Health Wise: The Nurtured Heart Approach to Parenting Challenging Kids

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 02/19/2018 - 12:08

Parenting is hard on a good day, in an ideal setting. And for most of us, life is not ideal. Raising “intense” or “difficult” children makes the days and nights full of uncertainty and conflict which leaves us drained, attempting only to do the best we know how to do- and yet feeling like we’re largely missing out on the potential joys of raising our kids. Even when our kids are minimally disruptive, compliant, and successful, we can still feel drained and long for ways to improve daily interactions with them.

In this ongoing blog series, we have been discussing parenting approaches. Today, we’ll look at the Nurtured Heart Approach in anticipation of the start of our upcoming parenting group at the Saline office. The Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA) was created in 1992 by a psychologist in response to a need for interventions with children who had not responded well to traditional parenting and behaviorally-based techniques. NHA is so much more than another “behavior management” strategy. It is a life-changing, relationship-building, positively-focused method. NHA been successfully implemented in families, classrooms, foster care settings, health care settings, crisis homes, and in juvenile detention centers with unparalleled results over the past 25 years.

In a nutshell, Nurtured Heart provides a powerful set of strategies designed specifically to turn a child around to a new pattern of success in positive and creative ways. This invaluable shift in thinking teaches those of us who live/work with children to identify and set clear boundaries, while encouraging a focus on the behaviors, values, and characteristics that we want to see our child carry into his or her world. In turn, we are blessed to watch the child find their inner strength and wealth which then increases their own self-monitoring, emotional regulation, and ownership of their behaviors/outcomes.

The goal of Nurtured Heart is to stop giving attention to negative behaviors. Many of us are used to getting huge amounts of energetic attention when we “act out” or make a mistake. In this dynamic, intense connection is created when things go wrong. Voices get louder, eyes get bigger, faces lean in, and hearts pound a bit faster. What we often don’t realize is that this is upside down energy, and we inadvertently create emotional and energetic bonds with children over the wrong things: what they lack, what they aren’t doing, and over their persistent “failings.” The simple truth is this…Children respond to our energy, whether good or bad. Their behaviors increase or shrink in accordance with our energy. NHA helps us decide where and when we will energize behaviors. It is freeing. It is quite simple. And yet, it is not.

At first glance, this approach may seem wishy washy, feel-good, or positives-only. We can assure you that the mission to use NHA in your home is a warrior’s task. You can try to be “positive” all day long but if you’ve attempted this already, you know what happens. Buttons get pushed and we quickly slide back into a negative mode, reacting in ways we don’t intend. This can lead us to guilt, shame, tears, nagging, arguing, and even more acting out from the child… which can make us react more and thus create a nasty cycle of negativity. Staying “positive” alone doesn’t cut it. This mission requires a new approach with concrete aids and outlines.  

Nurtured Heart Approach gives us a toolbox to shift, to reset, to focus, and to take necessary stands to form strong, lasting bonds with our children, and bring relative peace in our lives. It stops the negativity cycle, and it allows us to enjoy parenting again. At Still Waters, we are honored to be able to bring a 6-week parenting series to our community beginning in March. If you are interested in getting more info, please call our offices at 734-944-3446 to inquire and/or sign up. Spots will fill quickly so please call as soon as possible. For more information on Nurtured Heart, visit and/or watch an informational video online at here.

Thanks for reading!

Bridget Young MS LLP's picture
Bridget Young, MS LLP