Developing A Positive Attitude
As a parent, it is never easy to hear your child express negative thoughts or see her wallow in feelings like self-doubt, sadness, or anger. Unfortunately, it can be natural for some people to dwell more on negative thoughts than on positive ones. Focusing on negative thoughts can shape how a child sees herself and the world around her. If your child is a “negative thinker,” there’s plenty you can do to help your child develop a more positive attitude about herself and the world.
First, Accept that Negative Thoughts and Feelings Are Not Bad
There is no “bad” thought or emotion. All thoughts and feelings are valid. Both positive and negative thoughts and emotions play a valuable role in how we process the world around us. For instance, sadness can help us process difficult times, and we would have no moral compass if we never felt shame or guilt. Additionally, trying to be happy all the times alienates us from our emotions, which simply isn’t healthy. We don’t want to encourage children to avoid or dismiss negative emotions. Instead, we can teach them to express themselves and work through the discomfort.
What Can We Do?
We can teach our kids to accept negative emotions and process them in a healthy way. We can encourage positive thinking and positive affirmations. According to positive psychology researcher Barbara Fredrickson, positive thinking is important because it broadens your sense of possibility and opens your mind, allowing you to build new skills. Positive thinking, Fredrickson says, “broadens and builds.” It also helps children (and adults) build resiliency. Further, neurobiologist Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin, explains that the brain is “plastic” and can be trained to be more emotionally resilient and to respond to certain emotions in a healthier manner. Parents can practice these mental exercises with their kids to help “rewire” the brain and encourage a more positive attitude:
1. Loving Kindness Meditation
Engage your child in loving kindness meditation. It involves thinking of loved ones and
sending them positive thoughts. The four traditional phrases are, “May you feel safe.
May you feel happy. May you feel healthy. May you feel calm.”
2. Helping Others
Your child can help others by assisting an elderly neighbor with yard work or chores,
holding the door for others, helping a friend with homework, or participating in a
canned food or clothing drive. You could also make volunteering a family affair and
regularly help with a church event or other charitable organization.
3. Recording Awe Moments
Create a family “Awe Journal.” In the journal, family members can record sights or
moments from their daily lives that they find beautiful or extraordinary: a rainbow, a
kind act, or even the smell of freshly baked cookies. Sharing these “awe moments” at
family dinners or during bedtime snuggles can become a sweet family tradition.
4. Setting and Achieving Goals
Encourage your child to set goals and visualize and plan for obstacles in advance. This is
called the WOOP approach: Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. This approach makes it
more likely that your child will actually achieve her goals, resulting in increased
confidence and a more positive attitude.
5. Sharing Positivity
Share positive experiences with your child. Laugh with your child, hug your child, set
aside time to provide your undivided attention, and enjoy positive experiences together.
6. Developing New Skills and Trying New Activities
Recognize your child’s strengths and give her opportunities to develop them and
experience success. If your child expresses interest in a new activity, let her try it out.
You can even find new activities to try with your child in order to increase your shared
7. Practicing Positive Affirmations
Guide your child to come up with affirmations that are short, positive, and present
tense: I am kind. I am enough. I am loved.