Tired of Hearing “I Can’t” From Your Kids? End the Negativity

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Image via Katie Hurley

While pessimistic thinking is often brushed off as a personality trait, it is actually a learned behavior. Sometimes it is even used to mask anxiety. When kids approach most situations with “I can't” or very low expectations, they are lost in a cycle of negativity. Kids can, in fact, get stuck in a pattern of negative thinking and struggle to break free.

Seeing that adults also struggle helps kids learn that we all need to work through obstacles at times, and asking for help is always a good idea.

The good news, however, is that kids can learn to reframe their thoughts and rely on positive thinking. Optimism can help kids work through difficult situations and learn to solve problems.

It should come as no surprise that kids take their cues from their parents when it comes to choosing optimism over pessimism, so try to work on your own approach to difficult tasks as well. When I catch myself muttering words of defeat, I usually explain my feelings to my kids and ask them to help me come up with a positive reframe.

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Image via iStock

Teach positive self-talk

Do you ever talk to yourself? I do. Sometimes I talk out loud to remember important things, while other times I do it to keep my attitude positive. Talking your way through problematic situations can help you stay positive and remain focused on the task at hand. It also works for kids.

No one likes to struggle, and many kids really like to get things right on the first try. To that end, kids sometimes do get stuck in a negative loop when obstacles arise. Teaching them to replace negative thoughts with positive ones helps them tap into positive emotions and continue to work through triggers of frustration.

When you hear phrases such as “I can't,” “this is impossible,” or “I'll never do this again,” try to remain calm and consider the source of the stress. Give your child a moment to calm down, and then label your child's feelings. Empathize and share a similar story. Then help your child replace the negative thought with a positive one. “I'm not sure how to fix this, but I'm really good at fixing things” can be inspiring for little kids.

{ MORE: 3 Reasons to Say 'No' to No }

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Creative stories

We love continuous stories in our house. It's a great way to pass the time during a long wait and can be great fun at the dinner table. It also helps kids work on creative problem-solving and staying positive.

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Here's how it works: One person says one line to begin a story. The story evolves line by line as it goes around the table. Each player has to listen to the previous line and build upon it, and obstacles in the storyline are likely to arise. Together, the players work through obstacles and keep the story going until the story comes to a natural end.

When families use this strategy, kids work on a number of social-interaction skills, and remaining positive is crucial to the story. Another player might create a conflict between characters, but each player has an opportunity to flip the script and resolve the conflict.

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Image via Katie Hurley

Use mantras

We are a musical family, and there is something about a mantra that lends itself to song. We often chant something along the lines of “Hurleys never quit” to get started, but always end up creating a silly song in the end. It's fun and a great way to break a moment of negativity.

Mantras can help kids stay focused on the positive as they work through frustration. Help your kids come up with both personal and family mantras and use them often. Your kids will be more positive for it.

{ MORE: To the Parent Who's Raising Their Children Differently Than They Were Raised }

What have you done to help your kids stay positive?

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Tired of Hearing “I Can’t” From Your Kids? End the Negativity

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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