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Writing a ‘living bio’ is so essentially different from a professional bio that can get continually refined until it barely has any life force left to it. This is an attempt to share the greater part of my journey in a way that brings my heart squarely into the telling of who I am and what I stand for.

Part of my story is a twist to the fact that I was being raised by loving parents. They truly tried as hard as they knew how to reach me… to set me on the straight and narrow. However having only normal and traditional methods of parenting at their disposal, my intensity and challenging choices left them in an endless array of compromised positions. Not only were the lessons they were striving to teach not having the intended impact but the progression of my ever-more difficult behaviors combined with their limited repertoire of techniques made life combustible at every turn.

As a young adult, even my best-intended desire to remedy this by seeking help by way of varied conventional therapies and several different ways of finding forgiveness barely made a dent in my disrepair. The gap in relationship with my family only grew with time. Ultimately relationship with my parents was not recoverable and for better or worse this loss continues to play a big part in my story.

Helping children and parents to not lose one another, helping them to not suffer disconnection in their key relationships and in contrast helping relationships to be a positive influence has become one of the many core passions that carries forward in my life work. Perhaps this passion to some extent is captured in the title of my first book, Transforming the Difficult Child.

The second passion I carry has become the crux of my work, that of helping children to have a congruent and positive relationship internally with their intensity and helping them to awaken to their greatness.

So many children get thrown off course in life and inadvertently begin hating their intensity and life force as a result of experiencing people who can’t handle it. Perhaps worse of all, many adults point back at the child and make the case that no one can handle this child… not the child, not their teachers, not their parents, and we need to make their intensity go away…most often with medications.

These passions have become a hill to die on, so creating first the Children’s Success foundation and then the Nurtured Heart Institute to bring the approach around the world became my dream come true. My vision was to gain more access to educational programs, initiatives, organizations and homes so as to help more and more children to discover that their intensity is in fact their gift. By this point in my journey in 1996 I was confident that the Nurtured Heart Approach indeed awakens children to their greatness and gives each child a sense of who they really are as a great person with great things to contribute.

My personal struggles as an intense child led me to so many challenging situations and relationships. My challenges didn’t end in childhood and led me to death’s door on quite a few occasions. I created the Nurtured Heart Approach, a perspective and practice for transforming challenging children, out of a passion to spare other intense children from such heartbreaks.

During the year of my dissertation as part of my graduate studies in clinical psychology, I felt strongly called to pursue my childhood dream of doing a woodworking. Having gone straight through school to that point it felt like a year off would serve me well in life.

Even though I had wonderfully compelling internship experiences in the field of Milieu Therapy, studying with leaders in that then emerging field, I sensed that I needed to step out of that world for a while to live life fully.

I also knew in my heart that if I completed my doctorate without taking this break, I risked becoming a stodgy, pompous clinician, stuck within APA lines in terms of standard treatments. Without this precious life experience in cabinetmaking, I would have never found the creative edge that now informs my work as a therapist.

So, into the world of woodworking I charged, and live life fully I did. The dream began as much a nightmare though. Breaking into a field where my intentions were great and my skills were marginal, I had to take the roundabout route of apprenticing. I spent months sweeping floors, moving cabinets and sanding endlessly. It was not the fun break from the rigors of doctoral work I had hoped for, but nevertheless it was compelling.

Eventually I become an accomplished cabinetmaker, doing ultra-modern architectural design, then a sculptor of unique curved wood pieces. Mastering this craft got me out of my head and into my heart. It afforded me the time, space and the luxury to find my spirit, kindness and love for humanity. At the same time, I burned the candle at both ends and the middle…living a New York City fast-lane after hours life that pushed my limits, however that brought me alive in ways I hadn’t known possible.

I would never return to my former restrained and vacant sense of self. These profound changes and challenges helped me to find my deepest core of being, and through this transformational time, I eventually found my way to a purposeful and intentional life. Running into numerous walls is what it took to tenderize my being.

