Parent questions and answers

1. I have tried many different parenting approaches, with little success. How is the Nurtured Heart Approach different?

The Nurtured Heart Approach functions on the understanding that intense and challenging children act out because they crave the energy we emit when we respond to their outbursts. As parents, we do the best we can with the tools we have at our disposal. When our children misbehave, we become more animated, our voices rise, and we become more intensely involved. When this scenario repeatedly plays itself out, children form the impression that in order to get relationship and connection from the important adults in their lives, they must act out.

The Nurtured Heart Approach emphasizes super-energizing time-IN using a few simple techniques. The relationship is the prize for the child, so providing continual emotional nutrition, in concert with clear consequences and boundaries elicits profound results.

2. Why should I praise my child for doing what is expected?

While reading the book many parents ask this question. One of the main ideas of the approach is to create successes that might not otherwise exist (Refer to the stories in the book of Shamu and the Tolltaker for more information.) When we actively create these moments of success, we open the door for our difficult child and begin to challenge the negative portfolio that is filled with failure and disappointment. By lowering the rope, like Shamu’s trainers, we create successes that might not otherwise exist and we begin the change the context through which we interact with our child.

3. Doesn’t all that praise get old and “wear off” after a while?

On the contrary. When done in a way that is authentic, difficult children begin to experience, sometimes for the first time in their lives, what it feels like to be successful. They have a physiological response to this specific, heartfelt praise. When they feel it in their bones, the awakening happens. For the first time, they get to be the hero of the story- and they find it feels pretty good.

4. Do kids get addicted to constant positive feedback?

No. We have found that when it is authentic, heartfelt, and specific children begin to internalize these successes as their own and essentially download them as personal success. They begin to change what was once a negative portfolio filled with inability, disappointment and anger, and shift toward a personal portfolio that is filled with their personal experience of taking responsibility, doing the right things, helping others, etc. They create a reality based on their own personal power. Eventually, they begin to shift from needing your feedback, to trusting in their own innate abilities and wisdom.

5. What do you mean by “intensity?”

Many children come to resent their intensity because the well meaning adults in their lives send the message that there is something wrong with it- that it is too much, that they are that they are too overbearing, too loud, too excited, etc. This downloads for the child as “I am too much, nobody can handle my intensity.”

The Nurtured Heart Approach aims to shine the light in a different direction. It views intensity as a gift. It is our life force and the conduit through which we interact with the world. We do not see intensity as something that needs to be subdued or extinguished. Rather, we see intensity as a necessary ingredient in the journey toward greatness. When children feel GREAT about who they are, they become more tuned in to themselves and more skilled at regulating their intensity. They master the art of channeling their intensity and learn to manifest what they desire. Do you think that Thomas Edison was an intense child? What about Albert Einstein? Gandhi? Martin Luther King? All of these people took their intensity and used it to change the world. They aspired to their own greatness.

6. What does it mean to have inner wealth?

The Nurtured Heart Approach focuses on creating inner wealth in all children. When children experience inner wealth, they are less motivated to please others and more consumed with tapping into their own feelings and wisdom to guide their decisions. They live their lives in the moment and are tuned in to the feelings and concerns of others in a healthy way. They take responsibility for their daily choices, and no longer blame everyone around them when it does not go their way. When things go wrong, it is seen as just a bump in the road, and they are able to move on from that point, only minimally affected.

7. How long do I have to do this approach before I see results?

Many parents report that results are almost immediate. In my personal experience as a mother this was the case. Implementing the techniques at even the bare minimum will yield results. When carried out as though your life depends on it- you will get TRANSFORMATION!

8. Why is this approach so effective with challenging children?

When children live their lives through adversity, they form the impression that they get more out of life through NOT doing. This impression gets reinforced each time we the parents give relationship and connection to them within the context of adversity.

Traditional parenting techniques do not work with intense and difficult children and, in fact, often make the situation worse. They focus on the problem and feed the cycle of adversarial behavior. Children become confused about what is a reward and what is a punishment. When the relationship is based on problems, all you get is a problematic relationship.

In the Nurtured Heart Approach, the goal is to send the message that there is no longer anything to be gained from being adversarial. We do this by laying out clear and reasonable consequences, refusing to energize negativity, and creating a steady stream of emotional nutrition through time-in. Because the relationship is the prize, and the child is fully experiencing a relationship based on connection and nurturing, there is no longer any motivation to misbehave.

9. Can we do this approach at both home and at school?

This approach can be implemented effectively both at home and at school. It is not uncommon for children to have problems relating to others over a broad range of social settings. We are finding more and more teachers and schools are adapting the approach in their classrooms because of its simplicity and easy application. Of course, it is ideal to have the same system in place in both at school and at home. However, if this is not a possibility, the credit system, as described in the book, is an effective way to extend the system outside the parameters of your home life.

10. If my child’s teacher or caregiver does not do the approach, will it still work?

YES. By utilizing the credit system, as described in the book, you have the ability to extend the Nurtured Heart Approach to your child’s school/daycare and continue to create successes that might not otherwise exist throughout your child’s day. Also, because your child is feeling better about living in the world due to her new and ever-changing portfolio of success, she is less moody, less impulsive, more inspired, and happier. We have found that children often generalize their new found experience of inner wealth to other settings and adults.

