Becky Bailey in her book, “Easy To Love, Difficult to Discipline” encourages parents to look for the good in their child’s behavior instead of reacting negatively and assuming their child is misbehaving. She states that, “When you learn to attribute positive intent to other people, you possess a powerful skill. It is the skill you need to transform opposition into cooperation.”
When we attribute negative motives to our children’s behavior we place them in a situation where there only recourse is to attack or defend themselves and exhibit more oppositional behavior. Bailey comments, “When the attack/defend process gets rolling communication and connection break down.”
These 2 examples illustrate these ideas:
Instead of Assigning a Negative Motive:
“You just can’t just walk away from the table when your done eating. It is rude and irresponsible. You need to help clear up.”
“You always cry when you don’t get your way. That is very immature behavior. You should know better than that!”
Children may react to these accusations with defiance, anger, and hurt. The above statements can damage a child’s self-esteem.
Assigning Positive Intent:
“You thought it was okay to leave the table. You figured I would call you when it was time to clear. Just so you know, next time I’d appreciate if you would ask to be excused before you left the table.”
“You are really disappointed that you can’t come with me to the store. It is making you so sad that you just had to cry. Next time you can say, ‘Mommy, it makes me so sad when I have to stay with the babysitter, while you go to the store.”
When we assign positive intent we show faith in our child’s innate goodness. We promote strong and loving interactions. Our children will not feel the need to oppose us. Parents are then free to direct the child kindly and firmly to use better behavior.
Join us in our parenting workshops where we explore better ways to communicate with our children.
See you there,
Bailey, B. (2000). Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline. NY: Harper Collins