You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

I’ve always loved these lyrics from the song “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”  and they started a train of thought about what we perceive as negative behaviour in children.

Spend time in a school playground and very soon you’ll hear someone say “That’s not fair”. If we repeatedly hear this phrase from the same child without good reason, we might dismiss it as a negative characteristic. However, we could view this limited understanding of fairness as being located at one end of an axis of understanding – where a child only sees what is fair for themselves. As parents and educators we can choose to move our children toward the opposite end where they will understand what is fair for others. We might do this by exploring questions which help us reflect on how our needs may unfairly affect others:

“Is it fair to stop the car for ice cream when everyone else wants to go home and have dinner?”

“Is it fair to eat the last piece of chocolate when you know someone else hasn’t had their share?”

As our children mature, these simple understandings will, if nurtured by the parent/educator/community, grow to include the characteristics of justice, forgiveness, mercy and compassion which underpin societal values such as human rights and responsibilities.

Whilst looking for other virtues which develop along a transformative axis I came across a recent research paper in The Leadership Quarterly which draws on a 20-year study of twins and suggests that modest rule-breaking in childhood can positively predict the development of leadership potential, provided that the parenting is consistent and responsive.

It’s a frequently recounted family tale that my son once climbed out of his high-sided crib over thirty times in one evening, much to the frustration of his grandmother with whom he was staying. I can’t remember if we were “consistent” or “responsive” parents at that time in our lives, but if this had been your child, how would you respond? Might you perceive a soul beginning to exhibit its character strengths? Would you encourage your little Houdini to develop, strengthen and channel this nascent determination – a virtue that he might need in later life when he finds that the odds are stacked against him? What virtues could you encourage in your child to balance and help discourage recklessness or stubbornness?

If you would like to read more on this subject I recommend reading The Heart of Education by author, educator and coach Dara Feldman [ ISBN-13: 978-1935723820 ] or visiting her website at

You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene…

Jack the teddy bear reaching into a cookie jar