The Softer and Closer Approach

Parenting Approach and tips

Written by Dr. John Carosso

How it all began

Many years ago, starting out as a Psychologist, I came across a Principal who established a ritual with his teachers. At the conclusion of every morning meeting, he would huddle the teachers together and lead a chant “softer and closer” repeated four to five times, before sending the teachers off to their students.

Repeat after me…

I am hard pressed to contemplate a more significant or relevant mantra for teachers or parents. I have espoused the “softer and closer” approach since that time, and can think of no better way to connect with a child. Getting on the child’s level, moving-in close, and speaking in a soft tone, if not a whisper, is remarkably powerful, comforting, and bonding for a child in any situation, but especially when the child is experiencing a difficulty and needs supportive guidance.

Go get softer and closer

Try it with your own child; rather than standing across the room and yelling, get close, soft, and comforting in tone, and see the difference.


I’ve also espoused time-in rather than time-out. Of course, the latter is necessary at times, but far too often we neglect trying the former. Try it, the softer and closer approach, and see the difference.

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Dr. John Carosso

Dr. Carosso has more than 30 years of experience as a licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist working in private, inpatient, outpatient, residential, school, and home settings. He is Clinical Director of Community Psychiatric Centers (, a licensed Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, and operates both the Autism Center of Pittsburgh ( and the Dyslexia Diagnostic and Treatment Center (