The sun is shining, it is a beautiful summer day, and you decide to treat your kids to a day at the beach. You excitedly tell the kids to get ready and one child races to put on a swimsuit but your other child, with a grumpy expression, says, “I hate going to the beach! It is too hot and too sandy! I never have fun at the beach.” You feel yourself getting irritated and frustrated. Why does your child have a negative attitude?
Some kids are naturally upbeat and positive whereas some kids tend to focus on what is wrong in any given situation. No matter how much is right, these kids have a way of noticing and commenting on every little problem, no matter how small. Parenting a child who often has a negative view of life can feel like hard work.
The good news for both parents and children is that negativity can be modified through cognitive-behavioral strategies. Your child can learn to recognize and shift out of a negative mode. It takes some practice, but once your child gets the hang of it, life can get a whole lot easier.
When I was a school counselor, I taught a class called “The Positive Thinkers Club.” I encouraged my students to try new strategies when approaching the obstacles that crossed their path. The following are some examples that may work for your child:
1) THE CUP IS ½ FULL – Explain to your child about facing life with a “cup is ½ full” perspective. You can demonstrate this concept with a clear glass filled halfway with a favorite beverage. Explain that it isn’t the actual amount of liquid in the glass that makes a person happy or sad. Rather, it is the thoughts in a person’s head that determine how they feel. A person can think, “Darn, I only have ½ a glass of lemonade to drink, it’s not fair!” or choose to think, “Yay, I get to drink ½ a glass of delicious lemonade!” Either way there is ½ a glass of something to drink. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing depends on how a person chooses to feel.
2) JUMPING HURDLES – Teach your child that he or she can “flex” their brain and learn to think positively in order to “jump” the virtual hurdles in their path in the same manner they can “flex” their muscles to jump an actual hurdle. An example of a virtual hurdle is seeing that there is only cheese pizza when you wanted pepperoni and deciding to “jump” the hurdle and enjoy the cheese pizza anyway.
3) BAD MEMORIES BACKPACK – Explain to your child that people carry around a virtual backpack of memories. When the backpack is filled with bad memories, a person feels weighed down. But a person can choose to leave the past behind. Let your child know that there are many people in their lives – parents, grandparents, teachers, friends, coaches – who are available to help them lighten their load. Your child can choose to draw or write about a bad memory and then give the paper to a trusted adult and allow it to be thrown away. Or they can talk about about a bad memory with a trusted adult and allow the adult to “take” the memory out of the child’s virtual backpack. When a virtual backpack is light, it is easier to “jump” the hurdles of life!
4) THE HIGH-FIVE GAME – Explain to your child that when they are upset or angry it is hard to notice anything positive. The High-Five Game helps kids to focus on the positive even in a difficult situation. To play the game, have your child think of a situation that really bothers them and then make a fist. The fist represents the anger a person feels when they are focused on the bad parts of a situation. You child can then think of five positive things to focus on and raise one finger out of his fist for each positive thing. Once all five fingers are up, your child can give themselves a pat on the back for being a positive thinker.
These strategies, and more, can be found in the wonderful book, “What To Do When You Grumble Too Much – A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Negativity” by Dawn Huebner.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by your child’s negativity and would like to learn more about how to assist your child to see life with a cup 1/2 full attitude, please give me a call at 310-849-6751 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
All my best, Jeri