You've read all the parenting books. You've tried their answers, but they sometimes defy the practicality of day-to-day living. And now you wonder, "What's the use? It's too difficult. My kids are going to end up resenting me anyway!"

It doesn't have to be that way. I'm convinced it's possible - and not too complicated - to raise confident, responsible kids in a warm, close-knit family atmosphere. What is the relational heart of parenting? We believe there are four things involved with successful parenting of children ages 0 to 12:

1. Maintain a close, trusting relationship with your child
2. Motivate children to do their best
3. Preserve order and harmony at home and have fun in the process!
4. Equip kids for future careers, interests and relationships

The key to your child's heart centers around a single essential principle that can mean the difference between an angry, rebellious, distant child and a happy, cooperative one. That principle -- the key to your child's heart - is knowing how to keep your child's spirit open. This is a time-tested principle that allows your child to experience their full potential as children and adults.

We define an open spirit as keeping the anger out of your child's heart. We emotionally injure our children all the time. That is not the dangerous aspect of parenting. We cannot be perfect as parents. But what is damaging is allowing the anger to stay unattended in our child's heart. Opening our child's spirit entails several key ingredients. One ingredient is softness.

When we hurt our child's feelings it is crucial we approach our child with softness and sensitivity to their feelings. We can often degrade our children's feelings because we are embarrassed, angry, or confused. What is important is to try and ignore these feelings and force ourselves to focus on our child's heart with softness. "Honey, I can't believe I said those words to you. I am so sorry for making you feel bad, can you forgive me?" This is a great start in opening our children's heart when they are hurt or angry with us.

Find more answers to your parenting questions at the Crosswalk.com Family Channel.

For more information about the Smalleys, please visit their Web site at www.smalleyonline.com/home.htm You will find many resources to help you with all your most important relationships.