Practice the 5-to-1 Ratio


Summertime is a great season to relax and recharge our physical and mental energy by reconnecting with personal hobbies, families, and friends without the daily demands of academic studies.

Summer is also a great time to strengthen the social relationships between parents and child. And a wonderful way to do that is by following the 5-to-1 Ratio in your social interactions, which The Harvard Business Review labeled as the Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio​.

As an educator and a parent, you will have to give instructions, directions, demands, commands, criticism, and corrections. You will have to give these when needed and multiple times a day. The idea of the 5-to-1 Ratio is to give five (5) positive interactions for every one (1) negative interaction.

It is critical to remember that we need to determine what’s positive and what’s negative from the child’s point-of-view, not necessarily what we think is positive or negative. Positive interactions may include but not be limited to the traditional verbal praise as well as a casual thumbs up, a high-five, a hand-written note, a pat on the back, an intentional nod, a warm smile, undivided attention, a special privilege, the first pick of ___, public praise or 1:1 praise.

When done correctly, positive interactions are definitely doable without requiring much cost or time. It is not about avoiding negative interactions nor about only having positive interactions; it is about keeping those interactions in the right ratio.

Applicable to all social situations, maintaining the 5-to-1 Ratio will surely strengthen your social relationships.

To read more about this topic, consider the following resources.

“The Ideal Praise-to-Criticism Ratio”

“This Evidence-Based Approach Improves Student Behavior and Engagement”

“A Fine Balance: The Magic Ratio to a Healthy Relationship”

“Leveraging the 4:1 Ratio—In Sports and in Business”

“Finding balance between positive and negative consequences”


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