5-to-1 Parenting: Simple Interactions That Strengthen Family Bonds | Deborah Farmer Kris | 5 Min Read


According to relationship researcher John Gottman, that’s the “magic ratio.” When he observed couples over time, the number one predictor of happy, enduring relationships was an average of five positive interactions to every negative interaction. 

Being a “5-to-1” parent isn’t easy. At bedtime last night, I was batting 1-to-3.

And when do our kids need our warmth the most? In the middle of homework stress, screentime battles, grocery store meltdowns, morning rush, bedtime drama, social flair-ups…

In other words, they need it the most when it’s the hardest to give. 

Dr. Sharon Saline, an ADHD expert and an Intrepid Ed News parent columnist, once told me that she estimates the positive-to-negative feedback ratio for ADHD children is more like 1:15. Kids often feel like adults only notice when they “mess up,” not when they try, she said, so they grow wary of feedback. 

“We have to pay attention to kids trying, even if they are not succeeding,” said Saline. “We have to focus on the process more than the product. When we notice that they are actually turning in homework four-fifths of the time when it used to be two-fifths? Well, that’s progress.”

So how do…

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Deborah Farmer Kris

A writer, teacher, parent, and child development expert, Deborah Farmer Kris writes regularly for PBS KIDS for Parents and NPR’s MindShift; her work has been featured several times in The Washington Post; and she is the author of the All the Time picture book series (coming out in 2022) focused on social-emotional growth. A popular speaker, Deborah has a B.A. in English, a B.S. in Education, and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology. Mostly, she loves finding and sharing nuggets of practical wisdom that can help kids and families thrive — including her own. You can follow her on Twitter @dfkris, contact her at [email protected], or visit her website: Parenthood365 (https://www.parenthood365.com/)