positive adjectives

“using the right words can transform our reality”

— Therese J Borchard

Have you heard of the “ideal praise to criticism ratio” (5:1)?

It’s used in business to improve team performance.

Or how about the “magic ratio” (5:1) used in Dr John Gottman’s research with married couples.

He uses it to predict the success or failure of a marriage.

Then there’s the 3:1 ratio of positive to negative effect that Dr Barbara Fredrickson talks about in her book Positivity.

She identifies it as the ratio required for an individual to flourish.


Positive Interactions – Keys for Success

All three ratios show that positive interactions should ALWAYS outweigh negative. It doesn’t matter if you are interacting with your spouse, colleagues or children.

That’s not saying neutral/negative interactions will never occur – that would be unrealistic.  But it is essential to ensure the ratio of positive to negative is always greater than 1:1.


Why do we need more positive experiences?

positive adjectives in learning stories

The human brain places more importance on negative experiences than positive ones. For the scales to balance, positive experiences/interactions need to be more frequent to have an effect. In adults, it’s been proven that positive thinking and self-talk offer a range of health benefits.

It makes sense then that it is beneficial to start tipping those positivity scales as early as possible.

As Fredrickson sees it, “positivity is the mindset that helps produce emotions such as joy, amusement, happiness, serenity, gratitude and inspiration.” It can also be argued that the reverse is true. Early childhood environments that value and foster those same emotions will surely enable positivity to flourish.  The outcomes of the positivity mindset Frederickson describes read like ‘best practice’ in early childhood settings

having more moments of that open mindset help us connect with others and build our relationships, it helps us build our resilience, it helps us build our physical health because we become more energetic   

Source: Interview with Janet Malcolm ABC’s All In the Mind


Making Language Positive

Whether educators (and parents) are modelling positive interactions or writing about them, the language matters. Language is a reflection of attitude and mindset. When writing learning stories it’s important to always focus on the learning process rather than the end product. It’s the “learning” in Educa learning stories that provide the key.

What is the child learning to do?

What qualities do they display in their learning?

For instance, is a child being …

“Stubborn” or “determined”?

“Loud” or “expressive”?

“Nosy” or “curious”?

Aim to keep your language positive, engaging and specific.

To help out we’ve compiled a list of 100 positive adjectives. Use them in your learning stories and with the children. No more good boy/good girl/good work – it’s not useful.



100 Positive Adjectives here

Now challenge yourself

You give children feedback on their learning daily but do you meet a ratio of between 3-5:1 positive to neutral/negative interactions?

Choose one day and 2-3 children. You’ll need a basic column chart for recording interactions

positive interactions with child chart

  • Aim to have 3-5 positive interactions with each child for every neutral/negative one in that day.
  • Note them down.
  • What did you say – Did being aware of the need for positive interactions make you do anything differently?
  • Consider your interactions to see which words you use regularly, then change it up.
  • Try 3-5 different positive adjectives from the list every day/week and see how long it takes you to use all 100.

Be sure let us know how you go in the comments – and if you have even more adjectives to add!


  1. Kelly Goodsir

    A great reminder about engaging some self-awareness around the words we use, thanks Shana. The 100 words list is a great practical provocation for use of words which I have sent out to our team.
    Kelly Goodsir

  2. Rowena Wessling

    I cant seem to get the link to work. I realy would love 100 words list to use in my service.

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