Creative Child

Positive Intent: A Powerful Positive Parenting Tool

by Rebecca Eanes

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If, on the other hand, you choose to see positive intent, then you can see that she’s a good person who needs guidance on this issue. You’ll see more than the behavior; you’ll see the heart and soul of the human being exhibiting it. Though you still correct the behavior, you can now approach her with a different tone and attitude, changing your language so that you reflect her light.

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Below are a couple of examples of negative versus positive intent from my book, The Positive Parenting Workbook.

Mason comes running to tell you that his sister, Mia, spilled the red juice she was drinking. Mia says she did not! Her lips are red, so you know she’s been drinking red juice, and the spill is in her room where she has been playing while Mason has been with you making sandwiches. Mason discovered the spill when he went to Mia’s room to call her for lunch.

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Negative intent: You think, She’s a sneaky little liar! You say, “You liar! I see the juice stains on your mouth! Mason was honest. Why wouldn’t you just be honest with me? I’m very disappointed in you. It’s wrong to lie.”

“Liar” is not a label you want to stick. If a child thinks she’s a liar, she’ll be a liar. Then if she gets punished for being a liar, she’ll become a sneaky liar. Self-fulfilling prophesy! You just created what you feared. Remember, our behaviors reflect what we believe about ourselves.

Positive intent: You think, She doesn’t want to get in trouble or disappoint me. You say, “Hmm. I see cherry red lips. I value your honesty. Were you drinking juice and it accidentally spilled? Sometimes I spill things by accident. No big deal. We just need to clean it up. Come help me.”

Doesn’t the tone feel much different in the second scenario? The first one probably leaves Mia feeling like a terrible person. In the second example, she may feel a bit of guilt for spilling the juice or even for fibbing, but she doesn’t get shamed or berated. She cleans up her mess, and you move on.

How can you assign positive intent to bad behavior? The difference is in being mindful of the thoughts that arise when you see “bad” behavior. It is your thoughts about what is driving your child that will determine how you feel and, as a result, respond to the issue. Let’s look at how the intent you perceive determines the actions you take.

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