The 4-1 Rule

by Danna Merritt, LMSW

The “4-1 Rule” is a key concept in the PEP program.  In short, it means:

 4 positive comments for every 1 negative comment!

Four positive comment should be made for every one time that a parent issues a negative comment.  Negative comments most often relate to something that you have requested of a child and to which he has failed to comply.  By changing the statement, you can develop a Positive Directive (see chart below), which then falls closer to the category of Positive Comments.  Remember that your tone of voice also affects how your child will react to the directive.  Below are some examples of positive comments, negative comments, and alternative ways to take the sting out of negative comments (taken from page 62, PEP Parent Manual):


Negative Comments Positive Comments Positive Directives
“You never do as I ask.” “Way to go!” “I asked you to put your shoes in the closet; please do it now.”
“It’s your fault because you don’t ever   listen.” “I like the way you listened just then.” “When I am talking to you, I appreciate your paying attention.”
“You did that all wrong.” “You have a good sense of humor.” “You’re doing pretty well. Here, let me help you with the hard part.”
“You are always breaking things! Don’t   you even care about your brother?” “Thank you for picking up.” Please pick up.  When you are finished, I’ll help you check to see that it’s all gone.”

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