The Nurtured Heart Approach
Howard Glasser, coauthor of Transforming the Difficult Child, originated the trademarked term Nurtured Heart Approach. The key principles are:
- Intensity of passion is not a liability to be overcome but a positive force to be encouraged.
- The essence of successful child-rearing is positive reinforcement, as opposed to focusing on negative behavior.
- Limits must be clearly defined and consistently enforced.
- Medication is, far more often than not, overprescribed and stifling.
- The key to personal development is Inner Wealth—resilience and vision.
Let’s take a closer look at each.
Intensity: Friend or Foe?
No question, dealing with “intense” children—who take nothing lying down—can be exhausting and frustrating. Especially if, as in a classroom, you’re trying to simultaneously supervise multiple other children.
Before you get too fixated on putting a stop to “disruption of order,” remember that intense kids aren’t consciously mean or defiant—just single-minded and sensitive. With proper guidance, the kid who “always has to have his way” can become a consistent goal-achiever and an asset to society.
The Positive Side of Discipline
Human nature has an unfortunate tendency to take “good” things for granted and raise instant fuss over “bad” things—which, in the case of “misbehavior,” encourages the child to focus on it and do it again.
“Positive reinforcement” accomplishes the opposite by “catching” someone doing something right—
- “I really appreciate your waiting for me patiently.”
- “I love the way you organized your room.”
- “I found you a big help today.”
—thus building a foundation of good feelings and good habits.
A World of Healthy Limits
Of course, not all disruptive or destructive behavior can be ignored. The best way to deal with it is as noncommittally as possible. In most cases, a one-sentence dismissal to time-out, and not bringing up the subject after the child returns, is sufficient.
That said, it’s not fair to expect children (or adults) to instinctively “know better.” There are rules for setting rules:
- Once you ensure a healthy level of order and safety, the fewer additional rules the better. Leave room for initiative.
- Whenever possible, let kids share in rule-making.
- Make sure children understand; ask them to repeat the rules back in their own words.
If your doctor’s first response to your intense child is to reach for the prescription pad, odds are you picked the wrong doctor. Look for someone who takes time to listen and to explore all options.
Even if you conclude your child could benefit from medication, don’t expect to stand aside and let the pills do the work. With all illnesses, the purpose of medication is to assist natural self-healing and give the patient time to master healthier habits.
The Secrets of Inner Wealth
Besides implementing the above ideas, you can help children build resilience and self-confidence by:
- Encouraging them to explore what they enjoy doing—and not telling them to “be realistic.”
- Letting them express—and explain—opinions that may not match yours.
- Helping them discover the joy of doing things for others.
- Never letting them forget they are unique and special!