Recently I was talking with a mum who said her child is “persistently negative” in his thinking. “He tells me the teacher hates him, his friends are mean to him and he is in a lot of pain. How can I help him?” Getting at the heart of what pains your child involves helping exploring how your child thinks, feels and behaves. Some children are born more optimistic than others, but we can build optimism with practice.
How to talk with your children about what they think and feel in a manner that helps them open up and not close down is a big discussion that is addressed in The Family Coach Method. The key is to develop trust with your children so that they know you will explore their life experiences with introspection and solution-generation not judgement.
One specific aspect of helping children feel better about themselves is to aide them in developing positive thinking. How we perceive and think about life experiences impacts how we feel as well as our health. If your child’s brain goes naturally to the negative, you’ll need to open up new neuronal pathways for more positive thinking. This takes, writing, talking, movement, drawing and more.
The best way I think to help your child to think more positively is to get a playground ball and bounce it back and forth between the two of you. Talk in a slow and easy manner about your child’s concerns. Ask open-ended questions. If your child cannot put the experiences into words, offer your ideas and ask, “Am I getting this right?”
“It seems like something is on your mind.”
“Shall we talk about it?”
“How are the kids treating one another at school?”
“What do the kids do that is kind to one another?”
“What do you see when people being mean.”
“How would you like things to be different?”
As your child starts to explore his thoughts and feelings ask him if he’s open to “drawing it out.” Sit down at your kitchen table and begin with a simple exercise.
1. Draw a line down the middle of one 8.5 x 11 in piece of paper.
2. On the left-hand side write Negative Thoughts.
3. On the right-hand side write Positive Thoughts.
4. Tell your son, how we think about what happens to us impacts how we feel.
5. Ask him to write (or you write) the negative thoughts on the left, then transform the thoughts into positive thoughts, often including how to take action on the right.
6. Then, make a plan to take action on just one negative thought. “What will you do about…” “What’s our plan for…” “What will you say to your teacher today?” “How will you choose and approach a new friend?”
Try not to argue with your child about his thoughts, he has a right to them. Just help him see that he is in control of what he thinks and he can see things with more hope when he knows how to improve difficult social and academic situations. Here are two #FREE printables. Click on them to enlarge and print.
Share these with your school, counselors, family and more. Together we can help children develop the positive thinking skills needed to enhance their lives. The work of Dr. Martin Seligman and Dr. Robert Brooks are also worth a peek.