We’ve all been there as parents and caregivers, a child pushes the boundary lines one too many times and we feel the intense negative emotional energy build. Even for the most patient among us, there will be times in parenting that feel exhausting and emotionally draining. It’s easy to feel like a constant referee, “Get down from there” “Keep your hands to yourself” “Don’t run around the house with scissors” “Stop putting everything in your mouth!.” It’s the parenting version of Groundhogs Day and it can make you feel like a record that won’t stop skipping. What if there was a way to flip the script? What if there was a way to frame your conversations with your children so that you could call out the greatness that God has put inside of them? There is, and it’s called the Nurtured Heart Approach.
The Nurtured Heart approach was developed by child therapist, Howard Glasser in the late 1990’s. Glasser’s theory was that parents are taught to look at a situation with their children and ask, “what’s wrong with this picture?” Consequently, the amount of words and attention that the child receives are often directly related to how often they misbehave- which only serves to increase the misbehavior. He asked the question, “Why not start with success?” He encourages parents and care givers to look at what the child is doing right and to give as much energy and encouragement as they can in exquisite detail. As parents learn to celebrate the child for what they are doing right, the child can then build a healthy sense of self and ownership which Glasser calls, “inner wealth.” When we provide positive verbal fuel for the child, they are drawn to make good choices!
The foundation of the Nurtured Heart Approach is the Three Stands (here they are in a nutshell, there is so much more to learn but I know as parents we need the quick and easy:)
Refuse to give more energy to the negative.
Don’t reward problems by giving it your energy. Do your best to stay neutral. When negative behavior occurs, breathe deep, stay calm cool and collected. You must make it clear to your child “that the pathway to intense relationship does not flow through negativity.” In other words, “I’m not going to ride this roller coaster, you can ride if you want, but I’m staying here by the ticket booth and I will be here when you get off.”
The relentless pursuit and celebration of success.
This is where the power is. This is where the transformation can take place. By infusing the present moment with success and celebrating it! This requires intentionality and staying “in the moment” with your child. If you wait to catch the child “being good” you can wait all day. But when we call out the greatness within, it begins to transform the child’s perception of who they are at the core. This might seem like making a “molecule into a miracle” and it is- but learning to see their success becomes second nature if we let it. Here is an example, “Wow, Jimmy! I noticed that you were tempted to hit your sister when she took that toy from you, but you didn’t! You have so much self-control! I can see that you are really growing up!”
Clarity of Rules.
Kids need to know where the boundary lines are. Resolve to have clear rules and clear consistent consequences when they are broken. When a child learns that “A+B will always equal C” it takes the guessing game out of it. There is nothing to be gained by breaking the rules. “Always follow through! Teach rules through enforcing a consequence when rules are broken and celebrating and energizing when rules are not being broken. By energizing both ends of the spectrum we expand the continuum for creating success. Success is unavoidable!”
At City Kid’s School we have been learning about how NHA can be a great benefit for students in the classroom. We firmly believe that each student is created in the image of God and has greatness within them. Greatness that we get to help them cultivate and discover by calling out the beautiful gifts and skills that we see in them. It’s really the Gospel on display: Romans 2:4 says that “His kindness leads us to repentance.” It’s the love of Christ that changes our hearts, not the rigidity of legalism. And it is his words of identity and affirmation that change the way we live.