Positively parenting. It sounds simple enough. Right? As a counselor, I know how important it is. As a mom, I know how hard it is.

But, where’s the balance? How much do we need? What about those of us (ah-hem, myself) who see the glass half empty. Is there hope for us?

Research shows that there IS a magic number of how much we need. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson is a Professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research reveals how positive emotions, fleeting as they are, can tip the scales toward a life of flourishing — something we all want for our kids and ourselves.

Dr. Fredrickson’s book, “Positivity” shows that magical tipping point or ratio is 3:1. In other words, for every one negative comment, thought, look, you want to match it with three positives.


Tons of research and data has proven this 3:1 ratio to be wildly successful in boardrooms across the nation….but how about bringing this positivity success to the dining room (or kitchen island in our case!)?

In my house it may look something like this:

Me: “Barrett, you are not going to get anything else to eat later if you keep playing with your dinner and don’t eat it. Groan. (1 negative).

Barrett: “But mooooooooooom, I hate broccoli. I’m only hungry for ice cream.

Me: “Look,  I know how much you like playing with your friends …and I know how much they like playing with you. (1 positive) Broccoli helps make your body healthy and strong. (2 positives) If your body is healthy and strong, you can play even better with your friends! (3 positives).

And, here’s the cool thing. Positivity is literally life-giving.

Your emotions are a key signal to your brain whether or not to grow or shrink. “Negativity prompts cell decay. Positivity prompts cell growth. At a very basic level, the positivity is life-giving.” (Fredrickson, 2009).

So, we know now that positivity is good for your brain, resiliency, creativity and overall success, but what even IS positivity?

The positivity we’re talking about is not fake. It’s not forced. It’s not smiling through clenched teeth as you ask your kids to do the same thing for the millionth time. The positivity that makes a difference is heartfelt. It’s accurate. It’s real.

Dr. Fredrickson identified the top 10 most common types of positivity, which include love, joy, gratitude, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration and awe. The book expands on what each of these look like, but the most important thing is that you find what works for you. It’s different for everyone. For me, when I’m negative, I often can’t find any joy, but I can be curious or choose hope. It’s encouraging to know there are lots of options other than just being happy.

The bottom line: You have everything you need to be positive. As a mom, it starts with you. You need to practice positivity with yourself. Then you can genuinely influence your kids and family. Don’t expect that anyone will thank you. But just know, it makes a difference. And, it matters. Focusing on positivity will lead to more successful, resilient, pleasant people in your house.

Remember, just when you’re about ready to give up on positivity…..that’s precisely when to dig in! Stick with it and you’ll change. It does make a difference.

I’m going to be taking a 3:1 challenge this week, so join me! You can try taking it into your whole day, or for a more bite-size trial, just try it specifically at the kitchen table. See how it influences your kids eating, your family’s attitude and heck, even your own experience at meal time! Let us know how it goes….we’d love to hear from you!

A positive moment with my family.

A positive moment with my family.

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