I had the chance to attend a full day workshop at Nurtured Heart Approach Australia recently. As I travelled from Tweed Heads, it was a bit of a drive for me, but after having experienced it, I would drive from much further afield, or even go interstate if necessary, to immerse myself more in this life-changing concept.
Yes, it really is life-changing!
Let me see if I can put into my own words what NHA (that is, the Nurtured Heart Approach) is about. It's a set of tools and ideals to use within relationships to help everyone interact on a deeper and more heartfelt level. This approach is often used within families with children who are intense ('trouble-makers', kids on the ASD spectrum or who have behavioral issues, kids who have experienced traumatic lives or grown up in less-than-ideal circumstances), but the ideas and tools taught can be used in every day life with any family member, in the workplace, applied within the classroom in schools, and even with complete strangers to help enrich the lives of everyone.
Bart Traynor, the director and founder of NHA Australia — a trained clinical psychologist — was the trainer for the group of around 15 or so adults. The group was comprised of child care workers, teachers, and those in social work, as well as parents like myself with kids who present challenging behaviours. I found Bart to be friendly and open, and he demonstrated not just a teaching style that was accessible and easy to follow, but a real heart for the subject matter, and even for us in the room. His manner was disarming in the best possible way.
The day itself was very well-organised: a week before the workshop, I received an email with more information, including the best place to park my car, how the day would be structured, and what would happen on the day. The morning and the afternoon tea breaks were catered with tea, coffee, and snacks that suited varying diets. I would like to have had an alternative to dairy milk so that I could have had a hot tea, but I dare say that if I'd actually asked, then Bart would have done his best to provide for that. For the 45 minute lunch break, we were able to find ourselves a variety of foods from nearby shops. Excellent printed materials were given in a manila folder, and pens for our use to make notes.
As for the approach itself, it's hard to summarise in such a small space, but basically, the idea is that you train yourself to see every possible opportunity that the challenging child is succeeding, and you focus relentlessly, and in a heartfelt way, on those successes, no matter how small. The negatives, the failures, are given less attention, and the high energy that would normally be given to those failures is instead given to the positives, to the successes, and to the lovely things.
For kids who are told every day, perhaps fifty times each day, that they're failing, 'Hurry up, you're always running late!', 'How could you forget your homework again?', 'Don't hit your sister! Why is your first reaction to lash out, every single time?!' it would begin to fill their internal portfolio with different messages if the people around them were to start celebrating the successes instead. Imagine instead 'catching them in the act' of being kind, of being gentle, of sitting and concentrating. Even if it's only for one moment before they go back to undesirable behaviour, to point out that they CAN succeed can make a big difference.
And this method isn't just for kids or schools or families. Wendy, a certified trainer who was assisting Bart, gave an example of using the approach on the lady from whom she'd bought a juice at lunch. The lady had shown her the size of a piece of fresh ginger she was going to use in her juice, and asked if she preferred more or less. Wendy appreciated this and so when she paid for her juice, she said to the lady something like, 'I notice that you took the time to make sure the juice you made was just right for me. That tells me that you care about your customers. I really appreciate it. Thank you!' So you can see that the approach doesn't have to be forced, or unnatural. It can become a part of your every day life.
It took a bit of a mental leap to get my head around NHA, especially how this is virtually removing the 'big stick' way of parenting (although the approach is not entirely void of consequences). And I can see that it'll take practice to start noticing all the positive things that people around me do every day, especially in those closest to me. But to be told examples and shown video of how this approach works in real life, I'm excited about beginning to put it in practise in my own life.
The one day workshop was absolutely worth it. Even if you'd just like to be armed with the tools to help your family to flourish, this will be worth your time. If you have members of your family who are intense, or you work with kids who have challenging behaviours, I fully recommend attending this workshop. If you already think it sounds like something you'll dive into, then perhaps consider a longer course to really help you understand it and start making the approach part of your life. I can't recommend it enough.
I'm even thinking of saving up for the 5-Day Certification Training Intensive with Howard Glasser (who created the approach in 1994), currently being scheduled for early February 2016.
There are quite a number of books available at NHA Australia's website, but Bart makes these available for sale at the workshops, so be ready to buy a book or two if you can't wait for a longer workshop to find out more.
The next Full Day Introductory Workshop is on Friday 28th November, 2014
and they also have a 6-week parenting course scheduled for Wednesday 22nd October, 2014.
Review written by Coralie Nathan.