The Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA) is geared toward emotionally intense, sensitive, highly unattached children. It presumes that these children, more than others, really need a lot of input from others in their interactions and structure. It also presumes that conventional discipline techniques have taught these kids that it is really easy to get a lot of intense feedback from the people around them by acting up. The NHA seeks to break the kids of the habit of acting up to get energy from adults. Nurtured Heart founder, Howard Glass, provides a helpful analogy that captures the approach. Most of these difficult children strive hard to be successful at video games due to the high level of interaction, feedback, and energy. These games offer predictable rewards for positive behavior and penalize negative behavior. These games are highly structured and focus on positive incentives more than negative consequences. The NHA recreates a video game’s basic environment with lots of positive reinforcement and quick, consistent, low-intensity consequences for rule-breaking. The foundation and core of the NHA is built on the three stands.
- Absolutely no means not engaging or focusing on negative behaviors. Parents often take a step back in parenting when there is not a need to interject. Why interrupt a good thing, right? When there is an issue, we as parents step in and resolve the issue. By doing this, we may unintentionally reinforce the negative behaviors as our children have learned, “when I do A, I get B.” At the core of the negative behavior, they may want our attention and have learned how to get it.
- Absolutely yes means intentionally focusing on the positive behaviors we observe. Even praising the simplest of things like them putting their plate in the sink when they are finished eating sends them a reward message and gives them the attention they may need. Bonus! These positive praise interactions feel a lot better for parents than getting involved when there are negative behaviors, and it’s easy! Our children do 100 positive things a day compared to 1 negative. Let’s put our energy into those!
- Absolutely clear means we will set clear, simple expectations for our children and respond consistently when these expectations are not met with low energy. The concept of a “reset” can be all you need! A reset is simply a pause in adults’ engagement following a rule being broken and can be as brief as a few seconds.
By incorporating NHA we are now modeling the reward and consequence system of the videogames our children love. My final note for parents is don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake. This parenting shift takes time and practice, so be kind to yourself. Your children will not judge you. For more information on the NHA, go to https://childrenssuccessfoundation.com/
This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Brittney Engelhard, LBSW