You’ve read the books and attended the workshops – you know how important it is to validate children. You know that you get what you focus on, so focusing on positives creates more positives while focusing on negatives creates more negatives. So my question for you is… how much are you ACTUALLY catching your kids doing good things? How would you score the quantity of validation they are getting?

There is a big difference between knowing something and applying it, so the focus of this blog post is taking the validation of children to a whole new level.


If you look at society as a whole, you will notice that the majority of people focus more on negative things. The news, politics, teacher’s room talk – it’s all far more negative than positive. The result is that we have become “wired” to put more energy into pointing out and fixing the ‘bad’ than in recognizing and validating the ‘good.’

Looking specifically at children, they are hammered with negatives all day long – from society, from their parents, and, yes, even from their well-intentioned teachers. More often than not, children are told they are wrong. They are told NOT to do something or that they made a mistake in some way.

As much as we like to say that we have moved away from the ‘children should be seen, not heard’ era, our actual practice with children often isn’t far off. We want children to be heard, but only on our adult terms, at the right time, in the right way. Children who experience any instability or trauma (nearly 50% of all children in the United States, according to recent figures) are hit with an even bigger dose of negativity in their young lives. So what do we do to tip the scale in the favour of our children?


If you were to count the number of positive versus negative interactions a child has, and place those interactions on a scale, you will see that the majority of children are made to feel more wrong than right. When you really confront it, it’s actually amazing how much children are able to be upbeat and cheerful despite all invitations from their environment and the adults around them to do otherwise. This is not intended to make you feel like a terrible teacher/parent or an awful human being – we do what we know – and until we really look, understand and know better, the pattern of negativity will repeat.

So what is the problem with this? The problem is that when we feel wrong, or are made to feel wrong, we withdraw, we stop trying and we worry about how others will respond to us. We shut down in order to protect ourselves.


Kids who don’t participate.
Kids who are anxious.
Kids who misbehave for what appears to be no reason.
Kids who refuse to work.
Kids who are painfully shy.
Kids who break things by “accident”.
Kids who give attitude.
Kids who don’t contribute.
Kids who don’t follow rules they previously agreed to.

In short, it shows up as those kids who give us a run for our money during the day and keep us up worrying at night. As educators and parents (you are both vitally important adult role models) our job is to ensure that we do everything we can to tip the scale for our children into the positive. The question is what does that mean in your everyday interactions? It means you must validate your children MORE! MUCH MORE!


Children who are reminded they are worthy and good and capable (this is what validation does) are more willing to take risks and face challenges head on. They are confident decision makers. They are willing to step outside their comfort zone. They are happy and fun to be around. And here’s the best side benefit – they are easy to teach and interact with.

The more you validate children at home and school, the easier your job becomes. If you make children feel good enough about themselves and what they are able to do, they will basically eat out of your hands. It is not magic that makes it happen – it is validation.

Validating children seems like an easy concept – and it is – but there are a few guidelines that must be followed for validating to actually work it’s magic. I will be sharing several tips on validation in my next post so stay tuned!

For now I will leave you with this…We have all had moments in life when we were put down, made wrong, poked fun at, humiliated and made to feel stupid. I don’t know about you, but I remember those moments and I don’t like them.

Those moments tend to stay with us, and depending on their severity and frequency, have a big impact on how we view ourselves, our abilities, life and the world around us. They effect a child’s self-worth significantly, which impacts their grades in school, their contributions at home and their excitement and willingness to create their future. I encourage everyone to increase the validation you are giving the children in your life and watch the positive changes that manifest as a result.

This post was co-written by Lisa Phillips and Erica Troy.

Lisa Phillips is the author of the book, The Artistic Edge: 7 Skills Children Need To Succeed In An Increasingly Right Brain World. She worked with children and youth for 20 years directing programming in the arts, leadership and youth development. Check out her latest validation activity here.