustrated, upping the consequences, increasing the yelling, or sometimes giving up the battle. At these moments, a parent’s character is tested greatly. But when parents catch a vision for a heart-based approach to correction, they make significant adjustments in their own hearts and develop more courage, patience, perseverance and love than they ever thought possible. They act as “defibrillators,” helping their children regulate the function of their heart and bring it back to a place of growth and development.

Of course, if the greater courage heightens a parent’s volume level or adds cynicism and sarcasm to the interaction, heart change in the child is less likely. Instead, parents must stop the skirmishes and change the battlefield from the parent-child relationship to the child’s heart.

When children seem bent on doing the wrong thing, parents generally experience two emotions: anger and fear. Life can be forgiving at times, and the consequences of foolishness can be huge. Children with serious heart issues are in danger. Whether it’s a four-year-old who won’t come when called, the eight-year-old who’s mean, or the fourteen-year-old who’s sneaking out of the house, the red warning lights are on and flashing in Mom’s and Dad’s minds. Parents are often surprised that their son or daughter would do things that any mature adult knows are self-defeating.  You know that if this behavior continues, bigger problems are right around the corner. Kids can’t see very far ahead, but you can. So what do you do about it? How can you help your children see they’re on the wrong path and headed toward failure? God gave correction as a tool to break the negative cycles you see in your child. But where do you start?

Identifying Entry Points

Many parents feel as though their children’s hearts are in a spinning merry-go-round; they want to jump on and do some work, but the ride is moving too fast, and getting on seems impossible.

Before you give up, take time to evaluate your entry points. Typically, when do you begin correcting a specific problem? Often parents wait until the report card comes or someone gets hurt or the volume level is deafening. Correcting earlier in the process is often more productive and, although resistance is still likely, early intervention is more successful at bringing about heart change.

This requires the parent to identify the child’s initial error – the very first comment, action, look, or indication that a problem is on its way. Michele told us, “My twins are always fighting. I think the initial offense was in the womb.” Most problems are like that. They have history, but each episode usually contains a trigger, cue, or initial offense. If you want to find successful entry point, go back further than you usually do and catch the problem earlier.

Michele had tried several things to get her children to stop the teasing, put-downs, and meanness, with little or no success. Well-meaning friends told her that boys will be boys and that putting up with bickering was part of her job.

After attending one of our seminars, she was eager to try a heart-based approach to address the problem. She examined her interaction with her boys more carefully and realized her correction point was usually later than was helpful.

“I disciplined them when things got out of hand, when one was hitting the other, or mean words had escalated to yelling and name-calling. I’ve done several things differently now. I also discipline the boys separately instead of together. And I have at least one of them take a break and then come back to me for a debriefing. Sometimes I discipline them both, but not always. I’ve been watching their interaction more closely, and I can actually see the heart problems coming on before they do. That’s my cue to take action. I can’t believe the difference I’m seeing. We’ve got a long way to go, but now I have the tools to get there.”

Dr. Scott Turansky is an author and speaker known for his heartfelt parenting approach. He offers moms practical, real-life advice for many of parenting’s greatest challenges and is the founder of the National Center for Biblical Parenting.

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