Monday, March 16, 2009

Howard Glasser's Nurtured Heart Approach

I've owned a copy of Howard Glasser's Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach for several years now, but based on my underlinings, I don't think I made it through the book the first time. Over spring break, I finished rereading Transforming the Difficult Child, made it through a six-hour DVD showing a seminar version, and read The Inner Wealth Initiative: The Nurtured Heart Approach for Educators.

Glasser is a somewhat New Age-y guy in a turtleneck, but thanks perhaps to all his experience dealing with truly desperate situations, he has his feet on the ground. His principles are not novel (reinforce good behavior, don't reinforce bad behavior). What is unusual is how well-worked out his system is and how well he walks his readers and viewers through the pitfalls of parenting and teaching difficult children. Glasser thinks that difficult children need different handling from ordinary children. He puts "catch them being good" on steroids. If Jonah isn't hitting his sister, say something like "Jonah, you are doing a really good job of not hitting Emily!" Glasser thinks that even five minutes total of enthusiastic and detailed praise sprinkled throughout the day can help transform a difficult child. That's phase one of his plan. Phase two is to institute a credit system to reward good behavior. Phase three is consequences for bad behavior. Phase three is somewhat fuzzier than phases one and two, in my opinion. To be fair, by the time you get to phase three, a lot of bad behavior will already have disappeared.

I'm going to be pulling out quotes and perhaps sharing some of my thoughts. Text in bold is from Transforming the Difficult Child. Here we go:
  • Some "enlightened" approaches recommend explicitly telling your children how you feel when they act out. "It hurts my feelings when you hurt your sister." "It makes me sad when your teacher tells me that you were not paying attention in school." These approaches, although potentially effective for the average child, backfire with the intense child. Not only are you displaying where the buttons are for future use by the difficult child, but you wind up giving payoff: your energy and attention to the problem behavior. Other approaches call for lengthy discussions or discourses in relation to the problem behaviors. Any way you slice it, it adds up to more energetic payoffs for exactly the behaviors that you least want to reinforce. Why water weeds?
  • ...If a child has a pre-existing perception that she gets more out of life by acting negatively, and we take only the stand of intensifying the rules or the harshness of the consequences, we will actually make things worse. A child in this situation will size up the new circumstances and conclude that, by breaking the new rules, she can now get a new array of reactions and payoffs. This can pique her interest and she will often surmise that she and her parents now are simply playing for bigger and more interesting stakes. She will not be doing this on purpose, but the addictive side of the habit will draw her toward the prospect of a larger response.


Anonymous said...

Glasser likens his approach to that of a three legged table with out all three the table would not stand --- as is with this approach it will not work w/o all three aspects. I think you missed something on the "second leg" is not the credit system, although I understand the confusion, it is actually to refuse to energize negativity (the credit system is a tool to utilize that assists in keeping you consistent) I dont think the "third Leg" is at all fuzzy -- that is anymore. It is remember to not allow a broken rule to go w/o a consequence which might be as simple as a time out. Short sweet and to the point w/o any (emotional) energy given --- He also points out that all consequences is really time out of some life aspect so when we think of time out we might need to broaden our definition. I totally agree that by the time you get to the third concept the need for the perfectly balanced consequence is minimal, because positive results increase so rapidly using the first two aspects of approach!

Love2Learn said...

I have been using Glasser's methods for years now. I sort of had the idea, but the instructions, sample dialogue and case studies made it crystal clear. I work in an Educational Therapy clinic, and the "hard to handle" kids get put on this program. We even require Educational Therapists to get trained in implementing the program and offer the training to parents. It isn't magic, it doesn't happen over night, and consistency is key. Good luck!

Asatar Bair said...

Thanks for this great post! I interviewed Howard Glasser recently on our IAM University of the Heart blog. Check it out!