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Exploring the Nurtured Heart Approach: The Inner Wealth Initiative Chapter 1

Parents are often drawn to our school because of our use of the Nurtured Heart Approach, and many have asked to learn more about it and learn how they can implement it in their home lives.

This is the first of a series where we summarize and discuss a chapter of the book The Inner Wealth Initiative, which is geared toward educators but is great for parents too. Over the next few months, we’ll share more on subsequent chapters and will explore other helpful Nurtured Heart Approach resources as well. Parents may enjoy reading this book themselves and following along with our articles.

The Nurtured Heart Approach, a relationship-based approach designed to “awaken the inherent greatness in all children,” is critical to what we do at The Meher Schools. We use the Nurtured Heart Approach because it is perfectly aligned with our values and mission: it emphasizes love, kindness, compassion, and positivity. As others consider whether it is the best option for their homes and their schools, many find additional benefits as well. As the authors of The Inner Wealth Initiative explain, “Using rich relationships balanced with clear limits, the Nurtured Heart Approach increases time actually spent teaching, student achievement, and grades. Children are less worried, less stressed, and less distracted.” (p. 12)

The Inner Wealth Initiative: Chapter 1

We’ll explore the Nurtured Heart Approach in more detail, but The Inner Wealth Initiative lays out the basic principles clearly here (p. 17):

  • “Your energy and relationship are the most valuable prizes you have to give to anyone.

  • “As the teacher, your energy is the most valuable prize in the classroom.

  • “Responding to students’ problems with big doses of your energy is like throwing gasoline on a fire.

  • “The object is to be totally captured by success rather than by problems.

  • “Rules must be clear and their enforcement strict.”

The Nurtured Heart Approach is not just about getting children to behave, though families and schools that use it see a great decrease in behavior problems. It’s about self-esteem, but it’s much more than that too. The authors use the phrase “inner wealth,” which they explain “enables children to use good judgment, make good choices, resist exploitation, choose good partners and friends, think of the future, cope with adversity, take risks, and find courage and love.” (p. 18)

Most parents and teachers tend to have the most energetic responses to the least desirable behavior. Unfortunately, as the authors explain, this traditional teaching and parenting approach “energizes unwanted behavior by giving it stronger, more animated and more vivid acknowledgement than is accorded the behaviors that are desired.” In the Nurtured Heart Approach, however, “The difference is that the excitement, drama, and attention occur in response to good qualities.” (p. 20)

Additionally, children who are used to getting lots of negative attention will form a negative view of themselves. This can be changed, according to the authors, by focusing on the three actions they refer to as the three legs of a three-legged table:

  1. Consistently celebrating the child’s successes

  2. Setting clear limits

  3. Not rewarding negative behavior with attention

In this chapter, the authors regularly refer to a metaphor of our attention being like a hundred-dollar bill. When they see a child misbehave, many parents and teachers unintentionally “hand the child a hundred-dollar bill” while explaining or reacting intensely during the behavior. Our actions speak louder than words! As caregivers learn to see their attention as the “most valuable prize,” or the “hundred-dollar bill,” they can become more aware of when and why they are “handing it out.”

Parents and teachers are sometimes worried about the time it will take to implement the Nurtured Heart Approach on a daily basis. While it takes some time to grow accustomed to the new approach, we’ve found that once it’s in practice, as the authors state, it actually “takes less time” than traditional methods. They say that “When we implement the Nurtured Heart Approach with parents, their intervention with their child typically amounts to something like five minutes a day.” (p. 22)

Chapter 2, which we’ll explore next month, explains how to create situations where the child is successful, instead of waiting to “catch” him or her being successful. It also introduces the metaphor of adults as our children’s favorite “toys,” and goes into more detail about the three-legged table, mentioned above.

Thanks for reading, and thank you for all you do to support the growth and development of your wonderful children!


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