Nurtured Heart Approach strategy transforms difficult children by building ‘inner wealth’

In her former job as a parenting coach for Cass County Social Services' child protection department in Fargo, Tanya Fraizer worked with people who were having trouble raising their children.

Difficult children

In her former job as a parenting coach for Cass County Social Services’ child protection department in Fargo, Tanya Fraizer worked with people who were having trouble raising their children.

“Parents often were desperately searching for tools” to more effectively interact with kids who “had a lot of behavioral issues,” she said.     

She saw children who exhibited “some anger, some defiance,” which, she said, was understandable given their circumstances.  

In 2010, she became a trainer for the Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA), a strategy to improve parenting and classroom success that was developed by Howard Glasser, author of “Transforming the Difficult Child: the Nurtured Heart Approach.”

The approach has been used for children with conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, Asperger’s syndrome and oppositional defiant disorder, but it’s effective for others too, Fraizer said.


“It works for high-roller kids and the easy compliant kids.”   

Raising kids to believe that they are valuable, good, competent and able to cope and succeed in life is the goal of parents, educators, counselors and every person who touches the lives of children in a meaningful way, according to Glasser and his colleagues.

This begins with transforming what children believe about themselves. NHA transforms students’ character and spirit, giving them a deep conviction that they can cope with problems and succeed socially and emotionally, Glasser says.

‘Difficult’ kids

Fraizer owns Heart To Heart Consulting, a company that provides training, coaching and consulting, and contracts her services as director of the trainer network for Children Success Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by Glasser to oversee the NHA mission worldwide.    

“The culture sees children as ‘difficult’ when they don’t fit into a box,” she said. “They may be explosive, stubborn, or introverted to the place where they won’t engage.”

NHA methods prepare parents and teachers to motivate children away from using their intensity in primarily negative ways and towards using it in creative, constructive ways, according to Fraizer.    

“It’s about helping people to see that behind those behaviors is actually a personality trait” that can help children succeed in life.


For example, a stubborn child may frustrate a parent or teacher but that same trait later is evident as “tenacity and persistence, which are valuable in adults,” Fraizer said.     

“Difficult children are using their intensity in a misaligned manner,” she said. “You don’t have to get rid of tenacity, but use it differently.”   

At its core

“The core of the Nurtured Heart Approach is building ‘inner wealth’ in people you encounter,” Fraizer said. “People need a strong sense of self to navigate the world. It’s being intentional about seeing what’s right about someone…

“We so naturally see what’s wrong in other people. We’re so married to punishment as a vehicle or as a means of changing behavior. And it’s not working; just look at the penal system in this country.

“It’s about retraining the eye to see what’s right about a person. If you can shift focus to see what’s right, it helps to extinguish those (negative) behaviors,” she said.

“That’s not to say that clarity is not important or that consequences (for behavior) are not important, but they’re not what makes the magic happen. 

“Building a rich connection relationship with the child is.”  


The approach is effective in changing behaviors in children, Fraizer said, because “they want that connection. We all want to be seen; we all want to be connected.”

The nationally recognized approach teaches adults how to energize the child’s experience of success while not accidentally energizing his or her experiences of failure, Glasser writes.

Traditional approaches for parenting and teaching reward children by providing more energy, involvement and animation when things are going wrong.

“When a child is being compliant, how much connection (to the adult) do they have?” Fraizer said. Probably not a lot.

“Children learn when they cause problems, all of a sudden people show up. They’re not trying to be pains; they just want to connect… We need to show up more when things are going well.”

“It’s so fun to see a child blossom and start connecting with people without being destructive to do it,” she said.

“When children are given the language about what’s right, it has an impact on the suicide rate, drug use and self-harm. There’s a strong correlation to bullying and to interrelationship skills.”

With NHA, you not only tell children what they’re doing right, you prove it to them, she said.


Then, “if kids get negative input (like bullying), they think, ‘I have this evidence to show that that’s not true.’

“It not only makes people feel better, it’s about building stronger people.” 

Strategy basics

Fraizer said that NHA promotes three strategies, or core philosophies, that is calls “stands”:

  • Absolutely No: Refusing to energize negativity.
  • Absolutely Yes: Intentionally focusing on positivity by creating and celebrating success

“We teach how to see success in a broader way,” she said. “It can be something like, ‘you brought your homework home from school.’ We teach parents to create a smaller scope for what is right and how to talk about those successes, what you see in factual detail, and what those successes say about who that person is.”  

  • Absolutely Clear: Creating clear limits and consistent consequences, so children are aware of where their boundaries are. Consequences are “quick and predictably boring, otherwise they become a reward if they give the child a feeling of connection and relationship,” she said.

Using this approach, she helped with a couple build a better relationship with their son, a “violent teen (who) was walking a fine line with legal stuff.”
“The parents became clear and factual about who he truly was,” she said.

With time, the teenager “turned his grades around in school, began to seek out his parents for connection, and got a scholarship to play sports in college. That’s transformation…

“Even the desperately challenging teen wants to be connected.”   


Dr. Judith Konerza, parent resource coordinator for Grand Forks Public Schools, said NHA is one of several programs that “have as a core tenet: what you see if what you look for.”

“We want to encourage and build each other up,” she said.

In today’s busy and rushed lifestyles, parents may let impatience rule how they speak to their children.   

Her experience in an NHA session “really got us thinking about ‘what are the effects of my words?’” she said.

With difficult kids, in intense situations, NHA helps parents and teachers “to see the strengths in that child and help (him or her) to integrate into the school or the day care and to use that intensity for their advantage, their well-being,” she said.

“You might say to the child, ‘Wow, I really see you put an effort into that. Thank you,’” she said. “Or when things don’t go as planned, you may say, ‘We didn’t finish that. How to do you want to finish it?’”

Parents’ and teachers’ goal is to reinforce that children are connected and they can make contributions, she said.    

“As teachers, our role is to teach and put skill set into our students. That comes through teaching, modeling and practice.” 


The NHA emphasis on building relationships is crucial, she said. “When I invest in the relationship, I automatically invest in solutions and goal-setting.”   

Fraizer, who’s been in parent education for about 12 years, was one of the first North Dakotans to be trained in NHA, she said. “It’s an up and coming approach.”

It’s valuable not only to parents and teachers, but also social workers and therapists and to improve the culture of business settings and in the faith community, she said.

“Anyplace there’s a relationship, this concept applies.” 

NHA “is the only thing I teach,” she said. “It’s been a gift for me, my family and professionally.

“I’m a significantly healthier person because of NHA.”  

Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at or (701) 780-1107.
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