Assuming Positive Intent

Let’s all try to assume positive intent.

Several years ago we had an in-house staff workshop which focused on the theme: Assume Positive Intent.  It really resonated with the staff on a professional level and at least for me on a personal level as well. 

Just think a moment about that phrase and what it means.  Assume.  Positive.  Intent.  

Relationships are part of our everyday life.  We interact with people all day long.  Some interactions are positive ones and some leave us feeling not so good.  What if we use a positive lens to look through those negative interactions instead?  Then, we could respond with more compassion and acceptance.  

When I think about assuming positive intent with children, I think “what was their motivation behind that behavior?”  Ok…wait a second.  To be fair when I’m wearing my Mom hat my first thought is probably, “Seriously, did they really just do that? What were they thinking?” But then my child advocate hat which is permanently placed on my head, pokes through and says “Exactly!  What were they thinking?”   When I change my thinking to view the problem with my positive lens my response changes.  

As adults we have had more practice and life experience feeling and regulating our emotions.  Young children are just discovering and learning how to navigate in this big world.  Now add big emotions to the mix and you’ve got fireworks.  If we could just try and assume positive intent with children\’s responses, we can give them the tools to manage those big emotions.  We can give them the skills to control their impulses while showing them compassion and not shaming them. 

There is no parenting manual. Although, It’s OK Not to Share is the closest in my opinion (shameless plug).  When I think about assuming positive intent in our community, I think it means cutting each other some slack and removing judgement from one another. Providing support for one another. One of the amazing things about our community is the wide range of people and ideas.  

Some of us are babywearers.  Some of us breastfeed.  Some bottle feed.  Some of us believe in attachment parenting.  Some a more traditional parenting approach.   Some of us have strong ideas about food preferences.  Some of us may believe in bed sharing.  Some people may think, “No way is my child sleeping in my bed”.  Some of us use cloth diapers. Some use disposable. 

AND THAT’s OK.  Even Todd Parr says that in his book It’s Ok to Be Different.  

I know being a parent is probably (ok, certainly)  the most difficult job we will ever have.  If we could all just try to assume positive intent when we encounter a parent or friend who choses to parent vastly different than we do our own.  It’s OK that we have different ideas and different methods.  It’s what makes our community great.  We are each parenting our children with positive intentions.  

…Amy Rudawsky, SYC Co-Director