Guest Blogger Stephanie Born, MPA Team Lead, Beyond the Classroom

When my son turned 4, his attitude went from loving life and seeing  everything as fun and exciting to answers filled with “no” and constantly found the worst in any situation. They are the kids that are often referred to as “Negative Nancy” or have troubles letting go and just “being a kid”.  Sound like your child?

The first step is to recognize that this negative thinking can be the result of many factors in your child’s life.  It can be anxiety, depression, an undiagnosed medical disorder, and even just their personality trait. In some cases, parents realized that they were negative and the child was simply reflecting back what they were used to seeing or hearing- the possibilities are everywhere. The good news is there are ways that you can work with your child and help them leverage their own strengths to see the world in a new light.

Positive talking and affirmations can go a long way

Help your child rephrase their negative thoughts by affirming the positive ones.  If your child says something like  “I am going to do terrible on my sight word quiz today”, instead say out loud and ask them to repeat after you  “I am going to do GREAT on my sight word quick today!”.  By restating negative comments as positives, your child’s brain will find motivation and boost your child’s confidence. This is a great technique to introduce and work on as a family!

Appreciate the process, not the result

My child often deals with all or nothing- and will often lean towards the nothing.  Instead of focusing on the results of any situation- the failing of his sight word quiz, talk about the process of even getting to the sight word quiz. For example, your child says “ I am going to fail on my sight word quiz today”,  refocus their energy away from passing or failing to the process of learning the sight words.  You can say  something like “ you worked really hard on learning the words” or “ remember yesterday when you knew two of the words and now you know 5?”.  This allows your child to take the stress off of the results and not go in thinking the worst is bound to happen and instead realize the positive steps forward they were able to take.

Ask Powerful Questions

Instead of asking your child “how was school?”, start your conversation with asking “tell me one positive thing about your day”.   It may be as small as a smile or as big as getting an award- all wins are still wins. Allow your child to be creative in finding good or positive things about his or her day. When your child comes up with something, validate their win.  Eventually you may be able to get multiple wins or even be able to ask a blanket question such as “how was your day” and get the positive response you want.

Ask for Help

One of the best resources for my family was reaching out for behavioral support from my son’s school based counseling team. By working with professionals in the school- they were able to help me find positive things about my son’s day to ask him about or would let me know if there were areas that he was especially thriving in that I could highlight. They also work closely with his teachers and are able to remind them to give him affirmations when they see him doing things well that can help with his confidence. They are also able to provide you with evidence based approaches to help change the mindset of your child.

Many children who lean towards being negative are often very curious and a deep sense of prudence.  It may feel like your child is unhappy, but rest assured,  this is often not the case. It is as simple as finding out the cause and working with them to change a mindset!