11. Does the approach work with teenagers?

YES. You may think that it is too late to try this approach with your difficult teenager. “He’ll blow me off.” “He’ll laugh at me.” “He won’t care if I am trying.” These are common fears that we hear from parents everyday. If your intention is to change the relationship and reconnect with your teen, this is the way to go. If what you are doing now isn’t working, why do more of the same? It is a leap of faith- but it is worth the leap!

12. Will the approach still work if we don’t want to do the credit system?

This question comes up with many families. Not every family needs a credit system in place in order to be successful. Some families find that once they have the first two phases of the approach firmly in place, and harmony is restored, they do not need a credit system. Other families find it keeps everyone in the family on the same page and is a concrete way to continue to reward the child on a continual and consistent basis. If you want to address behavior at school or other social settings, the credit system can be a tangible way to continually provide a steady stream of positive interaction. Other families find it is helpful in the first year or first several months, and modify it later as their need change.

13. I have been implementing the approach in my home for several weeks, and I feel like I could use some assistance with fine tuning. Do you have any suggestions?

Many families find it is helpful to bounce ideas off of others that are using this approach in their families. There are many resources available to get this support. One way is to join the NHA chat at Another way is to look for an NHA consultant in your area. Many consultants have parenting classes and seminars, and provide in-home private coaching or phone consultation for additional support. The Compass Program at Providence Counseling Associates provides all of theses services. Additional information can be found within this website.

14. I have several children, but they are not all behavior problems. Can this approach be used with all of my children, even if they are not in trouble all the time?

YES. We have found that it is often easier for families to implement the approach with their whole family instead of just the “difficult one” for several reasons. The “good” kids in the family tend to become resentful of the new relationship that you are creating and may act out to get in on some of the nurturing. For this reason, we recommend implementing the approach within the entire family at its inception. The golden Rule: The more intense the child, the more intense the intervention. It’s OK if they get differing levels of intervention. Just make sure all the children are reaping the rewards of this approach.

15. My children’s father and I are divorced and have shared custody. What are your recommendations for implementing this approach in this situation?

Of course it is ideal for both parents to be on the same page when it comes to parenting. We have worked with many divorced families and have found that when children feel loved and nurtured by both parents through the stressful process of divorce, they tend to demonstrate fewer symptoms related to the stress and anxiety that often goes along with divorce. Also, children seem to feel safer about expressing their feelings and needs to their parents.

However, there are times when healthy co-parenting is not an option. The Nurtured Heart Approach CAN be successfully implemented by one parent even if the child/children are also being parented for part of the week, with a different approach. We have found that children become experts at discerning their environment and more able to adapt to different situations when they are exposed to the Nurtured Heart Approach. This is most probably due to the fact that the approach focuses so heavily on building inner wealth. When children have inner wealth, they adapt more readily to other environments and cope with stress in more healthy and effective ways. Once the nuts and bolts of the approach are in place, implementing a credit system can help keep kids on track when they are not with you, and also can help restore the structure of your household in a very concrete way when they return to your care.

16. My child has special needs. Will the approach work with him?

This approach is an excellent choice for children with special needs including, but not limited to, ADD, ADHD, ODD, ED/BD, PDD, Autism, Aspersers, FAS, Bi-Polar Disorder, Anxiety, etc.

Most often implemented in conjunction with other recommended therapies, the Nurtured Heart Approach has been found to improve self-modulation, increase impulse control and decrease behavioral problems, both in the classroom setting and at home.

17. My child is very disobedient. What if I cannot find anything positive to say to her?

If you are the parent of a very difficult child, chances are you feel isolated and misunderstood. You are probably frustrated and feel they have tried everything, and NOTHING has worked. Chances are you stuck in a constant cycle of anger and reactive, unreasonable consequences.

The Nurtured Heart Approach is designed to begin to build healthy dynamics again, through some very simple techniques. Through creating successes, active recognitions, proactive recognitions, and creative recognitions AND taking a stand to refusing to energize negativity, parents have the ability to create the relationship they have always wanted with their child.

18. I am a single parent and I am hesitant to try an approach that is not going to complicate my life any more than it already is. Do you know any single parents that have used this approach with success?

YES. Unlike other traditional parenting methods that seem to be designed for two parent homes, the Nurtured Heart Approach is an excellent choice because it puts you in the driver’s seat in terms of what specific changes you want to see in your household. It is simple to implement and does not require hours of preparation, tracking or behavior charts.

As you get more comfortable implementing this approach, you will notice your children begin to internalize healthier coping skills, and you will notice more cooperation, teamwork, and friendship among your children. They will begin to speak to others with more nurturing language. When conflict arise, you will be less likely to get pulled in because you are no longer giving your energy to negativity. Of course, you will give a consequence for broken rules, but the day will not be defined by “what went wrong” anymore.

19. I have read the book and have begun to implement the Nurtured Heart Approach at home. I don’t think my child needs therapy, but I want some help getting the approach more firmly in place. What are my options?

Many people in this situation find it helpful to work with a parenting coach or participate in telephone consultation with a Certified Nurtured Heart Therapist. This service is provided by The Compass Program at Providence Counseling Associates. You can find more information within this site.

No. We have found that when it is authentic, heartfelt, and specific children begin to internalize these successes as their own and essentially download them as personal success. They begin to change what was once a negative portfolio filled with inability, disappointment and anger, and shift toward a personal portfolio that is filled with their personal experience of taking responsibility, doing the right things, helping others, etc. They create a reality based on their own personal power. Eventually, they begin to shift from needing your feedback, to trusting in their own innate abilities and wisdom.