At an historically unprecedented rate, schools today are instructing parents to have their children evaluated by a doctor for ADHD. At an unprecedented rate, parents today are deciding on their own to take that step. And at an unprecedented rate, children now are receiving the diagnosis of ADHD or a related disorder, such as Oppositional Defiance Disorder or Conduct Disorder. Never in history have there been so many children medicated long-term with psychotropic drugs, whose long-term effects so far are unknown.
Intensity is a tremendous asset in that it is the child’s vitality, life-force and drive that allows him to truly feel, live, and accomplish to his potential. Misdirected, intensity leads to poor choices, problem behaviors, negative feedback and a life off-track. But channeled well, intensity leads to greatness and a life of utter beauty. Instead of living-out a life of ADHD, ODD, or CD that needs to be “medicated away,” these kids, with their natural endowment of greater intensity, can be transformed into the “best kids on the block” by learning how to handle their intensity well.
There exists a most successful and powerful approach for working with the child who shows ADHD symptoms or difficult behavior in general. It is called the Nurtured Heart Approach® and was developed by Howard Glasser, a Family Therapist in Tucson, Arizona. Since 1992, his approach has achieved significant and often dramatic changes with tens of thousands of parents and therapists, as well as in residential treatment programs and therapeutic foster-care programs. When practiced in earnest, it just flat-out works! In the past decade this intervention has evolved to become the primary approach in an estimated 10,000 classrooms and schools across the United States, South America, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, South Africa and Australia.
The Nurtured Heart Approach is a method of parenting or teaching children with ADHD and others who are highly intense or difficult by transforming the focus of their intensity and energy from one of ongoing opposition, negativity and failure into one of success and achievement. It is comprised of easy-to-grasp concepts and is straightforward in its execution. Here are its basic principles:
• ADHD children are more intense and have a far higher need for attention, energy, and interaction than do children without ADHD. If they do not receive the needed energy and intensity through positive behaviors (like following rules, cooperating, behaving well), they will quickly find ways to receive it for negative behavior. To them, this is far better than receiving no energy at all.
• The Nurtured Heart Approach provides tools for consciously increasing the levels of attention and energy given to positive behaviors while drastically decreasing the attention and energy given to negative behaviors.
• Consistent discipline is crucial: rules are strictly and consistently enforced through brief, un-energized “time-outs” or other interventions.
When this program is followed wholeheartedly on a daily and regular basis – when hyper Helen or defiant David start to get more and more attentive relationship for everything they are doing right and little or no attention for what they are doing wrong – their behavior just naturally changes. They begin to see that their positive behaviors produce the intensity and relational connection they crave, while their negative behaviors don’t produce much of anything. They are no longer getting $100 bills (in the form of energy) for acting out, but for acting appropriately. Their self-esteem also improves as the proportion of positive to negative feedback in their lives soars higher and higher.
On the surface this paradigm looks like “positive parenting” that we have all heard before. But it is much more than that. Rather than just being a set of principles, it is a structured method – a tool – that empowers us to effectively implement those principles in a ramped-up fashion. This expanded way of examining the concepts we know leads ADHD children not simply to improve, but to become transformed into our greatest kids from the inside out.