The Nurtured Heart Approach to Parenting
By Teryn Peroff
“Ordinary methods of parenting and teaching typically backfire with intense children. Despite the best of intentions, the harder adults attempt normal responses, the worse the situation can inadvertently become.” – Howard Glasser, Conceptual author of the Nurtured Heart Approach
The Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA) is described as a means to support and nourish relationships whether it is being applied to children or adults. It focuses on the relationship between the child/student and the significant adult to energize positive, build inner wealth and capability in each, and diminish any attention or energy to negative choices. When a child has developed “ inner wealth ” they begin to make choices based on their character strengths, virtues and values. This allows the child to become strong on the inside, so that outside influences will be less likely to permeate his/her judgment. The child learns to act out greatness instead of acting out nonsense!
Imagine what this power, this light, this internal shine would do for a child who REALLY believes in his/her own greatness. If a child (or an adult) has this inner wealth, they would never harm themselves. They would think they rock, they would value themselves, they would know their importance in the world. Imagine nurturing the soul of a child so nothing could stop them in their relentless pursuit of the positives. This is a way of relating to children which gives all your energy on their positive qualities and choices and efforts. And rewards none of their negative choices. This is us in relationship with every person’s best side – soaking them in their greatness.
This approach is for all children. Children need to be stronger on the inside now more than ever before. We need inner strength to handle the greater demands of the world and we need an approach that will not only transform intense kids to greatness but that will bring all children inner wealth.
Improvement sucks! Why? Because improvement means that you are still in relationship with problems, they have not gone away. We want TRANSFORMATION! The NHA acknowledges an individual’s intensity and is not afraid of it. Intensity is not a problem to be medicated but a gift to be nurtured. Without intensity there is no life force. In this approach, intense children transform from using their intensity poorly and acting-out problematically to using intensity to act out greatness.
“The NHA is a practice that promotes peaceful and compassionate communication, and instills “ greatness ” in the form of values commonly described across many religious doctrines and spiritual practices thereby embracing a spiritual component. It requires the participant to be in a place of mindfulness and to remain in the moment. It teaches and expects practitioners and participants to cognitively “reset” themselves and to teach “reset” to others as a relentless refusal to energize negativity.” 
So where do I begin?
In Smalls (2011) article, Honoring Greatness – Beginning with Yourself she states:
Give no energy to anything that drains. Set rules. Remove all emotion from broken ones – no lectures about problems. The only problem is the child’s inability to recognize his/her greatness – and our inability to be consistent in pointing this out. Do not tell a child who you want them to be – or become – as this implies that they are not enough as they are. “They could be great – except…” They are great. Tell them how you see this.
You are great. Here is how I see you being great… This is what I love about you… Don’t believe it works? True transformation can occur in a 10-minute conversation. Flood the person you work with. Overload your in-law. Dunk the head of your child in the full focus of your wild appreciation of their amazing gifts. The things you think – but don’t say. The things you tell other people. Let go of the worry of the things they do ‘wrong’. Start by helping them see all they do right. Have no ‘buts’ and ask for nothing in return. Do it again. And again. Text them, email them, brag about them in front of them. But they are impatient. They are sloppy. They swear at me. How can I let go of what I need them to do differently? Give no attention to any of their negativity. They receive a payoff every time you do. You are their favorite toy. They know all your buttons. And when you respond with energy, they get rewarded. Reward only what is positive.
“I so appreciate the way you are looking at me when we are talking.”
“I know this is uncomfortable for you. You could be yelling or swearing. But you are not doing any of this.”
Then name the quality you admire in them:
“This shows me what amazing self-control you have. I see you being so angry, but you are containing it so responsibly. I am so impressed by your maturity.”
“You are showing me amazing respect even when you are frustrated.”
And so you begin to change the way you relate to them – see them – honor them. And the transformation of the most important relationships in your life begins. Because you see and live greatness. Only greatness.
For further information on this nationally recognized approach visit Howard Glasser’s site at www.difficultchild.com
To read the full article, Honoring Greatness – Beginning with Yourself (2011), by Tammy Smalls, M. ED, Advanced Nurtured Heart Trainer and more visit www.nurturedheart.net
Recommended Reading :
Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach by Howard Glasser, c. 2002
All Children Flourishing: Igniting the Greatness of our Children by Howard Glasser, c. 2008
There’s Always Something Going Right: Workbook for Implementing the Nurtured Heart Approach in School Settings by Tammy Small and Louisa Triandis, c. 2010