A good attitude can go a long way to help a person lead a happier, more fulfilling life. Some people seem to have the ability to see the brighter side of things, while others tend to expect the worst.
How can you help your child develop a positive way of thinking?
Break it down. Negative thinking is often the result of feeling frustrated or overwhelmed. Help your child learn to break down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.
"Clean your room," is a big order for a small child. "Would you like to put away your books or your stuffed animals first?" is easier to handle, and then you can move on to the next step in cleaning the room.
You can help an older child think through the steps involved in a given task. As children practise this skill, it will become easier to look at any undertaking as a series of smaller steps rather than one overwhelming challenge.
Don’t cry over spilled milk. Children will make mistakes. When something goes wrong, you can discuss the situation and learn from it — and then move on.
It is not helpful to bring up past disappointments. Children learn from experience, and not all experiences can be successful. Instead of worrying about a setback, use it as an opportunity to teach your child about perseverance.
Never say never. Generalizations like ‘never’, ‘always’, ‘everyone’ or ‘nobody’ are all key words in negative thinking. We have all heard a child whine, "I never get to do what I want!" or "Nobody wants to play with me!" Statements like these make any situation feel far worse than it really is.
When your child makes these complaints, acknowledge his feelings, but also help him see that ‘never’ is a very big exaggeration.
Parents need to be careful not to make these comments as well. If a child hears, "You are never ready to go on time!" or "You always make such a mess when you eat!" often enough, he may believe it and quit trying to improve.
Focus on the positive. Model positive thinking in your own life. This does not mean sugar coating anything unpleasant, but rather finding a balance. Be realistic about mistakes and don’t dwell on the negative. Help your child learn to keep things in perspective by finding the good in any situation.
Take a moment each evening to name a few good things that happened during the day. When children get in the habit of appreciating small things, they develop the ability to focus on the positive things in life.
In turn, this can help them become more confident, persistent, and happy as they take on life’s challenges.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers parenting information and support. » 255 Ninth St., Brandon » 726-6280
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 30, 2012