Creating a Positive Narrative for your Child

Everybody knows that parenting comes with many struggles. Sleepless nights, worry, big decisions, and managing problematic behaviors are just a few among the laundry list of things that parents deal with. If you have experienced working with a child with problematic behaviors, you know how difficult it can be to maintain a positive outlook, and it often times becomes easier to see the negative choices your child makes instead of the positive. But did you know, that focusing on the negative and only pointing out problematic behaviors can actually reinforce your child’s negative behaviors?

According to researcher Howard Glasser, writer of the book, Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach, correcting your child more than complimenting them may get you the opposite result of what you would like. The Nurtured Heart Approach identifies the importance of creating a positive “Narrative” or self-image of your child. This can be done by identifying and vocalizing positive choices your child makes, no matter how small, more frequently than correcting negative choices or behavior. Glasser identifies that even things as small as sitting quietly for five minutes are things that parents can compliment their children on in order to start to build a more positive narrative.

Glasser has many examples in his book of how to work on developing a more positive Narrative, but one of his main suggestions is to make praise specific and value based. Glasser suggests sitting down as a family and developing a list of your family’s five most important values: honesty, kindness, love, self-control, etc. He states that you can then follow a specific formula to compliment your child. “Tommy, I noticed that you walked away from your sister when you were angry instead of yelling at her, good job that shows a lot of self-control.” Children thrive off of this type of specific feedback and compliments. A good rule of thumb is to try and use a 5 to 1 ratio of compliments to corrections.

For more information on how to manage problematic behaviors and develop a more positive narrative for your child you can read Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Hearth Approach.

Ellen Spiese, LMFT