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Nurturing Children With The Right Energy
By Deanna Chaplin, MFT

We are all energy beings.  Spiritual leaders have proclaimed this for centuries and now Science, by way of Quantum Mechanics, is telling us the same thing.  At our basic structure we are pure energy and therefore more thought than substance.  As energy beings we crave energy - positive or negative.   The currency of this human energy is attention expressed through our emotions.  Healthy humans prefer positive energy but we will take negative energy in lieu of none at all. 

Children will go to great lengths to get our attention and draw out an emotional response (energy) from adults.  And they are very astute in learning all the buttons to push to get it.  They will extract negative or positive energy with the same zeal since they have not learned to differentiate between the need for attention (emotional energy) and the intrinsic value of the method of obtaining it.  Children focus on output.  In other words, what brings the most attention and greatest emotion is what they will subconsciously seek.   As a result, they will form habits and engage in behaviors to garner the most energy either positive or negative.  These habits will carry through into adulthood - unexamined and unconscious - and lay the foundation for many dysfunctional behaviors and traits that we carry as adults.

What you focus on with the most energy is what you will create.  Attention and emotion reinforces good as well as bad behavior.   There is an old Cherokee story that illustrates this point and it goes something like this:

"An elder Cherokee was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them,

 "A fight is going on inside me.  It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. 

One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, and pride.  

The other wolf stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.  

This same fight is going on inside of you and every other person too."
They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather,

"Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied… "The one I feed."

What we feed children, in terms of what we focus our emotional energy on most, is what they will follow.  Unfortunately, most of the time, we give more energy to our children’s negative behavior than positive.  Watch the amount of emotion a parent or teacher will expend when a child has done something wrong versus the amount when he/she has done something right.  And a child, any child, is doing more things right at any given moment than wrong.  How many times a day have you told a child that they are doing a great job because they were doing what they are suppose to.  Most of us don’t.  We give a child virtually nil emotional response (energy) for not doing things wrong versus a lot of energy when they do something wrong.  Logically this is upside down, but few of us have stopped to think about it.  We have been conditioned not to think in these terms; yet spiritual teaching, modern psychology, philosophy, and cutting edge science all say we have it backwards.

This is a central premise of the Nurturing Heart Approach to parenting and teaching pioneered by Howard Glasser.  A caretaker – be it parent or teacher – should minimize energizing negative behavior and maximize energizing positive behavior.  This does not mean that negative behavior is ignored.  It just is not given the same amount of energy as positive/appropriate behavior.  Of course a child needs instruction on what is appropriate or correct and what is not.  And inappropriate behavior should not be allowed.  But, most discipline problems are really not about right or wrong, correct or incorrect, or safe or unsafe.  They are about a child trying to garner attention and emotional energy. 

Simply put, the central tenet of the Nurturing Heart Approach believes a caretaker should impart more positive energy in teaching children than negative.  This may seem counter intuitive to some and a great deal of work to many others.  It is actually a very simple practice to develop and one that will provide lasting and significant results in a very short period of time.  Using the techniques derived from this principle can turn a problem child or difficult adolescent, even one suffering ADHD, around in a matter of weeks.

Emotion is energy and it is transferred though our attention.  What you focus on with your attention and emotions is what you will feed.  Are you feeding more negative or positive conduct?  It is time to nurture children with the right energy to feed positive behavior.

 Deanna Chaplin is a Las Vegas-based, Marriage and Family therapist with Inner Quest Therapeutic Center.  For more information on the Nurturing Heart Approach to dealing with difficult children/adolescents call 796-8607..