Saturday, November 12, 2011

Parents: Correct Your Teen’s Negative Thinking

Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

A habit of negative thinking is easy to come by. Let’s just consider the people around us, the television, the radio, and our community as a whole. Considering the new trend is to think and speak positively, it is clear that changing a negative mindset to a positive one is a lot trickier than most of us expected.

As adults we know how difficult it can be to change our habits. As such, it is important we encourage our kids and teens to develop the habit of positive thinking before they solidify a pessimistic view of life. Being negative has nothing to do with being realistic (“I just call it as I see it!”) it’s just one interpretation of the many possible ones. Being positive on the other hand injects a note of hope and expectancy. It’s a much healthier mindset.

In my practice, I love to work with and empower parents. While my one-on-one work with youth is creates immediate changes, it is my work with parents that helps the changes stick around long after I exit the scene. As such I direct much of my writing to parents, hoping to challenge them, inspire them, and guide them to think in different ways.

Here are common ways I suggest to parents to correct their teens’ negative thinking:

1. Challenge your teen’s negative thinking: Often times, you can challenge your teens negative thinking through logic alone. For example, if your teen holds the belief that new people tend not to like him ask him what he basis this conclusion on. Is it a preconceived expectation that tends to colour his view of reality? Is it based on some past experiences that lead him to believe every future experience will be the same? Future predictions, believing to be able to read others’ minds, all or nothing thinking, and catastrophizing are some of the major areas of faulty thinking.

2. Challenge your teen to step out of the comfort zone: Teens are willing to try new things if they are not worried about failing and of what that failure means. If the temporary failure is considered a part of the process and if it can be separated from what that means about him, perceived failure is no longer so threatening. Clarify this for your teen and challenge him to try something he otherwise wouldn’t.

3. A failure is not a failure: As a society we have conditioned ourselves to believe that anytime something does not work out as planned it is a failure instead of a ‘learning lesson.’ The word failure is defeating and has a note of finality in it where as a learning lessons sounds more positive and allows room for improvement. In my eyes failures only happen when people give up. Anytime your teen refers to ‘failures’ ask him to look deeper into the situation and ask him what he has learned and what he would do differently if he could do it again. Challenge him to try again if that is an option.

4. Watch yourself: Just as a kitten learns how to be a cat from his mom, kids learn how to be human, how to think, and how to behave from their parents. Yes, you must watch your thinking and speaking patterns (keep a journal to help you get a sense of your positivity/negativity patterns). Practice steps 1 to 3 in front of your teen. Just as a kitten follows mother cat’s example, your teen will follow yours.

Best Wishes to Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach in Toronto

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