When I finally returned to my work as a therapist, I was really ready. I had preciously fresh eyes and for the first time since beginning my higher education, I was unencumbered by the theories and philosophies of others, which had been so easy to fall into the sway of. In my graduate work I had actually studied with a few influential professors who had studied directly with Freud and Jung.

Quickly, I came to understand why my previous ways of working with families…approaches I’d diligently learned…had fallen away as not viable. Sometimes these standard approaches actually seemed to make the family’s situation even worse than it was before we began.

Day after day, I saw more clearly that the energy of the advice I offered through standard theory and practice was no different in essence to all the urgings the families had been trying all along and it was all energetically contradicting to what actually needed to happen.

Yes, these well-intended parents who came to me wanted to put out the fires of their child’s current bad choices however their underlying intention was greater that that… to create connected, healthy relationship with their child and that’s where the misses kept unraveling things.

It pained me to see family after family simply trying, and then trying even harder, all the common and normal methods that seemed to actually deepen their disconnect with their child and their parenting journey. For however long this had been going on they had been losing hope that a turnaround could be achieved. This created huge suffering for them and enormous frustration for me.

I think that frustration on my side of things was a key. I began to have what felt like total recall of my own challenging childhood, but now on a level of energy that I had never before suspected was in play. I was a doozy of a kid, challenging my way through childhood and although I had done my best to forget those years, something about the bind I was in brought back the whole strange trip, in Technicolor.

In watching these families struggle with difficult children, I began to relate with my own parents’ struggle in raising me. I realized that although my own parents loved me, they had been stuck. They didn’t have the tools to help me and all they’d had at their disposal were parenting methods that couldn’t possibly work on their challenging child. Not only did they not work: they were energetically throwing gas on the fire of my bad behavior. The harder they tried to make their conventional methods work, the worse the problems became, and the farther we got from the connected, positive relationship we’d all have preferred.

This gave me great compassion for the plight of well-intentioned parents (and educators and treatment professional) trying as hard as can with the many methods out there that have little or no chance of working with the intense child.

This now was more than a mind-memory…I was feeling every nuance of it energetically, in my body, and it was rattling me to my core. Although it was tough to endure, it provided me with the gateway I needed to develop a method that would work to bring even the toughest kids back into positive and connected relationship.

I’d burned through method after method in my therapeutic desperation to help, and finally…through this visceral and slightly terrifying series of insights…I came to realize that so many of these schools of thought and practice were based on a few undermining and unproven beliefs.

Beliefs like: if only the feelings and hurt get expressed, all will be healed. Or: if we dig up the past and do all we can to understand why things went wrong, we’ll know what to do to fix it – and if we don’t go through that process of digging through the past, we’ll never solve the problems of the present.

Over a lifetime, the parents had responded to broken rules and boundary-pushing with the pushbacks of lectures, reprimands, discussions and more…all energetically rewarding forms of interaction, connection and engagement.

When the child messed up, he got close, juicy connectedness and time spent viv-a-vis the negativity. When he did the right thing, he received little to no energy of connected relationship, At most, typically, a low-key ‘thank you’ or ‘good job.’ And it turns out that even though we all truly get busy with all we are up to, we are never too busy for a problem.

Kids can so easily come to a conclusion based on the truth of their life that so much more closeness and responsive connection actually arrives their way through negativity. Kids are not out to ruin anyone’s life. They are essentially simply seeking and finding their way to better broadband. And unless we are awake to how not to fall into this trap that is an inherent flaw of conventional methods. Better broadband, so to speak, is remarkably available through a child’s poor choices every which way they turn. No one wants to go back to dial up.

I began to see that these beliefs were undermining my efforts to help intense children. The energy of interaction and response became almost visible to me. In this vivid energetic dimension, I came to experience that even the parent’s most loving attempts to talk to his or her child in the midst of an issue or problem was tantamount to handing the child a hundred-dollar bill in response to misbehavior and negativity. No one would ever do that on purpose.

