Positive intent is a great skill for anyone who is working with children. Positive Intent is the belief that children (or any human) has positive intent for doing any behavior. What this looks like is he belief that a child had a positive reason or plan for the behavior they acted out on.
My favorite example of this is a story that Lisa Murphy tells about twins that started biting their classmates. Biting is a very serious and scary childhood behavior, but it is also very developmentally appropriate. However, it got so bad that the parents were called in. During the conference the mom was perplexed, and the dad was silent. Finally the teacher asked the dad what he thought. It turns out dad was playing a game with the twins where he would chase them and say, “I’m going to eat you up, I love you so!” and the pretend to bite them. I love this story!
Positive Intent does not excuse the behavior, what it does is allow you to be in a state of mind that allows you to deal with the behavior from a positive perspective. Many times there was a very good reason for a negative behavior, whether it was because the child is tired, frustrated without skills, or even just had a really great idea happening and it didn’t turn out their way.
The best way this belief system was explained to me was this way:
Say you are driving on the freeway and a person cuts you off unexpectedly! Your initial reaction might be to cuss them out, but instead of getting upset jus think in your head that they did not intend to cut you off so rudely, but maybe their grandma is in the hospital or they are late to the greatest game of their child’s life.
Having a perspective of Positive intent has allowed me to give children the space to explain what was happening, and I was able to learn a lot about what they were thinking or going through.
So next time you are frustrated with your child’s behavior, think using positive intent, and see what this more relaxed state of perception will allow you and your child to come up with.