Four Pluses and a Wish

Diana Lang

Four Pluses and a Wish is a parenting strategy aimed at creating cooperation and motivation for children to comply with parental requests.  Along with leading to better behavior outcomes, it also works to foster healthy communication and is a good example of parental supportive speech.  Four Pluses and a Wish involves the parent providing three pluses, which are positive actions toward their child, before making a request.  This helps the child feel more respected by their parents and therefore more likely to comply with parental wishes and requests.  There are four steps to follow for this strategy. [1]


Woman sits at a table with a young child
Figure 1. A parent works with their child to create a gingerbread dessert. (Photo Source: Alan Wat, CC by 2.0)

How to use this method:

Plus 1

Smile: The parent approaches the child with a smile and a happy facial expression to show the child that nothing is wrong.

Plus 2

Relaxed body language: The parent displays a relaxed body and uses a friendly voice to communicate friendliness and acceptance toward the child.

Plus 3

Say the child’s name: For children, hearing a parent say their name feels more personal, is affirming, and helps make them feel included and respected in the communication.

Plus 4

Compliment the child: Make a positive comment on something the child is doing, wearing, etc., to make the child feel appreciated.

The Wish

Make the request: After providing four pluses for the child, the parent can then make a request (the wish). [2]


Luke is playing with blocks and his mother comes into the room.

Luke’s mother: “Luke, it’s almost time for dinner, please clean up your toys and wash your hands.”

Luke: “I don’t want to clean up yet. I want to keep playing.”

Luke’s mother smiles at Luke and with relaxed body language, kneels to his level. “Luke, that is a great car you built with your blocks, you did a good job building it. Could you put it away for a while and come wash your hands for dinner, please?”

Luke smiled and complied with his mother’s request.

Key Takeaways

  • Three positive actions are made towards the child before making a request.
  • This method promotes cooperation and compliance with requests.

  1. Heath, P. (2013). Parent-child relations: Context, research, and application (3rd Ed.). Pearson.
  2. The Therapy Centre. (2019). Four Pluses and a Wish - Parenting Strategy Tip. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from


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