With children with more even temperaments, conventional styles were not so problematic, but with difficult children, this dynamic was a setup for disaster. These children needed more intense connection and they’d do whatever they felt necessary to get the strongest linkup available. No wonder they were ramping up their bad behavior in response to traditional approaches! I had done the same thing in my own childhood.

It made perfect sense: it was all about energy. We were giving these kids our energy at the wrong times.To change this energetic equation, it would be necessary to give radical appreciation in response to anything that didn’t involve breaking rules or pushing boundaries.

I began to see rapid shifts in the dynamics of families I was treating in my therapy practice. Piece by piece, I gave them ways to move forward to create a new energetic impression. We all learned and experimented together. These parents were thrilled to the core about their newly positive impact. I was getting great results in my practice. My clients told others about the dramatic turnarounds they’d seen in their children.

A local therapeutic program urged me to present my dramatic results with ADHD and Oppositional Defiance Disorder to their staff. The notion terrified me and for a year, I turned down their invitations. Then, finally, as their pressures escalated, I reluctantly gave in and agreed to share my work.

After all, I had never set out to invent a therapeutic approach yet I was simply fascinated in how this approach was in essence, developing me.

I had every reason to be afraid. I was unprepared and tremendously disorganized. I had no previous experience presenting. And what I was offering was contradictory to accepted theory and practice. In my worst nightmares about the presentation was that I would be laughed out of the conference room for my strange ideas.
At the end of that grueling first day of presenting, I felt awful. By the end, I resolved never to present on my methods again. However a month later, as I was doing my grocery shopping, a man approached me. He introduced himself as Armando Zurita, and told me that he ran the Family Preservation program at the organization where I’d given my talk. He told me that after hearing me speak, he had encouraged my methods to the 10 therapists he supervised. Just one month later they all were using my approach and having great results.

I had every reason to be afraid. I was unprepared and tremendously disorganized. I had no previous experience presenting. And what I was offering was contradictory to accepted theory and practice. In my worst nightmares about the presentation was that I would be laughed out of the conference room for my strange ideas.
At the end of that grueling first day of presenting, I felt awful. I resolved never to present on my methods again. A month later, as I was doing my grocery shopping, a man approached me. He introduced himself as Armando Zurita, and told me that he ran the Family Preservation program at the organization where I’d given my talk. He told me that after hearing me speak, he had encouraged my methods to the 10 therapists he supervised. Just one month later, pretty much all of them were using my approach and having great results.

The fear and excitement I felt of that news took my breath away. What in the world was I supposed to do with that? The approach didn’t even have a name at that point.

In the months that followed, I asked a few therapist friends, including Armando, if they’d be willing to meet. From that meeting emerged the Tucson Center for the Difficult Child. This Center became the incubator for continued development of this approach. We were getting referrals now not only for ADHD kids, who I now viewed as a piece of cake, but also for the toughest kids in town. My defiant nature, along with my passionate interest in seeing what was possible, served me well as I progressively amplified the approach to suit even extremely difficult children. I learned to use ‘notched up’ versions of the same approach on them, boosting the approach’s intensity until it had the effect of flipping the energetic equation…inspiring the child to believe that he or she could count on energized connection from adults when making positive choices and following rules, instead of going negative to achieve that same end.

I was also fascinated in how I could use the very same approach to move even the most resistant families into an experience of their greatness as well. At some point that just became a parallel part of the therapeutic journey. I got to see how extraordinary even the most frustrated parents could become, given the right outlook and strategies. My compassion and empathy grew as I saw the truth of the vast transformations they were now able to propel on behalf of their child and it became easy to see that’s what they were wanting in their heart all along, even when things were going so poorly.
Previously difficult children nurtured in this way developed vast stores of what I now call Inner Wealth. They became more resilient, more emotionally intelligent, and more empathic and sensitive. They developed a positive relationship with their own intensity, the fire within them that might previously have gone awry or been misused in an effort to connect. As they saw that greatness was a better fire to fuel with this intensity, they became unstoppable.

People started asking where they could buy my book. Eventually, I saw that the universe was letting me know that it was time to write one. With my first book, Transforming the Difficult Child, the Nurtured Heart Approach made its debut, finally with this approach having its own name.

