"Building Your Child Up!"
Some people are born with a more positive disposition while others are born with more of a negative disposition case in point my two little boys. One is often always positive and the other is often thinking negatively, but there is hope. The latest research in neuroscience and positive psychology demonstrates that we can mold our brains and ourselves to be more positive, which is great news for all our children.
I believe that positive kids become positive adults and as parents we can play a significant role in shaping our children’s perspective and mindset. I want to share with you several tips to develop positive kids.
1. Success of the Day – Each night before bed, at dinner or while taking an after dinner walk ask your children to talk about at least one positive event of their day. I often do this is therapy session and My wife and I do this with our children. The success could be a great conversation, an accomplishment at school, something they are proud of, a situation where they helped someone, etc. The important thing is to help them focus on positives instead of negatives. When we help our children expect success, look for success, and celebrate success they find more success and gain more confidence. Of course they need to learn from their mistakes and failures, but let’s help them to not dwell on them.
2. Implement the No Complaining Rule – It’s a simple rule that says you’re not allowed to complain unless you identify one or two possible solutions to your complaint. This empowers children to feel like they have some control instead of feeling hopeless and powerless as many of us often feel like. They also learn to use complaints as a catalyst for positive change and positive action.
3. Bedtime Prayer – A ritual such as this provides your children with a foundation of peace, security, and confidence that gives them the strength to take on the daily challenges of being a child. My wife reads to our boys daily at bed time and it gives our boys time to talk about what they are thinking and feeling.
4. Feel Blessed instead of Stressed – As parents we need to realize that children, like adults, deal with a lot of stress…and stress is the enemy of positivity. Well, the great news is that when you are feeling blessed you can’t be stressed. The research says we can’t be stressed and thankful at the same time. My wife and I recently attended a spiritual event in which the pastor asked us to practice daily a ritual of written five things we should be thankful to God for. Thus, a simple ritual is to help your children identify five things they are thankful for each day. You can create a gratitude journal together or you can encourage them to write these blessings diary or simply talk about them at dinner and anytime they are feeling stressed you can encourage them to recall something they are thankful for.
I encourage you to think of your child’s mind like a over grown garden. Each day you want to help them weed their negative thoughts and plant positive thoughts. One day of weeding and planting won’t do much. However if you practice these strategies each day, over a week, a month, a year, a lifetime, the garden grows more healthy and vibrant. Nurture your child. Take time to coach them and nourish them with lots of love and positive energy and you shall see the fruits of your efforts.
Do you have any favorite strategies or rituals to develop positive kids?
That's where the power of positive self-talk comes in. Whether you’re trying to get your child to try a new sport so they can be more physically active or remind yourself that you can make healthy food choices, positive self-talk can give your family the motivation you need to succeed.
It can build your family’s confidence that you can indeed make healthy changes. If you teach your kids about positive-self talk and how to do it, it can give them the ability to change feelings of “I can’t” to “Yes, I can” / I’m going to lose to I can win.”
What Is Positive Self-Talk?
Positive self-talk is a way people can encourage themselves when they might be feeling or thinking negatively. Tell your kids that lots of professional athletes use it to keep themselves motivated, confident, and focused on their goals and what they want to achieve. It helps them succeed. For example:
• Dallas Cowboys Tom Landry“ I’ve learned that something constructive comes from every defeat.”
• NFL Coach Vince Lombardi “It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get up. “
• KU Coach Larry Brown “You have to do something in your life that is honorable and not cowardly if you are to live in peace with yourself”
• Pele Soccer “The more difficult the victory, the greater the happiness in winning.”
You kids may feel better to learn that everyone has doubts – and even pro athletes have setbacks. Positive self-talk can help them keep going.
Let kids know that using positive-self talk takes practice. Just like they need to run and play to make their muscles and heart stronger, practicing positive self-talk helps their minds get stronger so they can make healthy thinking choices that are not emotionally draining and have positive results.
When Can Kids Use Positive Self-Talk?
One of the best times is when something seems too hard or makes them nervous. When doubt creeps in, teach them they can do something about it. Help them think about the solutions.
Food for Thought—“ You Do Your Best God Will Do the Rest”
Positive self talk is important in today’s world as children are exposed to so many negative thoughts including their own. I like using my own children as an example because I see their behavior daily. From a therapeutic standpoint, some of the behavior that my children exhibit is similar to what I see clinically. I also like to use the topic of a sport specifically folkstyle wrestling because I am very familiar with the sport and sports mimic life in so many ways.
I grew up wrestling in Kansas and in Oklahoma which helped me to become the man that I am and so naturally my children wrestle and I coach my sons wrestling team. I can recall when my youngest son who is now 4 years old first started wrestling, he would say to himself that he was going to lose the wrestling match and guess what he would. So my wife and I worked with him and gave him a simple positive statement that is often heard in the children’s book “The Little Engine That Could - "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can.”- by Watty Piper. Now he goes out there thinking that he is going to win without the fear of losing and he is learning just to try his best and I say “God will do the rest.”Regardless if he wins or loses he has learned to keep a positive frame of reference.
My eight year old son on the other hand for some reason possibly genetic, environmental or just situational often struggles with a negative frame of reference, as many of us do as children and adults. My wife and I are constantly working with our eight year old son to stay focused on the positives in life to keep his frame of reference positive. To place things into perspective, I struggled with this same negative thought pattern growing up and at times still struggle with this issue but I have learned through the therapeutic process and life that focusing on the negative does not change the situation. I have come to learn that it is better to focus on a solution to the problem than to dwell on something that is in the past and cannot be changed. My wife and I often have to redirect my older son to describe positive events or situations in his daily routine because he will dwell on the negative. My wife often tells our two little boys that they are good boys, they are smart boys, and I have added God loves them and to love themselves. I have used these lines with clients and had much success!!!
My eight year old is one of the best wrestlers in the state of Alabama for his weight group and hardly ever loses a wrestling match. However, when he started to lose recently he started to cry and as his father and his coach one of my goals for him was that he stay focused on trying his best. I try to teach him often how the difficulty and pain he feels in wrestling matches can teach him how to better cope with life as an adult. I don’t focus on winning or losing! Wrestling is like life, the wrestler is battling another person but really many times they are battling themselves. There are a lot of ups and down in the match there is fear, happiness, excitement, anxiousness, disappointment, confidence, exhaustion, boredom, sadness, insight, etc, etc. I think and feel my older son will soon be able to conquer his negative mindset it will just take practice, practice, and more practice just as it does with life!!!!
Hector Oswaldo Chavez, MS, is a Marriage and Family Therapist, Professional Counselor, and Substance Abuse Counselor. He serves on multiple boards and has worked in a variety of clinical settings such as with the Army, Navy, Hospital Inpatient and Outpatient, Community Mental Health, and Private Practice. His professional views may not necessarily reflect the views of other mental health or medical professionals. If you have any personal or family concerns about the topic discussed, please seek professional assistance.