Mothering, Relationship

Doors: Keys to Our Children’s Hearts

GE Door

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

Anger emanated from the boy’s tear-rimmed eyes. I could almost see the heat as he glared daggers at me. I’d said something that triggered the anger, and once that beastie escaped, there was no off-button. He stormed to his room. While I was talking with our other son, trying to pray and calm both of our hearts, Thumps and banging sounded from the floor below.

Mad Baby

I walked down, praying for guidance. I turned the knob on the door to his bedroom, expecting it to be locked. Instead, the knob turned, but opening the door took great effort. In his anger, the boy had moved a shelving unit across the door. He tried to stare me down. His face contorted with his rage.

Calmly, firmly, I told him he was not to block his door again. He needed the boundary set, amid the anger.

“I hate you!” Twice.

Ivy coated doorway

About broke my mama’s heart. But it was in that moment—in hearing those words spew from his mouth—that the Lord reminded me of all the times and all the ways he’d conveyed just how much he loved me. God showed me it was his anger speaking, not what he really felt.

I took a deep breath, and in a calm voice I said, “I love you. I always will.” I turned and walked upstairs, my heart trembling.

Often, it’s a gentle voice in response to strong anger that begins to turn the key and unlock what’s really in our children’s hearts.

Image courtesy of sippakorn at
Image courtesy of sippakorn at

A little while later, I thought I heard crying coming from his room. I waited, just in case he was still working through his mad.

He trudged up the stairs, his face red. But this time, deep sorrow defined his posture, his words. He told me he didn’t mean those hateful words he’d uttered.

Solitary moment

We cuddled on the sofa, his twelve-year-old frame curled as small as he could on my lap. And he talked. Really talked. Shared from the depths of his heart. His current struggles, his remorse over his words.

And two hearts mended.

Open door

Often the door to our children’s hearts are opened with a simple key: the gift of knowing they’re heard.

I’m learning there are times to drop all my tasks and just listen when my boys want to talk. When they see me put them before my to-do list, it opens up future doors to connecting.

They’re growing so quickly. I won’t always be their confidante. But I can always give them the gift of two ears, and a silent mouth when they need time to process what they’re thinking and feeling.

As a parent, it’s my job to respond, not react. I don’t always do this well. I’m a react-or by nature. Sometimes on the scale of a volcano erupting. Self-control is hard in the middle of strong emotions.

Cross doors

Things I’m learning in my role as mom are:

  1. I need to keep an accurate perspective. When my boy spewed those horrible words, I could see the broader perspective—he loved me. He’d proven it over and over again. One moment of anger doesn’t define a lifetime of relationship.
  2. A gentle answer truly does turn away wrath. I could have gotten up in my boy’s grill and yelled back at him. And it might have felt good. For about two seconds. I suspect giving him a gentle answer began to break the wall of anger that separated us. It’s hard to be calm with high emotion, but when our kids see this, they often respond to it. Stony brick wall
  3. Taking time to talk when calmer hearts return can lead to deep connections and growing trust between child and parent. When parents let their kids talk without interrupting or trying to fix them, children grow in trusting their parents.
  4. Humility goes a long ways. Asking for forgiveness when we’ve yelled or been short with our kids? This is another key that opens the doors of their hearts. It defuses the anger and sometimes leads to genuine sharing as parent and child talk together.

Hands fingers intertwined

This parenting-gig is the toughest road I’ve ever walked. It’s brought me to the end of myself. It’s teaching me how to better reflect Jesus to my boys. And, it’s helping me better understand God’s love for each of His children.

What about you? How do you unlock the doors to the hearts of those in your life? What would you add to my list?

**Originally posted on EveryDay Life online magazine —Opening the Door to Our Children’s Hearts 

12 thoughts on “Doors: Keys to Our Children’s Hearts”

  1. True in parenting, true in marriage. beautiful post.

    My main technique is to filter what I’m about to say…to ask myself, “Will this really help, or do I want to say it to hit back, or make a self-justifying point? Am I just trying to get the last word in?”

    I don’t say a whole lot more than I do say, and life is better that way.


    1. Filtering what you’re about to say is a great tip, Andrew. I’m getting better at it, but those emotions sometimes block my rational sense. 🙂 Checking motives for our words as you suggest is a great tip!


  2. What a heart sensitive post! I can see Holy Spirit working in you, teaching you His ways. It’s how He deals with us. His soft words have calmed my anger, gentled my soul in ‘those moments’. Isn’t He magnificent in His love for us!


  3. I’m saving this list!! I love that you responded with “I love you” and then walked away. I remember as a kid needing that time to cool down by myself. When I felt forced to resolve a situation too quickly, it always ended messy. (Now that I’m a parent, I see that this is not always ideal, but I’m trying to keep it in mind!)


    1. I’ve learned that, once their emotions escalate, both of my boys need that cool-down time before dealing with certain things. Heck, I even need it sometimes, and I’m A LOT older than they are. 🙂 I’m so glad you found the list helpful, Annie. 🙂


  4. Good stuff here, Jeanne. You will do well by your boys as they grow into young men. Parenting truly is tough (those that disagree are probably going to find out some bad news down the road because they were in denial and didn’t allow their children to express authentic feelings—oh I’ve seen and heard this scenario). But your tenderness will bless the journey. I agree that listening is key. Sometimes I feel fear and panic rising in me when I’m not sure what to say to an angry or frustrated teen, and then I remember I don’t need to say anything. So I breathe a prayer and stay in the moment. They mostly want to know that we love and respect them unconditionally. Often my teens come up with the answer they’re looking for as I sit and listen to them think out loud. The seeds we planted in them during the preteen years begin to sprout as they mature.
    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀


    1. I can totally understand the fear and panic rising up, Wendy. Been there. And I’m sure I’ll make some return trips to that place as my boys hit the teen years. I love your words about your teens coming up with their answers as they talk things out with you—a listening mama. You give me hope about those seeds sprouting. 🙂


  5. Such great words and wisdom hear, Jeanne. It’s true – cooler heads do prevail and I’ve found to that if I can respond, not react it opens up the door to dialogue, instead of just talking over each other. I’ve learned it in my marriage, as a mom, and in ministry – sometimes we have to give up the right to be heard, so that we can listen.


  6. You are a good Momma. In my day job I work with a student with attachment disorder among other special needs, I echo the words you said daily. “I love you. I will always love you. I’m not leaving you.” I know that helping them know we see and hear their hearts is so important.


    1. Working with a student with attachment disorders must be difficult and at times, heartbreaking. It sounds like you know what that young person needs to be reassured of! You’re right, when our kids know we hear their hearts, I think they feel safer sharing them.


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