The Skill of Re-Framing

Words Matter

The words you use when you talk to your children about them or their behavior have a strong impact on your children’s self-image. Interestingly, your words also influence your own thoughts, perspectives and attitudes.

Simply by changing the words you use to describe your children, you can change how your children see and think about themselves and how you see and think of them.

What Is re-framing?

Re-framing involves changing how you think about what you see.

mural in two different framesThe behavior or situation remains the same; it is your attitudes and reactions that change.

When you re-frame, you describe a behavior more positively, with greater understanding and, therefore, more clearly and accurately than you did before.

Because re-framing is a way for you to find the good in your children’s behavior, it is a subtle but powerful way to promote healthier attitudes toward your children and to raise their self-esteem.

How re-framing works

Here is an example of re-framing: instead of thinking of a child as unpredictable, you can think of him as flexible or as a creative problem solver.

Following are some negative labels or descriptions that parents might use to describe children who are at an extreme of some of the temperament continuums, along with “re-framed” descriptions.*

Old Label New Label
Stubborn Assertive, willing to persist in the face of difficulties: knows his mind and what he wants
Wild Energentic
Distractible Perceptive
Picky Selective, Discriminating
Demanding Knows clearly what he wants
Inflexible Traditional; does not like change
Manipulative Knows how to get needs met, charismatic
Anxious, nervous Cautious
Explosive Dramatic
Nosy Curious, inquisitive
Loud Enthusiastic, zestful
Argumentative Opinionated, strongly committed to goals

*From Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

It can be very helpful for children to learn to identify their own temperament traits, accept them, and learn to manage them.

By using the skill of re-framing, parents can use more positive words to describe their children’s more challenging temperamentally-based behavior. And by receiving more positive messages, children can get a clearer and more positive picture of who they are.



For more information about the skill of reframing, check out the following books. Purchasing from through our website supports the work we do to help parents do the best job they can to raise their children.

Raising Your Spirited Child by Kurcinka Understanding Temperament

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