Five ways to improve your child’s positive thinking
Even though negative emotions are as valid and normal as positive ones, as parents we do like to see our children rather develop positive thinking than the opposite.
However, it’s only natural that, as human beings, we’re dwelling on the negative instead. I don’t say it, science does. And it couldn’t be any more different for kids too.
Which is why I believe it’s particularly important that we learn how to improve children’s positive thinking because, yes, just as anything else in the world, this is also a lesson to be learned.
First of all, are negative thoughts a bad thing?
Well, technically, no. They’re actually a natural part of ourselves, it’s called “being human.” However, dwelling too much on the bad side of life, has some serious side-effects, apart from dampening our enthusiasm and ruining our days. Which is why I, personally, wish I knew at least of a couple of techniques when I was a kid, so I can attract more positive thoughts.
This is not to say that struggling to be happy and smiling all the time and reject any negative thoughts is healthy either. On the contrary – children should know and experience both sides. It’s all in the balance, I’d say.
I’ll never forget my daughter’s reaction on a Christmas day after she opened all of her presents. “But Santa forgot about my baby-slime!” she articulated, visibly disappointed. I know that having the skills to navigate through such emotions will help her become a grounded, self-aware grown-up.
That being said, here is how to improve children’s positive thinking using five easy techniques
1. Keep a happy environment
I am not talking about furniture or home décor in particular. Although, yes, having a big window-wall facing the Ocean WON’T do any harm, sure. I am rather referring to your home as a positive climate with lots of joyful moments shared with your family.
The bedtime cuddling, the “good morning” kisses and hugs, the Sunday afternoon cheeky board-games. Basically, make your home a happy place – no secret recipe here. Do what makes you and your loved ones happy.
To us, is reading funny stories, play pretend and hide-and-seek, funny boardgames, invent stories with these Storyteller Flashcards, crazy dancing and so many more. Basically, whatever helps you have an open, engaged relationship and, most importantly, what makes you laugh so hard, your bellies hurt.
Laughter is the best medicine, so they say. No wonder it has been proven to reduce anxiety, improve self-esteem and optimism and, actually, it’s one of the best coping mechanisms a person has that helps one going through difficult times.
2. Volunteer and help others
Kindness is one of the most important values we can teach our children. We can encourage them to volunteer and help other people and this is actually beneficial to themselves as well.
We find it very useful and entertaining to make room for other toys and clothes. It’s a wonderful time to teach my little girl about kindness and empathy. She eagerly shares her belongings to less fortunate children and we both deliver her selected toys and clothes to charity shops.
And most of the times, children don’t have to give up on big things. Sometimes they might find it difficult. But giving up their seat in the bus or their place at the queue for someone who might need it more is also a great way to start.
Helping others makes everyone happy and, according to sociologists, it is actually a strong way to promote positivity. Plus, more then often, it doesn’t cost a thing.
3. Praise in a smart way
You’d be surprised to find out that praising has its own “handbook”. When we compliment our children for something they did, it is important to be specific.
One day, Ilinca, my 4 years-old, came to me with a big smile on her face. “Look, mummy, do you like my drawing?” she asked with a grin. There was a big scribble on the paper, a circle with two dots and four lines that looked like skinny-spider legs bursting out of it. In all honesty, I didn’t like. So, saying “Wow, what a great job you did here!” would have made me both a liar and an inconsiderate.
Here is what I did instead: I described what I saw. Simple as that. And then I asked, “What is it?”. And she answered, very casually “This is YOU, mummy. See, this is the hair and your legs and your hands in the air, clapping!”.
Oh, wow! I would have never known if I just said “What a great job!”
By being specific and praising the effort, instead of the result, you help your child build self-confidence and, more than that, you teach them a valuable lesson on celebrating their own achievements. Plus, in time, they’ll become more self-aware and they’ll able to know when to push their own limits.
4. How to improve children’s positive thinking: Find the silver-lining
Over the years of owning my own business, I’ve learned that every tough situation has a solution. I’ve learned to get creative every single time life threw lemons on me. So, instead of complaining, I’d got curious and asked myself “hmm, what is this experience trying to teach me? How can I improve next time?” I have learned this lesson countless times, so often in fact, that I now apply it to nearly every setback I come across.
It’s the same with our children. Teaching them to find the good in every situation will most definitely improve their positive thinking.
Like every time you send your little one to clean her room and she’d say “this is sooo boring! Why do I always have to do it?”. When looking at the bright side, even such a boring activity has its advantages, right?
You know that by putting the toys back where they belong, there’s lots of room left for all the other fun games you can play as a family. Or that it will teach your child to be responsible and organised in a long run. Make sure your child understands how rewarding the experience is. In time, she’ll be able to bring out the best in everything.
The explanation is quite simple, actually. It’s called neuroplasticity and it basically says that our brains can be “modelled”.
“As scientists put it, the brain is plastic, or moldable. Yes, the actual physical architecture of the brain changes based on what happens to us.”
Daniel J. Siegel in No Drama Discipline: The Whole Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture your Child’s Developing Mind
There’s an old saying that says: “Neurons that fire together, wire together” – plainly put, the more you practice something, the better you become.
When your child trains his brain to look for the positive even in the gloomiest situations, he will continue to do so in adulthood. It’s an extraordinary skill, really!
5. Avoid saying ”no”
A healthy, strong parent-child relationship needs boundaries, no ifs, ands or buts. However, knowing the difference between when to say “no” to something and when to say “yes” makes the difference when it comes to improving children’s positive thinking.
Now, I must admit that when my daughter was little, up to toddlerhood, I used to say no quite often. I’d got scared of virtually everything.
- NO to touching her muddy shoes.
- NO to stepping on the chair to reach for a toy on a top shelf.
- NO to running too loudly.
- NO to chewing on a book.
But I’ve learned over time, after serious documentation and my own personal experience, that a NO should be said, firmly, when there’s absolute danger. For instance, there is a strict NO! to touching the hob when it’s hot or reaching the fork or the knife from the counter. This means that a specific action is strictly forbidden. Under no circumstance, the child is allowed to do so.
Of course, we make the child understand there is a strong reason for that and we explain the consequences.
But if the child asks for a walk in the park and our answer comes on autopilot, no, well, we owe her an explanation.
And it’s interesting to see what exactly happens to your child’s brain when they hear no all the time. Dr. Dan Siegel, whom I quoted before, tells Mindful.org, that a “yes brain” child is more prone to approach life in a positive way, whereas when we constantly say no, “a child’s development becomes curtailed because they’re not open to new learning and connected with others.”
There are countless ways to replace the NO with other wording. For instance:
* We can’t play now -> How about we make a plan for playing later, after…
* Don’t say that to your friend! –> We use kind words when we speak to our friends
* I won’t buy you this toy! -> I’ll tell you what: why don’t you make a list of the toys you’d wish and we’ll buy the first on the list next time we come shopping?
* Don’t be sad/Don’t cry now -> Oh, I can see you’re getting sad, it’s ok. Can you tell me what’s the matter?
These are ways to improve your child’s positive thinking, helping them to become curious, stable and true to themselves, while also giving them the tools to cope with life’s disappointments and learn through hardships.
It’s an ongoing process, we’re constantly learning and adjusting. We become better human beings by being their parents, aren’t we?
What else have you tried?
Until next time,