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Transformation in Adults Creates Greatness in Children

Updated: Jan 1, 2019

“What children want most from adults is connection – energized and intense relationship.”

Howard Glasser and Melissa Block

Howard Glasser and Melissa Block’s book, Notching Up — the Nurtured Heart Approach,  is aimed at “creating a transformation in adults that is founded on the belief in the inherent greatness of children.”

A first reaction might be:

Right. The last thing I need is another book telling me what I did wrong.  My  kid is who needs to transform.  Not me.   Pass.”

But Glasser and Block are not pointing fingers. They believe that all negative attention getting behavior in children is created from a desire to connect and not getting the desired connection from positive behavior.

Diminishing this negative connection seeking behavior requires us NOT to give it energy.  Instead we need to give positive behavior ALL our energy. YES, all our energy. YES, that means:


That’s a tall order for imperfect human beings and not always possible.  But the principle is solid.  We often  miss opportunities on a daily basis to support positive behavior in a way children can feel like they are being really seen.

Instead we typically give more energy and connection to transgressions than to positive behavior. The child might receive face-to-face interaction in the form of minutes of lecturing, warnings and potential punishments discussed in detail.

A child’s negative behavior that could present during a time-out and possibly create an arguement might look like:

“Is it over yet?… How much more time?… Are you sure you won’t forget to tell me?” “I don’t know why it is such a big deal…. “Billy’s Mom doesn’t mind…. You never told me.”

The end result is more connection from negative behavior than positive behavior.

But we have a plethora of opportunities to reverse that.

When a child remembers not to interrupt or puts his dish in the sink or follows a direction on one request or starts his homework without a reminder, we can praise him instead of saying nothing or giving a perfunctory “thanks” or possibly “well, it’s about time”.

The language we might use could look like:

“I see that you remembered to put away your dishes without being told. You showed your ability to remember the things you’ve been practicing. You are also showing your independence by doing things without being asked.”

“I notice [a key word] or I see that you are getting in the car… that shows listening and follow through.”

“I notice or see that you are sitting quietly and waiting….That shows real patience.”

These words manifest no judgement or evaluation. They simply reflect what is being seen and can be used by anyone who interacts with children.

To help us come up with the words, Glasser and Block encourage us to:

  • Control the way we show up in the situation vs. try to fix the child.

  • Energize success vs. empower failure and negativity.

  • Respond vs. react.

  • Notice what we see and then express what the noticed behavior is showing.

  • Un-energetically enforce limits, through a few–YES, ONLY A FEW–clear rules using the word: NO.

Glasser’s concept about rules stimulated me to create–with the help of my students– a 5 rule poster for my therapy room:

  • No whining

  • No being disrespectful

  • No irresponsibility

  • No arguing

  • No distracting behaviors

When a rule is broken, I often use Glasser’s phrasing, reset. To my surprise students often jump back to what we were doing. When asked whether rules were helpful, they all said in their own way they were because they knew exactly what was expected.   They even liked the rules given with the “politically incorrect” NO.

Even before reading The Nurtured Heart Approach, I typically commented on what a child was doing over telling the child how great a painter he is or what a fabulous ball player she is.

Now that I’m doing it more consistently,  I often see a look that I interpret as surprise or curiosity–then a spark of pleasure.

Glasser’s approach champions the greatness of children. He says we can promote this sense of greatness which can “build a sense of Inner Wealth…the basis of great decision making and success.”

I believe it does. And the funny thing is–the more we promote greatness in children or adults, the more we promote it in ourself.

If you want more information about the Nurtured Heart Approach, check out Howard Glasser’s website, The Nurtured Heart Approach.

“The way we communicate affects our joy of being alive.” – Linda

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