This name had come to me a good ten years earlier, when a mentor of mine was trying to come up with a name for something he was writing about. I remember the moment vividly even now, though it happened 40 years ago. “How about the Nurtured Heart Approach?” I said, and he closed his eyes and contemplated for a long minute or two. Then, he looked at me with a big smile and said, “No, that’s yours.”

At the time, I was still immersed in woodworking, and had no use for the name I’d created. It turned out to be a perfect fit for this new methodology that emerged from my experience, intuition and heart. I can now see the miracle of even having it come to mind at just the right time.

In the years since, I’ve authored many more books and given hundreds of presentations and seminars, both in person and online. I’ve consulted with thousands of parents, schools and therapists. Many of those I train go on to train others by way of becoming a Certified Nurtured Heart Approach Trainer. We are forming an amazing network of adults whose primary purpose is to help children forge congruent and positive relationship with their intensity and life force.

Adults who dive into this purposeful journey with me are often surprised at how much it changes them. They soon recognize that having the desired impact on children requires that they, too, undergo a positive transformation. This Approach supports everyone it touches to use their intensity and life force in awakening to who they really are as a person with a constellation of great qualities and unique contributions that they bring to their life and their world.

My incredible daughter Alice is a brimming example of a young person living her greatness and embracing her own intensity. She is a talented graduate of Rhode Island School of Design. Through her art, yoga, and small farming efforts along the way, and great faith, she has built a creative, passionate and compassionate life. Her artwork has graced the covers of many of my books. Years ago now I accused Alice of being a mystic and she simply agreed. She provides a shining example of the way inner wealth, built from the earliest years of childhood, unfolds almost effortlessly into beautiful relationships and endeavors.

My latest adventure is called the Nurtured Heart Institute which is a result of my newest waves of passion to bring the Nurtured Heart Approach to schools and treatment communities around the world. It serves offering Certification Training Intensives worldwide and offering classes, workshops and seminars on all the unique and growing variety of applications of this approach by way of our Great Voices of NHA Learning Platform.

The aim is to both help all children and now all adults discover that their intensity is, in fact, their gift that is the fuel that amplifies their unique greatness.

The Nurtured Heart Approach® gives parents, educators and treatment professionals a powerful, consistent way to awaken children to their greatness. It gives children a sense of the ways they light up the runway of life with their unique contributions.

In the years I have done this work, I have encountered so many children and adults who’ve gotten a message that something is dreadfully wrong with their intensity. In many instances, they believe that medications are necessary to tamp it down. I have dedicated my life to fighting this message.

My experience is that the most intense kids are the best and brightest kids on the planet. With the right strategies, they get to be not the bad kid, or even the good kid, but the great kid, with great things to contribute.

It’s time to stop tamping down strong life force. We need our intensity for fulfilling our dreams and having a passionate life, for being authentically and fully aligned to our purpose. Medicating this away cuts children off from the fire of who they really are. Why would that be any different for adults?

The notion in the past has been that one possible alternative “cure” for intensity in a child is to channel it into a sport, interest or activity. We can play much bigger. We can awaken children/people/anyone to their greatness. They then get to channel their intensity in wonderful directions and all get to experience the beauty of their positive contributions. The person who comes to accept and grow into his or her core greatness then acts-out greatness and manifests it in every aspect of life. It’s a much better way to act out, and it’s what was being hoped for all along.

My mission might sound strange: it has been to inspire others to inspire others to propel children to greatness, creating ever-wider circles of positive influence in treatment, education and community.

Now my mission and vision has expanded to inspiring others to inspire others exponentially. Everyone! Why Not? My belief is that this framework is a perfect vehicle to accomplish exactly that… awakening greatness in our children and in us all.

Howard Glasser is a founding partner of the Nurtured Heart Institute
and creator of The Nurtured Heart Approach®.

Howard Glasser is the Chairman of the Board of the Children’s Success Foundation
and creator of The Nurtured Heart Approach®.