This blog post is long overdue. I have so much and so little to say on this topic. I feel like I’m both an expert and a fraud, but really I’m just a parent who is trying their best to meet our kids’ needs without going crazy.
My boys are currently almost 6 and 4 years old. They’re barely older than toddlers but they’ve already given us a run for our money. I’m becoming increasingly more nervous to see what the teenage years have in store for us.
For those new here, our oldest is a high intensity child. Society labels him as ADHD with sensory processing but to me he’s just my first born. Bright, passionate, sensitive, and loving. He’s amazing at puzzles and math and hasn’t met a Lego set he couldn’t complete.
That hyper focus – that passion – sometimes has a dark side too. One where we’re all left crying and frustrated, unsure of how to proceed. It’s heartbreaking to watch your child lose control of their senses, to be so uncomfortable and afraid that they lash out, unable to keep their impulses in check. And to not allow that behavior to trigger you as a parent? Well that’s a whole other level of personal development that my husband and I work on every single day (more on this later).
We’ve struggled for several years, hired parenting coaches, been kicked out of preschools, in and out of occupational therapy, and cycled through all the different parenting methods multiple times. Nothing helped. The more effort we put in the harder he pushed back.
Then one day his preschool suggested we look into the Nurtured Heart Approach, a therapeutic parenting program built for high intensity kiddos, and that’s when things began to shift.
One night a week for 6 weeks we watched one of the classes in their online course. We integrated each week’s teachings into our parenting until we were practicing the full approach.
We saw results almost immediately. The more we leaned into Nurtured Heart, the better our kids’ behavior became. The outbursts slowly reduced in intensity and frequency, our oldest seems happier and less anxious, and as parents we feel better equipped to handle high intensity moments. We have tools to fall back on, I don’t feel like I’m scrambling to know what to do anymore (for the most part).
So what all did we change then? Here’s the biggest difference between conventional parenting and Nurtured Heart, it’s more about managing your energy than it is your children’s. It’s about connecting to that place of calm deep inside, even when shit is hitting the fan, so that you can show up and be the rock that your high intensity kid needs.
And what is it that they need? Deep connection and to feel seen, heard, and cherished for all the amazing qualities that you know are inside them. This approach completely transforms the way you communicate and connect to your kids by redirecting your parenting energy to only the positives and completely disengaging yourself from the negatives.
In a nutshell, Nurtured Heart is based on 3 stands (or principles):
Here’s an example of how this plays out:
As the parent, you stop energizing negativity. When buttons are being pushed you do your best to not show that it’s triggering you (Stand 1). Ultimately our kids just want our attention, we have to show them that the best way to get our attention and connection is by following the rules. This means when things are going well you tell your kids you’ve noticed A LOT. For example, “I noticed you’re sitting quietly and not bothering your brother, that shows me how much self-control you have” (Stand 2). And finally we have to set clear boundaries/limits with consequences EVERY time a rule is broken (Stand 3). With this approach a consequence looks similar to a time-out, but not quite the same.
There’s a lot more to Nurtured Heart than I can describe here, but this is essentially what we do at home and have seen amazing results.
I can’t say things are perfect – we’re all a work in progress. In times of high stress it’s really easy to revert back to old parenting habits, and that’s usually when we see regressions. This is why we also work with a therapist trained in Nurtured Heart. We meet with her every 2 weeks to discuss specific incidents, review the approach, and set goals.
If you’re also struggling to parent your high intensity child I cannot recommend Nurtured Heart enough. Before learning this approach Mike and I felt so isolated and alone, ill-equipped to handle a kid that seems to be so full of life it can’t be contained in his little body. He just needs a more thoughtful approach, he needs to know that there is greatness inside of him, and he needs to be reminded of it often. That’s when he thrives.
If you’d like to learn more, here are links to the resources we used to get started. I recommend both the book and the course.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Instagram or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.