The Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA) is described as a social emotional strategy that instills greatness and transforms negative behaviors into positive behaviors, increases relationships and connectivity among family members, couples, teachers and students and builds “inner wealth” more commonly known as character strengths and virtues.Our school has won national awards for using this approach. ALL teachers will be trained before classes start this fall. I'm very excited about that.
Life in the Thomas household is a lot of conflict, yelling, strong personalities, battle of wills, screaming, time outs, crying, etc. It hasn't been pleasant for a long time (not constant unpleasantness but enough) and I KNEW as the parents, Jim and I had to try something else because what we were doing was NOT working. I took a one hour class on the NHA in order for Finn to go to a camp this summer and I was hopeful that this might be the answer for our family. But one hour by one parent did not a transformation make!
Thankfully, they offered a summer class which is two three hour sessions. Jim and I went to the first class last night (Thank you, Lynn, for watching the kiddos!). It is COMPLETELY counter-intuitive to how most people parent and gives me anxiety when trying to think about HOW to implement this approach and doubts that it can/will even work. We left class last night with the direction to take baby steps and try using the approach over the next week before our next class and be prepared to report back how it went. Hmmm...
I didn't sleep a ton last night because I was trying to think of ways to implement this approach in our day-to-day, minute-by-minute life. How "should" I respond if "X" happens? How do I stay calm if "Y" happens? How do I handle nap/bed time without tantrums and explosions? Etc. So I started small by calling out good behavior right away this morning. "Korri, I see that you are playing nicely with your brother without fighting. That shows you are a good team member and being kind." Not THAT hard and you should have seen her soul light up. Yes, her soul! Children crave this kind of positive attention.
I used the positive "yes" as often as I could think of this morning and by the time t-ball came around after lunch, we'd only had ONE meltdown and I gave NO energy to it. I felt like a new person. Maybe this really CAN work? I don't know about you but as a parent, I want to build my children up instead of pushing them down. If you stop and REALLY dissect how you talk to your kids, you may be shocked at how often what you say is negative, nagging, shaming or sometimes mean (not that you intend it to be). I also noticed while trying this out, that when I do give praise (which I was already doing) it is geared toward them making ME happy, not focused on what they are doing well. "That makes mommy happy when you clear the table." Um, who cares? The only thing that will do is create people-pleasers and that isn't the point of this at all.
The aforementioned meltdown was Korri's surrounding playing Legos and Finn took something she was playing with. I waited until she took a breath from her screaming and I said, "Korri I see that you are really upset but that you calmed yourself down. That shows a lot of self-control and I know it wasn't easy." She was like, "yes it did and no it wasn't!" And moved on. No hitting. No retaliation. No more screaming. Huh. SO, I'm working hard on really being mindful of what I'm saying and taking a breath before reacting or even responding.
I'm also finding that while Korri's behavior is the behavior that is most intense and causes us the most frustration, if I use this technique on Finn when Korri is around, she just soaks it in and wants the praise, too. "Finn, I see you are helping by playing with Baby. That is very responsible of you and helps our family." Thirty seconds later, guess who is playing with baby and pointing out to me how responsible SHE is? Yup, and this is after trying this approach out for ONE morning. She is our intense/spirited child but she is also our emotional, needs-a-hug child. She is soaking this up like a dried sponge. Let's face it, kids soak up what is given to them and I'd prefer it be positive, character building things, rather than shaming, negative things.
I was dreading nap time today, as I do almost every day. I was clear about expectations and we almost had an incident about who was sleeping where, but it wasn't even a bump. After laying down, they each "needed" me for one thing, which I calmly addressed (normally, I would just start yelling about it being rest time and to be quiet), and I didn't hear a peep after. Hmmm...again, could this actually work? I hope and pray that is does. I want to have a strong, purposeful relationship with our children and if things had continued how they were, I didn't see that happening.
Again, its been one class and one morning. But I'll take the day we've had so far. This is simply a tool but the tools we had weren't working. Maybe this tool will. Say a prayer for our family that we can turn around the negative rut we've been in and start a new journey down an amazing path that brings us all closer together and to be happier people.
More to come. I'm sure all mornings won't be like today and there will be hard times since this is new to all of us. But I'm hopeful. And that is something to be excited about!