Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

ECMMA: Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

login to enter member only site

Not a Member? Join Now

Movement Matters

After many years of making music with children, Eve Kodiak, M.M., became interested in the brain/body processes that underlie the learning process. As an Educational Kinesiologist, she now works with people of all ages, using music and developmental movement to create positive change. Eve can be found in her office at The Lydian Center for Innovative Medicine in Cambridge, MA, or at home in New Hampshire, writing and recording. Her CD/book sets include Rappin' on the Reflexes and Feelin' Free, which combine developmental movements with songs, raps, and narrations with music. Eve also performs and records as an improvising classical pianist. More information and articles on music and developmental movement may be found at www.evekodiak.com.


The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily promote official policy of ECMMA.

The Happiness : Stress Ratio


There is a recipe for happiness. At least, there is a recipe for being more happy than not.

I’m extrapolating the recipe from some very interesting, physiology-based research by John Gottman and his team. His question was, “What makes some marriages last?” But I find that his answers can be applied to any relationship – inter- or intra-personal.

We all think that the types of interactions we have, with ourselves and others, matter. And of course, they do. But it turns out that they may not matter as much as we think, at lesat as far as longevity in relationship goes. Dr. Gottman found that the kind of relationship a couple had – tempestuous, polite, or analytical – mattered not at all. The determining factor for success of the relationship seemed to be the ratio of positive to negative interactions.

So if the couple being observed had lots of fights, but they had even more times extravagantly good times together – the relationship held. If a couple didn’t communicate much at all – but if enough of their few interactions were positive – the relationship held. And if they talked things over, the actual content of their conversation didn’t seem to matter – as long as they were copacetic more of the time than not.

The magic proportion Gottman found was 5:1 – five positive interactions to override one negative one. That’s a rich broth of positivity!

But it makes a lot of sense, when you think about it. If you make a mistake practicing an instrument, you need to play it several times correctly to make sure that the habit has been changed. And, in any kind of relationship, one mean word can take a lot of reassurance, comfort and redirection to neutralize.

Gottman’s 5:1 ratio has been one of the most practical bits of information I have ever come across. When I get angry with someone, I have learned to ask myself, Will expressing my negativity be worth the five positive things I will have to do to make this relationship right again? When I’m anxious, I sometimes remember, Every minute of stress is going to take five more minutes of deep breathing to dissipate, so I’d better start now! Stressful things happen to us – we can’t control that -  but choosing not to escalate that stress is one big step towards happiness.

If we really lived this 5 : 1 ratio, it could have profound implications on our interactions with children.

When we see a behavioral issue coming up at home, or in a classroom, we tend to focus on the result we want. We just want the behavior to change. Often, this is because we are personally triggered into our own stress response by the child’s behavior. Because we are ourselves in stress, we don’t always pay attention to how that stress affects the child. We just want the behavior to change, at any cost, so we don’t have to deal with it any more ever again! Or we can’t let go of our ideal image of the child performing in a particular way, because we feel that the information to be learned is so important! But what we don’t admit, or even usually recognize, is that the intensity of our feeling is not usually about the child. It is about ourselves.

And when we act in this way, we are the child. We want the actual child to take care of us, of the unhealed places in our own psyches.

This isn’t fair. It isn’t good teaching. And what the child learns is that there is something wrong with him – because children are intuitive; they know that the response is about a lot more than what they just did. But they have to believe us.

This is one way children lose their confidence in themselves. To survive, they must prioritize the care-taker adult – because that is the way that children are wired to stay alive. They jettison their own instincts – and self-esteem – so that we can justify our own anger.

Of course, this probably happened to us as children, too. We’re just passing on what we learned.

If there is an actual emergency – No! the Stove is HOT!- the child will know it. That’s why they are wired to listen to us. But if the emergency is inside our own unhealed places – we need to find a way to interact with children so that our emergency doesn’t become theirs.

Gottman’s ratio is a simple way to help stop the cycle. So next time Johnny annoys you, stop and breathe and ask yourself – is my one irritated word worth the five strokes I’m going to have to give him to make it up? Then tell Johnny what the rules are, or what he must do – but without stress. He’ll know the difference.

Growth requires challenge, and stress is an inherent part of life. But it has to be the right amount. And for the right reasons.


Parent Connection Jul 14, 2013

Great application of Gottman’s principle, Eve. I’ve found that when my momentary classroom goals change from achieving academic goals to being a “helper of their joy,” it transforms the classroom experience.

Especially interesting is the correlation with research that shows the most positive learning environment taking place when our guiding feedback to students exhibits an 80/20% postive/corrective ratio.

Wonderful reminders for every aspect of life. Enjoy a beautiful NE summer weekend.

Jennifer Mulqueen Milton Jul 14, 2013

Thanks for the reminder on this.  A simple ratio to remember.

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked with an *

Your email is never shared.

Remember my Name, Email, Location and URL

Notify me of follow-up comments?

ECMMA is grateful for the ongoing sponsorship of our Supporting Businesses and Organizations. Please be sure to thank them for their efforts in supporting Early Childhood Music and Movement. Learn more about ECMMA Supporting Businesses.