Creative Child

Beyond Behavior: Looking at the Heart of a Child

by Rebecca Eanes


Making the shift from control to reaching and teaching the heart meant I had to let go of my predetermined system and look at each child and each situation uniquely. Although there is no formula, I have found the following gifts of understanding to be helpful when looking beyond behavior to what my child’s heart is saying.

1. Understand brain development.

I wrote an article about the brain science that changed my parenting here. Knowing some basic information about which parts of my child’s brain were developed at birth and which parts would take years to develop helped me understand his behavior. When I realized that the area of his brain responsible for logic and reasoning wasn’t well developed at age 3, I finally understood why it was so difficult for him to foresee the consequences of his actions.

This didn’t mean that I waved off his behavior as something he couldn’t control but rather shifted my focus to helping him access his logic and reason more (which he couldn’t do when he felt threatened in time-out).

2. Understand the power of connection.

The more connected we are – the more our children feel safe, valued, and loved – the more influence we have. Shaming, isolating, and punishing only cause disconnection, making it much more difficult to have influence. Connecting even when (especially when) correcting gave me more influence to reach his heart.

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3. Understand personalities and temperaments.

My highly sensitive child has different needs than my less sensitive son. My introvert has different needs than my extrovert. By seeking to understand the unique personalities my children came with, it became easier to parent them effectively.

4. Understand your own personality.

As a highly sensitive introvert, I cannot take the nonstop action and noise of two little boys without taking time to renew myself. When my children were younger and a real break wasn’t possible, I learned to savor small pockets of time and surround myself with little comforts (fresh flowers, bedside journals, good books, and dance music).

Joseph Chilton Pearce said, “We have a cultural notion that if children were not engineered, if we did not manipulate them, they would grow up as beasts in the field. This is the wildest fallacy in the world.”

Children are not out to overthrow our authority and run our homes. They come with no bad intentions, only to love, learn, belong, and grow. It takes courage to shift from controlling behavior, but looking beyond behavior to the heart of a child is transformative not only for our homes, but for our society and our world.

Related Article: 21 Days to Positive Parenting

Rebecca Eanes, is the founder of and creator of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. She is the bestselling author of 3 books. Her newest book,Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, is more than a parenting book, it's a guide to human connection. She has also written The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parentingand co-authored the book, Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide to Putting Positive Parenting Principles in Action in Early ChildhoodShe is the grateful mother to 2 boys.


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