September 27

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What is Heart Centered Parenting?

By Paula Kettula

September 27, 2021


Many of you have perhaps heard about “heart-centered parenting” or “parenting from the heart,” but do you really know what it means, why is it important, or what actually happens in the body when you parent from the heart?

In my experience, the term heart-centered parenting ends up being an abstract and vague concept which we know is related to unconditional love, acceptance and emotional connection with the child, yet there is so much more to it! Parenting from the heart actually creates a biochemical shift not only in yourself but also in your child!

In this email, I dive deeper into what it really means to parent from the heart, as well as  what it means to live a heart-centered life. 

Traditionally, we always think of the brain as our information processing center where all our decisions are made and life experiences are processed. However, many ancient cultures and spiritual practices also focus on the heart as an important center involved in how one lives one’s life. 

Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Babylonias, Ancient Chinese, Greeks and many others viewed the heart as a place of intelligence which was the source of inner wisdom that was used to guide one’s life.

Modern science has proven this as a fact as we have found that the heart is an important information processing center which contains neurons just like the brain does. They have started to call the heart “the heart-brain,” as it contains a complex independent nervous system which produces a powerful electromagnetic field around the human body that extends up to 3 feet beyond our physical body. 

Let’s pause here for a moment and reflect on that important statement.

I’d like to invite you to recall an experience when you were in the presence of someone who was angry, judging, frustrated, stressed or overwhelmed. Recall how you felt and how you feel in your body now. Just notice. 

Now think of an interaction with someone who was positive, understanding, loving, kind and accepting in a difficult situation. Take a moment to recall how you felt then, and notice how you feel now in your body as you just think about it.   

It is likely that these two experiences had a very different outcome for how you felt and feel now. Pay attention how the body keeps score, and elicits emotions and sensations even from events that have long passed.   

It is likely that in the first scenario, you may have experienced discomfort, shallowness of the breath and increased heart-rate whereas in the second scenario, you probably experienced a sense of comfort, safety, peace, expansiveness etc. This is because the person in the second scenario was in a heart-centered state which in turn resonated with your nervous system. 

Now think of which person would you rather be around, listen to and connect with? Then evaluate how you show up for your children? 

Is it a surprise that your child may not listen to you, connect with you or are oppositional and defiant if you show up for them in a negative and draining emotional state?

I am not saying this to shame, blame or guilt, but to clearly point that there is a responsibility each of us plays in the way we show up for ANY person  we encounter, be it your child, your spouse or a stranger on the street. I would like you to take this as an empowering message which gives you information and powerful tools which are at your service at ANY GIVEN MOMENT. 

To shift a parenting situation gone badly, you only need to shift yourself. Expecting your child to shift is giving your personal power away. Most likely your child will not be able to shift, and you end up feeling angry, frustrated, resentful and helpless.      

Back to the heart… 

Research has also found out that more information travels from the heart to the brain than vice versa indicating that the brain is indeed receiving vital knowledge from the heart which is used to guide decisions and actions. Messages travel from the heart to the amygdala which is the emotional processing center of the brain, and to the thalamus which connects to the higher brain centers. 

Studies have also discovered that coherence between the heart and the brain is vital as this allows our thoughts, emotions and body to be in alignment with one another. When there is coherence, the entire mind-body system works efficiently and with clarity. Coherence is associated with renewal of our energies, emotional balance and a sense of wellbeing. 

Stress, feeling overwhelmed and not having our actions aligned with our true deeper emotions creates dissonance and distress. Other studies have  further demonstrated that when we are aligned with our values and belief system, this activates the stimulus and reward system of the brain which  releases “feel good” hormones such as gaba and oxytocin that calm the nervous system, decreases the stress response AND gives you an immune boost. 

When you parent from your heart, i.e. your value and belief system based on  unconditional love and acceptance of your child, you are naturally decreasing your own and your child’s stress levels.  

When you parent from fear, anxiety, worry, control or pressure of “what will others think”, you are out of alignment which causes stress to yourself and your child. 

It is my wish that this little article has given  you a glimpse into the  wisdom of the heart where our higher level emotions such as compassion, love, caring, kindness, patience and appreciation are said to reside. The wisdom of the heart bybasses normal logical, and linear thought patterns which are limited in their capacity to explain and experience the world. 

So parent and live from your heart AND notice your world suddenly changing right in front of your eyes. Or is it YOU who changes… 🙂

I will conclude with a quick exercise you can do to live a more heart-centered life. Just like anything else, it takes practice!

This exercise is from the HeartMath Institute. You can watch the video here

and  you can  find out more about HeartMath here.

They also have a great program, HeartSmarts Adventure , which is an eLearning Program for Ages 4 to 6+ that teaches emotional intelligence and heart-centered life to children. Right now, because of COVID-19, they are offering this course for FREE.

Quick Coherence Technique:

  1. Close your eyes and just notice your breath for a few moments. 
  2. Bring your breath to your heart and become aware of your heart: feel  the heartbeat and connect with its life giving force. Imagine that your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area. Take in deep slow breaths – exhale fully and completely.  
  3. Activate a renewing feeling by thinking about a positive memory with a loved one when you felt loved, accepted, understood and appreciated, or perhaps you can think of a special place in nature or an accomplishment you had. 
  4. Breathe deeply and rhythmically as you just let yourself enjoy this positive experience and the positive, renewing emotions and sensations connected to it. Stay in the experience as long as you’d like.
  5. Come out of it slowly and mindfully.
  6. Try to hold on to this heart-centered experience as long as possible.

I recommend that you begin each day like this. Once you become adept in  this exercise, you can put yourself in a heart-centered place any time there is a challenging situation with your child or your partner. This “primes” your nervous system and your positive heart-centered energy is likely to cause a shift in the situation making it more likely to result in a positive outcome. 

Have Heart, 

Paula 

P.S. Heart centered parenting is one of the pillars in my Transformational Parenting Programs. Book a 30-minute call with me, if you’d like guidance on how to become a heart-centered parent. I have many more tools & techniques I can share with you for FREE.

Paula Kettula

About the author

Paula is a psychotherapist and a transformational parent coach on a mission to empower parents to be influential leaders in their family.

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