Discovering the 4 to 1 P.T. Cruiser

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“The phrase ‘working mother’ is redundant”–Jane Sellman

I love this quote.  It expresses the truth that mothers give, and give, and give again.  Women are naturally nurturing and as mothers.  We are the most charitable example our children see.  As a mother I’m constantly looking for ways to improve, so I took on a challenge. It read:

“Make your home life better. For two weeks make a special effort to refrain from judging, criticizing, or speaking unkindly, and watch for positive qualities in [each] family member.”

I’ve included part of my journal entries:


Monday, 5 December 2011  

My husband  is responsible for the safety culture at the company he works for.  He’s very good at his job and has a great understanding of behavior based culture.  He will often apply the same principles he uses at work on our family. He shared with me the 4:1 rule suggested by Aubrey Daniels who is a psychologist, and applies scientifically proven laws of human behavior in the workplace. The 4:1 rule is four positive comments to one negative comment.

He explained that in order to keep my relationship strong with my children, I should implement this.  According to this theory, my children will not benefit from a compliment if it is out of the 4:1 ratio to negative comments.  In other words, for every negative or critical comment I make to my children, I need to make up for it with four compliments.

I have given this rule a name; “4:1 P.T. Cruiser” (P.T. = Positive Talk)

 Friday, 9 December 2011  

I was going to correct one of my children and decided it was not the right time. I refrained and said something uplifting to her instead.

 Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The child that I refrained from correcting has just decided to do everyone’s laundry.  What a huge blessing!  I have a few kids who have surprised me with a cleaner kitchen. They even made me hot chocolate.  It’s been better here, I think, than if I had not been focusing on what I say.

My husband and I have discussed the actions of our children that we believe are a direct result of the 4:1 P.T. Cruising.  We hope to see even more results.  I’ve learned that it is sometimes better to hold off on a negative criticism in order to build a relationship.

I sat with each of my older two children at the kitchen table and we visited.  It was nice for me and I think they appreciated the time also.

 Tuesday, 3 January 2012 9:50 AM

I had an experience that was painful, but I think has helped me and my eldest daughter’s relationship.  She told me that she preferred I didn’t give her any compliment at all if I am going to turn around and tell her just the opposite. Her words stunned and frustrated me at the same time. I tried to think, during her heated explanation, what it was that I could have said that was in such contradiction.

Ugh!  Then I realized what it was!  I had been trying to express to her that she is naturally obedient and that I appreciated it. Then, true to her words, the next day I told her that she needed to be more obedient to our family’s attempts in establishing a morning routine.  She is not a morning person and doesn’t like to eat breakfast or make lunch in the morning because of her lack of time; but she refuses to make her lunch the night before.  (When she was younger she made a lunch and there were ants in it by morning.)  She said she didn’t like me yelling at her to eat breakfast or to make a lunch.

 We both ended up laughing at the absurdity of it all, but I committed to not endlessly yell at her about eating breakfast and making a lunch in the morning.  I also made a stipulation that in order for me to stop annoying her, she is to go see a nutritionist with her father and me.  I have been true to my promise and our relationship has improved.

You can see how this challenge I excepted for myself has helped me be more deliberate as a mother in the words I speak.  I often look to my own mother for an example. She has many wonderful qualities, but the one that stands out to me is her tenderness to others.

She has always encouraged her children to look at the other person’s point of view. I remember being shocked the one time I heard her  say anything negative about someone.  Even then it was to say she wished that person wouldn’t  be judgmental towards her.  The following nursery rhyme hung on her bedroom wall as I grew up.  I’ve added my own verse in tribute to mothers.


What are little boys made of?

Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails

That’s what little boys are made of!


What are little girls made of?

Sugar and spice and all things nice

That’s what little girls are made of!


What are mommies made of?

Charity Untold and everything Gold

That’s what mommies are made of!


I know as a mother it is extremely tough to meet all the needs of our family.  It is so easy to be negative and critical, while positive reinforcement requires thought and work.  We often push the positive talk to the back of our mind, tarnishing the gold we are made of.  I have two suggestions for mothers so that we can polish our charitable characteristics and revel in the beauty of the gold.

1.  Love yourself.  Understand who you are and what your needs are, taking the time to meet them.  Give back to yourself, keeping your gold buffed and shining.

2.  Be a 4:1 P.T. (Positive Talk) Cruiser. Be deliberate in the way you speak to your family.  Four compliments to one correction or negative comment will shift the atmosphere in your relationships.  You can cruise over the bumps in the road by being a 4:1 P.T. Cruiser.  You will enjoy the improvements in your mothering, and when hearing more compliments, your family will naturally try harder to be the people they need to be.

QUESTION: Do you understand what you are made of?  Charity untold and everything gold!

CHALLENGE: I challenge you to be a “4:1 P.T. Cruiser” and watch the love shift into high gear.


  1. shalonda says

    I stumbled across your blog…but I’m glad I did. I needed this advice. I keep thinking how much I am constantly yelling, nagging etc my children (I have 3) for not finishing their chores or if they do their chores how they could have done them “better”. (I’m a neat freak) They are really good kids and I spend too much time with the negative than the positive. I think I will try this method. Certainly can not hurt!

    Thank you!

  2. Juanita Manning says

    So very true. Feed your children with positive and it can do nothing but support them and help them thru difficult times!

  3. Alysann says

    Thank you for the 4:1 suggestion. I’ve heard it said that you should give 10:1 positive to negative. I guess this seemed so far from what I could do that I discounted it. I know I can do 4:1. Thanks again!

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