Updated: Jan 9, 2021
After I took a training to be a Nurtured Heart Approach® trainer in Atlantic City, my practice began to change and I saw a new way of building children’s inner wealth™. The Nurtured Heart Approach® is a method that recognizes and celebrates greatness. I was looking for a new way to work with parents and teachers to build success. I couldn’t bare to do another behavioral chart or token jar. NHA® came along just in time.
Now, the Nurtured Heart Approach® is part of my life. I breath it, I dream it, I teach it, I live it. I have always been a positive person and would be the first one to see the greatness in every individual, but I recognized I was not putting energy into what was needed. I put energy into the negativity, with a compassionate heart and a zest to heal the pain of my clients. I thought that the more I could comfort those in need, the better they would feel. I realized that I was energizing children’s negative behaviors by giving attention to it, which gave them incentives to continue these behaviors. When challenging behaviors arise, many will join in the chaos and give negative energy to the child. Energy is energy, negative or positive. If children are getting energized by their behaviors, they will continue to do it. Howard Glasser, creator of The Nurtured Heart Approach® states “Children read energy like braille.” We need to energize the positive behaviors and recognize that children are successful more of the time then they are not. For more information on The Nurtured Heart Approach®, visit www.childrenssuccessfoundation.com.
As a play therapist, I love the marriage of the Nutrured Heart Approach® and play therapy. Out of NHA® came an intervention that has come to be one of my favorite activities in the playroom and to introduce in my workshops. I have shared my interventions throughout the country and it is exciting to see how many people are having success with the simplicity of greatness sticks.™
What are greatness stick™?
Greatness sticks™ are popsicles that are filled with words of positive qualities. I have the greatness sticks out in my office (in a cup) and they are used in many different ways. Below are some of the many ways to use greatness sticks™.
With a child and family member: Place a cup of greatness sticks™ in front of child and parent/caregiver and ask them to pick a stick and say how their child possesses this quality. I have the child and parent place each stick in the kinetic sand. I love kinetic sand that you can buy at Michael’s, Walmart , Amazon or make your own.I have used other sand for this activity but kinetic sand holds the sticks up the best. A parent may ask “Are there any negative qualities?” Can we talk about the tantrums and how rude my child is to me?” The reply is “There are no negative qualities in this activity. It is about the strengths your child has, not the weaknesses." They can then pick a miniature from the sandtray collection that represents them or draw a picture and place it in the sand. For those who do not have sand, once the greatness sticks are selected, the client draws a picture of how this activity made them feel and the greatness sticks™ surround the picture. I had one child make a house with Lincoln Logs and then the parent was able to pick the sticks and fill the house with greatness sticks™. The child who was unable to list one positive quality lit up as his mother filled the house with these sticks. Always have empty sticks and invite others to add positive qualities to the collection. They can write on the stick with marker or sharpie. Sometimes clients take their greatness sticks home as a transitional object.
Individuals: I take out the sticks and ask them to pick the qualities they possess. One teen was really stuck and didn’t think she possessed any of these qualities, and asked for her mother to come in. Her mother was able to show her that she had all of these qualities and more. Sometimes it is difficult to acknowledge these qualities and it is powerful when a parent, sibling , teacher or clinician can help them see their true greatness. The child will but these sticks in the sand or out on the table so all the qualities could be seen together. To expand on this, I then ask them to pick the qualities that they see in their parents and siblings. Having children, teens and adults pick positive qualities in their siblings can be challenging but it is amazing how many they add. As a way of processing this activity, less is more. I may say, “Wow, how do you feel when you look at all these amazing qualities that you and your family have?” The answer is always one of surprise, filled with proud and happy feelings. One 8 year old said “I feel fantastic!.” Another child welled up with tears and said “I had no idea I had so much greatness.”
With groups: classroom, family session, group work or workshop: I love to use greatness sticks™ with families and in my workshops. If it is a workshop or a classroom, I split people up into groups of 3 or 4 and they each randomly pick two sticks. They are then asked “When you think of this greatness quality, who does it remind you of? Share about how this person possesses this quality.” The second prompt is to pick another stick and say how they possess this quality and why. This is a powerful activity and a great way to get to know others. They are able to see the beauty in others and themselves. This is also a great ice breaker activity and wonderful to use in a staff training to recognize the greatness within the group/company. In my last workshop, I was fortunate enough to have a labyrinth. Participants took a greatness stick™ as they entered the labyrinth and held it through their walk. When they got to the center, they replaced their stick with a piece of sea glass and returned out. They were then asked to write one word on the sea glass for them to take home. This could be used with stones too.
Art or Sandtray Work: As a play therapist and a sandtray play therapy presenter, greatness sticks™ are used all the time in my work with all ages. They are part of the sandtray collection and incorporated in sandtray stories and creations. Clients will use the qualities on the greatness sticks™ or make their own for art projects for themselves or gifts for others.
Greatness Sticks™ can be used with popsicle sticks and words can be typed and glued on or you can write directly on the stick. Greatness words can be written on anything from shells, to stones, to cutout hearts, to anything you choose. So many people have been using these sticks since they were introduced and I am so inspired to pass this along. The power and beauty of witnessing those who believe they had no positive qualities and then seeing their abundance of greatness is truly amazing and inspiring. There is a void in so many who feel empty inside. Filling the void and building what the Nurtured Heart Approach® calls inner wealth™is a powerful, healing experience, building confidence and resilience from a deep place.
How will you use your greatness sticks™? Please share as I love to hear feedback, stories of healing and creativity.
To your greatness!!!
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