This post comes by request after Tikeetha read a post on perception determining your reality. She asked for tips on shaping your child’s perception when they tend to focus more on the negative than the positive. This is something adults and children alike struggle with. If children can be taught how to deal with this from an early age, it will be something that can serve them well as they grow. I’m going to share my personal practice I’ve used to train my brain to pay attention to the positive things. These tips will be a combination of what you can do as the parent in addition to what you can teach your child.
The first part of my positive focused practice is mindfulness, the practice of being in the moment. This is important because it helps you not to dwell on something that happened in the past whether earlier that day or in the more distant past. When they get overwhelmed or start to fall into their negative footsteps, have them do something that connects them with the present moment. It might be taking a deep breath and blowing it out as hard as they can. It might be doing 10 jumping jacks. You might have them look around and find as many things around them in their favorite color as they can in 10 seconds. Once you have them focused on something other than where their mind was going, help them redirect their thoughts. Teach your child to focus on the present moment by having them really pay attention to what they’re doing right now, what they see, smell, feel.
So many times the beauty of the present is lost because it’s spent thinking about the past or the future. Being mindful helps you to appreciate the present moment because it focuses your attention on it. Things you might otherwise overlook are noticed giving you the opportunity to appreciate them. One of the best ways to teach your children this is to show them. Get in the habit of being in the moment, focus your attention on what you’re doing by being mentally present. This means not doing one thing and thinking of something completely unrelated. This also means that your attention is focused on the conversation or activity at hand. Not getting distracted by mental to-do lists, social media, or what you have to do next. Practice being aware of your surroundings, your thoughts, and noticing as many details as you can about the moment you’re in.
If you’re making dinner for example, let yourself get wrapped up in the experience. Marvel at the shape and individual characteristics of the vegetables as you begin to prepare them for your meal. Notice the beautiful vibrant colors they come in. Smell them as you peel and chop them. This doesn’t take extra time and it connects your mind with what your body is doing.
The second tip is teaching them to look for positive things in their day. Help them shift their focus towards positive things so they can actively look for things that support the idea that there are positive experiences in their day. If your child is struggling to see the positive things, make it fun! Have them look for positive things in their day like a pirate looking for treasure on a map. Have them pretend they’re a positivity detective, get them a little spiral notebook where they can jot down all of the wonderful things they experience and witness. Have them be a positivity artist, where they draw something positive they witnessed or experienced and encourage them to include as many details of it in their artwork. Come up with something based on their age and interest or better yet, have them come up with something! This will help them to be on the lookout for it throughout the day. If they go through the day picking up on all of the negative aspects of the day and are asked to look back and come up with something positive, it makes it hard when that’s not what they were focused on. They have to learn to look for what they want to see because that evidence will show up all around them.
Cultivating gratefulness is an important part of my process. If we go back to the example of being in the moment as you make dinner, you can bring gratefulness into that scenario as well. You can start off by being thankful that you have the ingredients to make the meal you’re about to serve your family. Grateful that you have a house with running water to rinse your vegetables off with. Appreciative you have the health and ability to prepare and serve the meal. Although it doesn’t take any extra time to think these thoughts versus ones of being rushed and possibly frustrated that you have to throw a meal together after a long day, it does completely shift the emotional environment in which the meal is prepared. Doesn’t it feel more enticing to cook with the attitude of appreciation? You want to teach your children this same principle when it comes to the things they do, the thoughts they think, and the way they respond.
If you can teach your children to be in the moment it can help manage feelings that otherwise cultivate anxiety and depression later in life. If you can teach them to train themselves to look for the positive things, they won’t let negativity cloud their thoughts. If you teach them to be grateful, they are more likely to focus on what’s really important helping them put things into perspective.
What are your thoughts on this post? Do your children struggle with focusing on the negative? Have you tried any of these tips? Are you willing to give it a try? Does it seem like something that might help? Do you have any tips of your own to share with parents in this situation? Feel free to share in the comments! If you have any suggestions for future parenting posts, I’d love to write something you want to read about!