Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tying Heart Strings

I first heard of the concept of tying heart strings from Michael and Debi Pearl back in the early 90's.  I probably read about it first in their no-nonsense book on child training, To Train Up a Child.   Basically, tying heart strings is a word picture for building lasting bonds of love, admiration and affection between a parent and child.  I see it as the flip side of the child training coin -- it takes both in balance to raise healthy, happy, well-adjusted children.

Many parents err on the side of being too harsh, demanding and legalistic with their children.  Other parents err on the side of  being too merciful, permissive, and indulgent with their offspring.  If the parenting coin is tilted too far in either direction, the heart strings will be s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d and may even snap in two.

Therefore, it is critical for parents to strive to be balanced in their approach to parenting, seeking to discipline and correct their children in love and grace.

In Ephesians 6:4, parents, and specifically fathers, are instructed to train their children in the Lord, through nurturing balanced with teaching and correction -- "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."



How to Tie Heart Strings with Your Children:



1. TIME

One of the most important things you can do to tie heart strings is to spend time with your children doing things together.  This includes working, playing, pursuing hobbies, and tackling projects of various types.  I think this is demonstrated by the way Jesus invested in his disciples, just living life with them and taking advantage of teachable moments to teach them truths about the Kingdom.  It is so natural!  The idea of scheduling "quality time" at a convenient time at the end of the day or week when it fits into a parent's schedule is really just a sham, a salve for the consciences of guilt-ridden, overly-committed parents.  No matter how hard you try, moments of connecting heart to heart are rarely scheduled and rarely convenient!


2.  LISTEN

It is very easy for parents to learn to tune out the incessant chatter of their children, especially when they have a lot of them!  It may be "cheaper by the dozen," but it's definitely not quieter by the dozen!!!  ;)  We have to train ourselves to really listen to our children.  As mentioned in the previous point, this rarely happens at convenient, carefully planned out times!!  The crucial thing to remember is that whoever listens to our children and young adults will win their hearts!


3.  PRAISE

Don't just talk to your children -- Praise them!  Encourage them!  Bless them!  Of course you have to instruct them and correct them.  If you don't, they won't know how to please you!  But, since criticism tends to break heart strings, make sure you praise them way more than you criticize and correct them.  Even if their character is lacking, get out your magnifying glass and look hard for the smallest demonstration of positive character, and then praise, praise, praise!! 


4.  SMILE

Many years ago I was exhorted by a wise mother to give my children "100 watt smiles" every day.  She encouraged me to make sure I smiled brightly at each child throughout the day, but especially the first time I saw that child when they woke up in the morning or after a nap.  When you have lots of littles and you are enjoying some uninterrupted quiet time early in the morning or during nap time, how do you greet that lucky child that first interrupts your solitude?  Do you Groan and Frown because your "me-time" has come to an end?  Or do you greet that child warmly and flash him or her your best "100 watt smile?"  Frowns break heart strings; smiles tie them!!



5.  SYMPATHIZE

When you sympathize with your children's struggles, sorrows and disappointments you will tie heart strings.  Try to remember what it was like when you were a child.  Emotions and problems and disappointments that we have learned to weather are HUGE in the heart of a child!  Don't ever mock them or belittle them or make light of their problems and emotions, unless you want to destroy heart strings!!


6.  TOUCH

Make sure you touch your children every day, as this is an important key to tying heart strings.  Some children will need and desire less physical touch than others, but if you are a person who doesn't value physical touch, don't assume that your children are the same.  It is easy to get in lots of physical touch when you have babies and toddlers who need carried, nursed, snuggled, and held.  But, when your children get older, you will be surprised how easy it is to neglect to connect with them in this important way.  Find appropriate ways to touch each of your children and do it every day -- hug them, snuggle with them, tousle their hair, hold hands, put your arm around their shoulders, give them high five's, create a special handshake, etc.


7.  GIVE  

Give your children little gifts and surprises occasionally.  Help them reach their goals if they are saving money for some special item.  Buy or make them little treats; make their favorite foods; write them special messages and love notes.  Make them feel special and loved!  Little gifts can earn big dividends when it comes to tying heart strings with our children!


8.  SERVE 

Of course we serve our families every day, but an unexpected act of service can really tie some heart strings!  On occasion, turn down your children's bed covers and put mints on their pillows, make their bed for them, unload the dishwasher or clean the kitchen or take out the trash when it is their turn.  Do these things as surprise love gifts!  This is especially meaningful when your older kids are extremely busy, tired or stressed with school and jobs, and you do something unexpectedly to lighten their load.


These are great ways to tie heart strings, but this is not an exhaustive list.  In what ways have you tied heart strings with your children?

8 comments:

Happy Busy Mama said...

Thanks for the reminders! Sometimes I think because I have read these books and put these things into practice over the years, I can be deceived that I am also still living it out. In my mind, my thoughts rehearse these habits, but I fear that they can easily end up on my list of good intentions, waiting until I survive the urgent. Because I an not a naturally "huggy" person, I really have to make the effort to be affectionate. I don't resist hugs, but I rarely initiate them especially with the older children. Time is another area that is quite a challenge with so many different schedules under one roof, but very, very important.

Rebecca's Refining said...

Thanks for the reminders! I needed them tonight! :)

Noel said...

I didn't realize the Pearl's had been around that long :) They've been such a help with their practical advice on child training - what a blessing :D

Donna G. said...

Excellent reminders, even for those of us with older kids. Thanks, Elizabeth!

Single and Loving it! said...

Mom, I have to say you do a really good job at doing all of those steps! I guess that is why my heart strings are tied so tightly to yours and I miss you so much when we are apart. Thank you for loving me. I love you too!
~Tiffany

busymomof10 said...

Thank y'all for the positive feedback. I felt like I needed these reminders for myself too! I was convicted of certain areas that I'm not doing as well in as I would like.

Tiffany -- Thanks! Wow -- you just made my day! :)

Debbie @ Cheaper by the Bakers Dozen said...

I love the Heart of Anger book. I hate the Heart of Anger book. It's so convicting the way he asks the parents to take responsibility for their part in their child's anger. Ouch!

Love your other suggestions, although i could easily hate those, too :)
Because they're hard.

But worth it.
thanks for the great advice.

busymomof10 said...

Debbie,

I love your comment.

I hate your comment.

And I agree about the book!!!! It is Totally Convicting!

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