By Kelly Frey
Sep 30, 2017

The 8:1 Rule: Give Your Youth More Positive Feedback More Often

Over the weekend I attended another Little Philmont event, this time in Vernal, UT. Again, it was amazing to meet together with fellow participants and receive instruction from such admirable speakers.

One of the speakers, Elder Dale H. Munk of the Seventy, shared an inspiring story that he calls the “8:1 Rule.”

Elder Munk’s told about how his father was an English teacher and he would have his students write a different theme each week. One student really struggled with English and could hardly put two sentences together that made sense. Mr. Munk would try to write something positive on each paper that he graded, but trying to write even one positive thing on this one student’s papers was a challenge. One week he was reading this student’s theme and Mr. Munk gave him a B-. For his positive feedback, he wrote on the top of the paper that this grade was an improvement and that the student could achieve anything that he put his mind to.

At the end of the year, the student came to Mr. Munk and told him that he was going to Utah State University (USU) and Mr. Munk was impressed.

“What are you going to major in while at USU?” Mr.Munk asked.

“I’m going to major in journalism!” the student replied.

Knowing how the student had struggled, Mr. Munk told him that he was going to have to improve his writing skills quite a bit.

Elder Munk then told us that this particular student is now a national writer and even became president of the National Writers Association. It was because of the positive review that Elder Munk’s father had given him in that English class, said the student-turned-nationally-recognized-professional, that gave him the confidence to believe he could become a national writer.

From this impactful story, Elder Munk taught us the “8:1 Rule”: for every one negative comment or criticism you give to a person, you must give at least eight positive comments to that same person. I had never heard of such a rule before, but I now believe they are words everyone should live by.

The story of the 8:1 Rule is a great example of how leaders need to treat their youth. Just a little bit of encouragement can change a youth’s perspective of himself and his/her capabilities, which can be life changing. You never know when your words are exactly what that youth needs. With that being said, Elder Munk strongly emphasizes that leaders “Let Them Lead” and while you mentor them, give them more positive feedback more often. 

When leaders give their youth opportunities to lead they are really giving them an opportunity to grow in confidence. Youth are able to see that they can overcome and figure out challenging tasks and that they can have a positive influence on their peers. Within the Boy Scouts, leaders can give suggestions and help without negative comments or criticisms that can be damaging to self-esteem. Everyone needs a little encouragement in their lives and not many people give it to them, but any leader can. How Mr. Munk treated his imperfect student was a perfect example of a youth leader who cared.   


Author: Kelly Frey | Program Assistant, Utah National Parks Council, Boy Scouts of America

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2 thoughts on “The 8:1 Rule: Give Your Youth More Positive Feedback More Often

  1. Darryl AlderDarryl Alder

    Thanks for the reminder. It really is easy to criticize, but the challenge to find eight positives before even one negative is a great reminder to us as parents and Scout leaders that kids need encouragement. Thanks for sharing the story of the journalist, I will remember it for a long time.

  2. AvatarCheryl

    I really appreciate this reminder especially since I teach second graders. I need to give more positive
    words and comments to students. They are learning and trying their best and need to hear positive words.
    You are doing such a great job Kelly.


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