We’ve been talking a lot about kids lately, but it’s just as important to check in with ourselves to see how our thought life has been playing out.
Life isn’t always easy. Yet, we (and our kids) make life more challenging with negative thinking. The influence of negative thoughts is far-reaching. There’s no part of your life that escapes.
It affects you mentally, emotionally, and physically. It limits your ability to achieve and to enjoy life. There are reasons why pessimists are so miserable.
And the thing is… our kids aren’t any different. It affects just as much of their lives too.
There are 2 primary effects that negative thinking can have on life:
It has a negative impact on mood and outlook on life.
Negative thinking feels bad. Thinking negative thoughts can make you feel sad, afraid, angry, hopeless, and negative in general. These emotions cloud the way you view the world and have a damaging effect on your ability to make wise decisions.
Imagine a child who hasn’t experienced enough life, but they lean toward the negative. How are they going to make any informed decisions if they’re viewing their world through a negative lens?
Negative thinking hinders your ability to achieve goals.
For anything you’ve ever wanted to achieve, you have things pulling you toward your goal and other things pushing you away. When you think negative thoughts about achieving a goal, you’re much less able to accomplish it.
Here’s the thing, when the brain developed, the feeling part of the brain was wired before the thinking part of the brain got there.
This is why we, and our children alike, find ourselves with a sudden rush of emotions in a situation. The amygdala hijacks the brain, and says, “You’ll never do that!”
- Imagine you’d like to take a dream vacation to Bora Bora to stay in a hut on the water. This has always been a goal of yours. But then you start thinking about it:
- “It’s so far away, the jetlag will be awful. I’ll probably spend half of the trip just recovering.
- “The language is so different from English. How will I manage?”
- “I should spend the money on something else.”
- “I’ll lose a lot of money exchanging currency.”
- “What if something happens on the island? How will we be able to get out of there?”
All of a sudden, that dream trip to Bora Bora doesn’t sound so dreamy anymore. Negative thinking makes goals seem harder than they are in reality.
These two negative effects are what Martin Selgman calls pervasive. They influence your entire life.
Unfortunately, there are some more real effects of negative thinking that are important to mention.
Negative thinking has other consequences that limit our capabilities:
It’s damaging to health.
The stress caused by negative thinking is horrible for your health. Stress causes an imbalance in hormones and damages the immune system.
It lowers self-esteem.
When you think negative things about yourself, you can’t feel very good about yourself.
The same is true for our kids especially during this time of heightened social media consumption.
It reduces confidence.
Negative thoughts about yourself lower your self-confidence. Negative thoughts about others make you less confident in their abilities.
Negative thinking can impact everyone around you.
It saps energy.
Negative thinking is exhausting and saps your resources. They weaken you and divert all your attention to the worst-case scenario.
How to Limit Negative Thinking Patterns
Luckily, there are ways to limit negative thoughts and bring in positivity each day:
If you have a child who is more bent towards the negative, do these next activities together.
>>> Check yourself throughout the day for negative thoughts. Use a timer and perform a check every 15 minutes. Check yourself during your regular daily activities:
- Lying in bed
- Driving anywhere
- And so on
- It will take conscious effort to become aware of your own thoughts. You will probably need to model this with your child, and check in with them by asking them.
>>> When you notice a negative thought, change it to one that’s more positive. For example, you can change the thought, “I hate driving to work” to “Driving sure beats taking the bus. I can listen to my music as loudly as I like.”
>>> Get into the habit of thinking positive thoughts. Before doing any task, take 15 seconds and think a few positive thoughts about it. The task will be easier and (sometimes 🙂 more enjoyable.
Anytime I have to do a task that’s not my favorite, I try to tell myself that my “future self” will thank me later.
“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
>>> Spend more time with positive people. It’s unlikely that you’ll rise far above the people you spend the most time with. Ensure that the people around you are positive.
Reducing the times negative thinking makes an appearance is one of the most effective ways to spend your time and up-level your life.
Negative thoughts can harm the happiness, success, and health of life.
Focusing on the Kids
Many of the challenges that plague children are the result of negative thinking which in turn causes low self-esteem.
A child with high self-esteem will enjoy life more and have a more successful childhood. Children with high self-esteem are likely to grow into adults with high self-esteem.
Here are 10 Quick Ways to Grow your Child’s Self-Esteem and Confidence:
These 10 quick tips will not only bolster their confidence but all reduce their negative thinking.
Draw attention to your child’s strengths.
Let your child bask in the glory of being good at something. Whether your child’s strength is school, throwing a fastball, or playing Go Fish, let them know that you notice how great they are at it.
Teach your child how to deal with failure.
Explain that it happens to everyone and is part of life. Help your child to examine what went wrong in her approach and how to improve. Encourage your child to be persistent until success is achieved.
Give your child choices.
Just be sure that you are okay with all the options. Suppose your young child is getting dressed for school. Instead of choosing the clothes for your child, allow him to have a few options or be okay with mismatched clothes.
Your child will feel empowered because he chose his own clothes.
Allow your child to fit in at school.
The idea of purple jeans might seem bizarre to you, but if that’s what all the cool kids are doing, let it go.
It can be difficult for adults to remember the importance of peer acceptance in school. Allow your child to fit in. They are figuring out how and where they fit in.
Allow your child to struggle a little.
It can be hard to resist the urge to provide help at every opportunity.
However, it can be great for a child to learn how to deal with struggle. Ensure that the struggle ends successfully! Give your child the opportunity to be successful without parental intervention.
Be reasonable in your praise.
Your 9-year old knows her drawing of a butterfly isn’t the best butterfly the world has ever seen. Instead, offer a comment like, “I love how you used so many colors in the wings.” Be sincere with your praise.
Allow your child to overhear you complimenting them.
For example, the next time you’re on the phone in front of your child, mention something positive about him. He’ll be sure to hear and feel on top of the world.
Avoid comparing one child to another.
All people are individuals. Comments like, “Why can’t you be as neat as your sister?” cause more harm than good.
Spend time alone with your child.
It’s one way of showing that your child is important to you. Your child knows you could be doing a lot of other things, but you chose to spend time with her instead.
We all require support from time to time. When your child is struggling, provide encouragement and support. Let them know that they’re not alone. Consider what you would’ve liked to hear as a child and allow that to be your guide.
A child with a healthy level of self-esteem will be happier and perform better in school.
As a parent, you have a strong influence over your child’s self-confidence and ability to coach him through the twists and turns of his thoughts.
There are countless opportunities to make your child feel better or worse about himself. Be proactive.
Negative thoughts don’t go away overnight nor does self-esteem get built overnight.
Both of these take time, and by practicing with your own thought life, you will better be able to help your child with theirs.
Sometimes Old Habits Do Die Hard
Sometimes a child’s negative thinking habit may be different than others which requires a little bit of a different strategy.