How to Think Positive
Children often see the world in black and white, viewing people and experiences through an un-nuanced lens. Research shows that this kind of thinking emerges as kids try to organize and make sense of their thoughts and feelings about the world around them. As much as this makes sense from a developmental perspective, this worldview ends up leaving little ones thinking and speaking in extremes in order to get their points across, feeling hurt by humor they don’t understand, and being inflexible. In essence, children get trapped in their own misconceptions and complaints without even realizing it. However, the power is in our hands as parents and educators to work with them on viewing reality with a touch more nuance and positivity - a skill set that will undoubtedly benefit them for the rest of their lives.
A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
It is human nature to interpret signs around us in a way that strengthens our belief system. If we were to possess a different belief, we might interpret the signs around us differently.
For example, a child calls a friend. There’s no answer. If the child holds the belief that they’re unwanted, they might think that the friend doesn’t want to talk to them and that was why they didn’t answer his phone. On the other hand, If the child feels confidence in themself and their friendships, they might tell themself that this friend is likely busy and will call back later.
Emotion affects the response
It’s very common that children tell themselves stories based on beliefs they have formed, make predictions in their heads about others based on those beliefs, and act out of the emotions they developed in these internal conversations - in most cases without other people having any side in the matter.
Children need help differentiating between their internal narratives and other possible explanations for external events and behaviors.The best way to do so is to stick to the dry facts. For example, if a child calls a friend and there is no answer, they may think that their friend does not want to talk to them, but the dry fact was there was simply "no answer". Other stories can be just as feasible. Maybe their friend was in a place with no reception. Maybe they were doing something that prevented them from picking up the phone. Either way, it's all guesses and we won't be able to know for a fact until we directly address it, so why assume the negative?
In every good there is a bit of bad, in every bad there is a bit of good
I use the concept of yin and yang to illustrate the fact that there is no good without bad and no bad without good. Children may be “stuck” in a recurring, negative thought pattern pertaining to themselves or the world. For example, "I do not know how to draw", "I am not good at sports", "I am fat", etc.
The yin and yang symbol helps children concretely understand that things are not just black or white, and that light can always be found if you look for it. When working with clients, we examine their negative perceptions together, acknowledge the difficulties, then suggest a different angle triggered by questions such as "can you find any good in it?" or "What do you gain from this?" Using this symbol to remind us that there is no good without bad and vice versa can be an immensely helpful tool for children when searching for the good that exists.
Acting as a means of developing positive thinking
Children who are prone to think more negatively express this through play. They often say things like, "I will not succeed", "I always lose" and so on. Even during the game they tend to be concentrated on a probable negative outcome.
As parents of a child with a negative outlook, I invite you to use the Strongsuit game to guide them through an approachable perception change. This game is all about building yourself up and eliminating the need to win in order to feel good about oneself. It helps children realize their own self-worth and boost their sense of confidence. As all the questions in the game evoke positive thinking in relation to self and others, it is fun for kids while also being a pragmatic tool for working on flexing positive thinking muscles and learning cooperation skills when working as a team and helping others. It's never too late to work with your children on changing their worldview - and the result will inevitably lead to long term, increased sense of wellbeing.