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Book Review: Transforming the Difficult Child - The Nurtured Heart Approach

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Book Review: Transforming the Difficult Child - The Nurtured Heart Approach
Cover image courtesy of Howard Glasser

The Bottom Line

By Howard Glasser, MA, and Jennifer Easley, MA; 272 pages. Subtitle: Shifting the Intense Child to New Patterns of Success and Strengthening All Children on the Inside

If you’ve heard of “positive discipline” but wondered how on earth to do it, this is the book that can show you. The Nurtured Heart Approach involves bombarding kids with positive statements, while treating misbehavior with unemotional time-outs. A credit system adds more positive feedback. You may be surprised how well it works.

About the Guide Rating

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  • A good, positive approach that's easy to implement.
  • Constantly looking for good things to say make parents feel more positive, too.
  • Focuses on one behavior management strategy and gives step-by-step instructions.
  • Sample charts and lists are included.
  • Readers with questions can get personalized answers on the authors' Web site.


  • Producing constant positive feedback takes work.
  • Emphasizing praise over punishment may seem weak to some parents.
  • Book's emphasis on ADHD hides the fact that the approach works for other special needs, too.
  • Self-help-style text may turn off some readers.


  • Chapters 1-4 lay the groundwork for the approach, with case studies and lots of self-help language.
  • Chapter 5: Step 1: Active Recognition: Windows of Opportunity.
  • Chapter 6: Step 2: Experiential Recognition: Instilling Those Wonderful Values.
  • Chapter 7: Step 3: Proactive Recognition: A New Spin on Rules.
  • Chapter 8: Step 4: Creative Recognition: Creating Successes That Would Not Otherwise Exist.
  • Chapter 9: Step 5: The Credit System: Bless the Child Who Has His Own.
  • Chapter 10: Step 6: Consequences: Perfect Timing.
  • Chapter 11: Step 7: Extending the Success to School: Good Intentions Are Not Enough.
  • Chapters 12-15 offer additional techniques and more information on intense and ADHD children.
  • Two appendixes add "School Advocacy Advice" and "Safe Hold Techniques for Time-Outs."

Guide Review - Book Review: Transforming the Difficult Child - The Nurtured Heart Approach

Some kids are just more intense than others. Their reactions are bigger, their actions more headstrong, their misdeeds more passionate. One solution to that intensity has been to tamp it down, through medication or strict discipline. “Transforming the Difficult Child” suggests another: Channeling that intensity into more positive, productive expression. This approach has the added benefit of focusing parents on the positive, too.

The authors give the analogy of a video game: While kids are following the rules, they get constant rewards -- points, sounds, lights, new adventures. If they break a rule, the game abruptly ends, no scolding, no bargaining, just “Game Over.” The Nurtured Heart Approach advocates delivering parental attention, feedback and emotion in the same way: a constant stream while behavior is good or neutral, and none at all for rule-breaking, just a quick break in the action.

Too often, parents reverse that sequence: They give minimal feedback for good or neutral behavior -- glad, usually, for a little peace and quiet -- and then are 100% present, with intense emotion and attention, when rules are broken. Kids who crave attention learn how to get it, and can in fact get “addicted” to that emotional intensity, even though it’s negative. Getting them hooked on your praise and positive attention -- making that just as intense as your anger and disappointment have been -- truly can transform intense, difficult kids. It worked for mine.

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