Nurtured Heart Approach to Parenting “Difficult” Children

Would you say that your child has challenging behavior? If your child has ADHD, you just might! Often for kids whose behavior is more difficult, traditional parenting approaches fall short of the mark.

Nurtured Heart

The “Nurtured Heart Approach
–> to parenting is both a philosophy and technique for working with children exhibiting varying degrees of behavioral challenge.  It was developed by psychologist Howard Glasser for use with kids having ADHD and has been extended for use with children having even more challenging behaviors (and to well-behaved children as well).

The Nurtured Heart Approach promotes desirable behavior, builds a child’s character, and supports development of “inner wealth”  by turning upside-down conventional parenting approaches that simply expect “good” behavior and instead focus on setting limits and teaching rules through applying consequences for “bad” behavior.

In contrast, the Nurtured Heart Approach involves limiting the amount of attention given to negative or undesirable behaviors while noticing and acknowledging even small positive behaviors, naming them, “energizing” attention given to them, and valuing their occurrence. What a breath of fresh air for a child with ADD!

The Nurtured Heart approach been applied in a variety of settings: schools, therapeutic relationships and in families. According to Glasser, its greatest value and impact occurs when it is implemented in a family setting.

Movie Analogy

Imagine you are the director/producer/editor of a movie. You get to pick the shots, cut scenes that don’t work well, re-shoot a scene as necessary, create voice-overs, and so-forth. You are in charge of how the story and characters develop and what the final production will be.

Glasser suggests that parents, by the way we respond to our children, are producer, editor and director of the film of the way we shape our children’s perspective of their lives. As parents, we play an active role in creating who our children become by the behaviors we encourage, those we ignore, and the limits we set.

To help parents direct the best film and create the greatest stars, Glasser outlines an approach he calls “The 3 Stands,” detailed in his books and courses (see below):


Wondering if this method might have any value for you?

Try this experiment. For one day, carry around an index card or little notebook.  Mark an “X” on the card, or a page of the notebook, every time you point out a negative behavior in which your child is engaging. Put an”O” any time you acknowledge a positive behavior. At the end of  the day, tally up the Xs and Os.

Then ask yourself “What scenes am I focusing on in the movie of my child’s life? Am I giving the greatest emphasis to the scenes showing the difficult behaviors? Or am I showcasing how great my child is?” If you are focusing mostly on positive behaviors, congratulations! If not, perhaps it’s time to reconsider your approach so that your child can begin to really shine.

To learn more about the Nurtured Heart Approach to parenting,  explore the following resources:

BOOKS by Howard Glasser:         

  • Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach
  • related workbook (by Lisa Bravo)
  • Notching up the Nurtured Heart Approach (for Educators) and workbook
  • You are Oprah – Igniting the Fires of Greatness 



Posted in ADD, ADHD, child, family, parent

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