Good Heart Parenting: A Journey of Love and Strength by David Bredehoft

Introducing Good Heart Parenting: A Journey of Love and Strength, a 44-page research-based book written by Jean Illsley Clarke and available from The University of Minnesota Bookstores Extension Department ($7.00) or download a pdf copy (free).

"Overindulgence is often referred to as spoiling or helicoptering, but it is much more than that, and grown-ups who were overindulged as children often suffer adverse effects in their adult lives."  (U of M Extension Webpage)

In the introduction to Good Heart Parenting Jean Illsley Clarke writes:

"We don't want to neglect children, so we give and give some more. Sometimes we give too many things, or we notice that we are still doing things for children that they should be doing for themselves, or we get lax about holding the line on rules.  This is called overindulgence.

You will meet two families, the Good Heart Family and the Strong Heart Family. Both have good hearts and want the best for their children, but they deal with the pressures to overindulge in different ways. Sometimes we see ourselves reflected in one family, sometimes in the other." (Clarke, 2018, p. 5)

The book is organized around a pictogram deigned like a puzzle with nine pieces.

Jean Illsley Clarke Pictogram

Your Own Family: The 9 Puzzle Pieces of Overindulgence

Source: Source/Jean Illsley Clarke/ Used with permission

Part 1 - The Good Heart Family

  • Good Piece 1: With a good heart
  • Good Piece 2: The gifts of the Good Heart family's values
  • Good Piece 3: Pressures to overindulge
  • Good Piece 4: Unaware parts of the brain
  • Good Piece 5: Three ways of overindulging
  • Good Piece 6: Risky gifts from giving too much
  • Good Piece 7: The new normal of overindulgence keeps us stuck

Part 2 - The Strong Heart Family

  • Good Piece 1: A Strong heart is a good heart plus
  • Good Piece 2: The gift of the Strong family's values
  • Good Piece 3: Pressures to overindulge
  • Good Piece 4: Becoming a brain aware
  • Good Piece 5: Countering overindulgence
  • Good Piece 6: Flipping risky gifts to strengths
  • Good Piece 7: The New Normal of overindulgence is always around us
  • Good Piece 8: The Test of Four - Are we giving too much?
  • Good Piece 9: The Parenting Highway - Use the middle of the road

Jean Illsley Clarke skillfully packs a wealth of information for parents on the topic of overindulgence in this small book using both pictographs and metaphor. In doing so she writes and engages three of the four primary learning stylesVisual, Reading and Writing, and Kinesthetic learning.

Bredehoft - Volcano National Park Petroglyphs

Learning Styles: VARK.

  • V = Visual….charts, graphs, images, pictographs
  • A = Auditory….lecture, discussion, hearing, speaking
  • R = Read/Write....written words, reading, writing, taking notes
  • = Kinesthetic….tactile processes, acting, doing, hands-on experience

Pictogram-Your Own Family: The 9 Puzzle Pieces of Overindulgence

Pictograms are not new. Ancient cultures have used similar pictorial drawings called petroglyphs to share deep cultural and religious significance as well as family history to members who follow them (example: Pu'u Loa Petroglyph above). In Good Heart Parenting Jean Illsley Clarke creates a pictogram with 9 pieces of overindulgence. Parents discover the pieces by reading and thinking about their own families.  They then list each piece on the pictogram (VRK).

Metaphor - The Good Heart Family/The Strong Heart Family

Jean Illsley Clarke tells a tale of two families, both wanting the best for their children. The Good Heart Parents give their children lots of clothes, toys, freedom, music lessons, camp, overnights, parties, and attention. They often bend or ignore their rules if the rules interfere with what the child wants. The Good Hearts feel pressure from every direction to overindulge.

The Strong Heart Parents have a good heart too, but they also have strength. They are loving. They set expectations and limits in a "friendly but firm way". They often discuss core values with their children. They identify societal pressures to overindulge and figure out ways to counter it. "Now that the Strong Heart Parents understand the New Normal of overindulgence, they are building their own Normal - The Strong Heart Normal." (Clarke, 2018, p. 30)

No-Blame, No-Guilt

Both Good Heart and Strong Heart parents give from a good heart. This guide is written in the spirit of no-blame, no-guilt. All families need assistance navigating a culture where overindulgence has become the New Normal.

After reading Good Heart Parenting: A Journey of Love and Strength you will have the tools to become a Strong Heart Parent and create your own Strong Heart Normal.

Practice aloha: Do all things with love, grace, and gratitude.

© 2020 David J. Bredehoft.


Clarke, J. I. (2018). Good heart parenting: A journey of love & strength. University of Minnesota Extension Press.

© David J. Bredehoft, Jean Illsley Clarke & Connie Dawson 2004-2024;