There’s no doubt about it…this past year has been hard. It’s been challenging in every way that you can think of. Many people have fallen into funks, causing negative thinking and overall sullen attitudes. Its been difficult just being, let alone being a parent of a child.
I’ve spoken before about how no matter how hard we try to hide it, children are keenly aware of their parent’s emotional states. Knowing that our children feed off of our emotional states, and with today being Positive Thinking Day, I thought I would spend today talking about how we can encourage our children to think positively. Who knows, it may even help us think a bit more positively.
First things first
We ALL have thought negative thoughts. We all have been through tough, trying experiences. Sometimes we just feel down in the dumps. THAT IS OK! I’m here to tell you first and foremost, you need to feel all of your feelings. And if you’re feeling low, that’s ok. It happens. We’ve all been there.
This blog today is not about teaching your child to push down all of their negative emotions so that they don’t feel them. We want them to accept these feeling, but we also want them to be able to process these negative emotions in a healthy manner. One way of doing that is through teaching them ways to think positively and encouraging them to use these tools in times of need.
Setting the Mood
Children are sensitive beings. They pick up on even the slightest change in an adult’s behavior. And bad moods are contagious. Have you ever seen a kid suddenly act out for seemingly no reason? If you take a step back and look at the environment, nine times out of ten there is tension in the air among the adults.
I see it happen with P (4 years old) when my husband and I are engaging in a heated conversation. Its like she knows the mood in the room has changed and her knee-jerk response is to change up the mood to try to get it back to a positive place. Unfortunately, because she’s 4 the only way that she really knows how to do this is act out to get our attention. But this instantly lets me know that she’s feeling the tension and the mood in the room needs to change.
So, if we want our kids to think positively, then we are going to need to be in a positive place ourselves. Some ways that you can reset the mood are to take a walk, cuddle with a pet or your child, read something positive or inspirational, listen to music or dance around your living room.
Model the behavior
Do any of you remember that old ‘don’t do drugs’ commercial where the dad shoves a box of drug paraphernalia in his kids face and asks where he learned about it and the kid answers “You alright? I learned it by watching you!”? This is a long roundabout attempt at humorously pointing out that kids learn by watching the adults around them.
Do you want your child to learn to positively accept and process their emotions? Then you need to let them see you do that. Having a bad day? That’s ok. You don’t always need to hide it from your kids. You can let them know you’re having a bad day and that you’re trying to feel better. Don’t let them think that it is their job to make you feel better…but let them know that you’re sad and that it’s ok.
People get sad/mad/angry/frustrated. These are emotions that we all feel at some point in time. Showing your child that you can go from that negative thought space to a positive one will allow them to know that they too can have a this kind of experience. Remember, little people have big emotions that they don’t always know how to express. The more we as adults can model positive emotional acceptance for them, the more likely they are to engage in similar behavior patterns.
Sometimes when P is participating in a challenging activity she’ll say “I can’t do it!”. We’ve all heard this. I hear it at the clinic, at home, at the park, everywhere I go. I don’t always like to come back with “you CAN do it” because let’s be honest, sometimes they just can’t. So, I often find myself saying “How do you know until you try?”
What we really want here is the positive thinking of “if I think I can then I can” rather than “if I think I can’t then I can’t”. If they start off thinking they can’t do something then the won’t even try to do it. If they THINK they can do it, then they are more willing to try, right?
I’ve talked about it before, but I’ll say it again. I don’t always look for tasks to be completed perfectly. Instead I look at the quality of the engagement. Did they actually try? Did they give it their all? If yes, then that’s really all I can ask for. Encouraging them to try with a positive outlook is really the best outcome we can hope for.
Words of Encouragement
Every situation is a learning opportunity, right? If your child approaches an activity with a can-do attitude but then doesn’t succeed, that’s ok. It’s not about the accomplishment as much as it is about the attempt. In situations like this saying something as simple as
“I know you’re upset that it didn’t turn out the way you expected but I am so proud of you for trying”
can have a tremendous impact on a child’s self-esteem.
Each child is a unique individual that will participate in activities in their own fashion. As your child grows and becomes more self-aware, providing words of positive encouragement can help them see their own strengths. A little encouragement can go a long way.
Complimenting your child’s character and effort can go a long way in setting them up for a future of positive thinking. Provide words of encouragement and try your best to model a behavior that is positive. 😊