The 90-10 RuleThrough parenting I have become a much more humble person and, I hope, a more helpful pediatrician. Fourteen years of navigating the treacherous waters of life with kids have led me to a few rules I try to live by as a parent. I share one with you here, and another in my next posting, in the hopes that they might help you, too.

The first axiom I call my “90-10 rule,” which I developed in the throws of parenting my first, very willful three year old. Here’s the concept: 90 percent of what we say to our children should be positive and only 10 percent corrective or negative. The positive results of children hearing mostly good things benefit both children and parents in the long term.

Kids hearing mostly positive comments from their most beloved people:

  • Improves their listening because they enjoy hearing praise
  • Fosters their self-esteem
  • Makes them value their parents’ opinions greater
  • Encourages them to do the right thing, because they know it will be noticed and valued
  • Makes negative comments hit home harder because the child isn’t used to getting constantly nagged or criticized
  • Parents saying mostly positive things about their children:
  • Helps them look for the good in their kids instead of focusing on the next annoying thing they will do
  • Makes us value little good acts that our kids do. “Nice job standing still, Jack” (when my son was 3), or “Wow, Liesl, I am so proud of you for using a quiet voice” (for my very talkative little daughter!).
  • Encourages us to feel good about ourselves as parents and our kids as growing young people .

Note that the 90-10 rule is just as handy for parents of teenagers as it is for of toddlers. Any time you feel your relationship with your child deteriorating into a series of dustups and conflicts, consider reviving this handy rule.