Dealing with an intense and difficult adolescent can be a challenge that many parents are unprepared for. It can seem like overnight your awkward sweet pre-teen becomes a raging ball of hormones and someone you can’t even recognize. All of your parenting strategies for managing your teen have been woefully ineffective and you may be ready to throw up your hands in defeat. Don’t give up yet! There may be another way to help your family get through these difficult years with your teen. Setting loving limits for your teen using something called the nurtured-heart approach has been shown to be a very successful way of coping with the intense emotions that accompany adolescence.
Originally created by Howard Glasser in 1992, NHA is being successfully implemented through families, classrooms, foster care givers, health care professionals, social workers, and criminal justice organizations that are seeking successful, early intervention techniques.
The nurtured heart approach comes with a philosophy that says that all children have inherent greatness and that if we recognize that the emotional intensity that they’re displaying can be redirected into positive actions, they can manifest this greatness. The three pronged approach requires parents to stand firm, be patient and loving, and to be absolutely consistent in their dealings with their child. This type of approach to “difficult” kids has been extremely successful at all ages and had been a resource for early intervention for at risk children as well.
First you have to stand firm. You must never energize negative behavior. Teens act out very often to get attention, but it’s the wrong kind of attention. When they do, you must be patient and steadfast in refusing to buy into the drama of the moment. You have to keep your cool and not let your teen push your buttons. The first stand you take is: Absolutely No!
Second is: Absolutely Yes! In the second stand you take you will energize the positives. Set your teen up for success and recognize and reward the positives in your child’s actions , attitudes and behavior. Every success builds on the last and you keep the momentum going by making the very next moment another opportunity for your teen to succeed with something positive.
The third is to maintain clarity. This means that your rules and boundaries that you set are absolutely clear and there is no muddying of the waters, so to speak. You’ll never let your teen say, “You said that, but you didn’t say this.” or to be able to put another interpretation on what you’re requiring of them. You must consistently apply consequences whenever rules are broken or boundaries are infringed. This is done without high emotion and your teen has a very clear understanding of the rule and the consequences for breaking them.
This family-centered approach teaches teens that negative behavior is never rewarded and that positives are the only way to receive not only the rewards and good things in the family but the attention that they crave. Turning those negatives into positives teaches young people that intense energy doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You can take that angst, that energy that overwhelms many teens and use it in a positive way that not only benefits society and the family, but the individual themselves. This is a powerful learning experience.
How much better home and family life will be when the drama, door slamming and yelling stops? It is possible to set these loving limits on your teens and enforce reasonable rules and boundaries which make for a happier home and a healthier more well-balanced young adult.
Laurie DiLorenzo, LCSW, is a clinician whose holistic approach to self-care brings health and happiness. She encourages clients to be active and treat themselves well. She enjoys working on all aspects of counseling whether couples, families or friendships. Laurie is available for a free 30 minute telephone consultation if you think she might be the counselor to help you. You can email Laurie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about the nurtured-heart approach see https://childrenssuccessfoundation.com/about-nurtured-heart-approach/