We love reframes!

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Hyperactive…. Or Energetic

Stubborn…. Or Persistent

Obsessed on one thing…. Or Specialized Interest

Attention Seeking…. Or Seeking Connection


Do any of these resonate with you?

We often hear the story that someone told you your child has restricted interests.  Your child loves cars and trains.  They can spin the wheels for hours, watching it turn around and around. They can line them up in a row – that has a very specific order – that you dare not change. They can talk ad nauseum about cars and trains and recite all the words from a much-loved Thomas the tank engine episode.  Some may say they have restricted interests.


Let’s reframe that.


What if they had a specialized interest? Do you know any adults who have specialized interests that they are passionate about? Maybe even made a very successful career out of it?  Do you know anyone who studied in a specialised area that required all their focus? When your young child is lining up all the cars, he may be learning about patterns.  When she is spinning the wheels, she may be figuring out velocity, speed and traction principles.  Or the joy of engaging in her special interest can help her get through an overwhelming or stressful day.


How wonderful to have specialized interests from such a young age already!


I love reframes.


It helps me stay calm during one of those monumental morning tantrums from my exceptional girl.

It helps me appreciate character traits that can feel so hard to parent in the moment.

It helps me be a better therapist by seeing the strengths of the child in front of me.


What is reframing you ask, and why is it so important? 

It is seeing the situation with a new lens.  When we can shift our perspectives:

  • it changes how we feel about a situation (that 5th tantrum in as many hours… urgh!)
  • it changes how we respond (empathy and understanding with extra hugs rather than frustration and punishment by sending them to their room alone)

and ultimately in the long run, it changes how our children view themselves, because our words become their inner voice.

Do you want your child to associate with always being a hyperactive and out of control person, or feel like they are energetic and passionate?

go for a walk

We all know that words and language really do matter.


But this can be so hard to do in the moment, am I riiiiighhht?


That’s why it is so great to get clear on your reframes.  When you know what you can reframe, it is easier to access it when the going gets tough.


Let’s look at 2 other reframes you may be familiar with:


  1. Is your child always getting distracted?  The walk to school in the mornings feels torturous, and you are always late because they keep stopping to look at flowers, or bugs or rolling in the snow banks.  How wonderfully perceptive they are to being in the moment and noticing all the things that so often get dismissed in the hustle and bustle of life.
  2. Do you know that stubbornness that comes with refusing to drink from the green cup … or INSISTING on that extra 5 minutes of story time before bed, …or the dreaded “but I NEEEEEED an Elsa braid”…. right as you are headed out the door?  As hard as this is to parent, what an incredibly admirable trait to be so persistent in the face of obstacles in knowing what they want.  We can only hope they carry this characteristic through with them into the teen and adult years.

outside play

Now it’s not to say we can’t help increase patience, or resilience, or time management or flexibility…. But we can do those things AND we can appreciate and validate who they are.  We can help channel those positive traits as they continue to learn and grow. And we can even celebrate that feistiness and know it will take them far in life! (okay lets be real… we may only celebrate it sometimes…. I am still realistic of course…)


Check out this list adapted from “Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka” and see if you can identify a reframe for your child – or better yet – yourself! Please share your favourites with us.

And the next time you find yourself in a moment that makes you want to scream… take a pause and see if you can find that reframe.  The benefits might surprise you!


Tamsin Snodgrass, Occupational Therapist

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