Teaching Kids How to Recognize and Deal with Negative Thought Patterns
Updated: Feb 12, 2019
We all have the fiery dragon inside us telling us how we aren’t good enough.
In our lives, we are constantly scared about things going wrong and, as we grow up, we start listening to this voice of the fiery dragon inside us more and develop a negative thinking bias where this voice becomes our default way of thinking.
This bias is bad because, if left unchecked, it can make one vulnerable to depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more. Unknowingly, we pass this on to our children!
The fiery dragon living inside us is contagious---like the flu, looking for its next victim. And, children are its easiest targets because they like to copy their parents.
In this blog post, we wish to help you teach kids how to recognize and deal with negative thought patterns effectively so that they don’t hold themselves back and grow up to resilient adults.
Help Your Kids Recognize Negative Thought Patterns
It may be easy for you to recognize your child’s negative thought patterns but, it's hard to teach your child how to recognize the words of the fiery dragon.
Helping your child recognize faulty thinking is the first step towards reducing emotional suffering.
Let’s Talk About Emotions: Increase Emotional Literacy
Did you know that children who are emotionally literate do better at coping with strong emotions?
Daniel Goleman has outlined five aspects of emotional intelligence in his book 'Emotional Intelligence’:
Knowing emotions so that the child can recognize what he’s feeling and the intensity Managing emotions so that the child can reassure himself/herself when upset Understanding that they are in charge of their emotions and capable of controlling them Being aware of how someone else is feeling Being able to build and manage relationships with others If your child is emotionally educated, it will be easier for them to recognize a negative emotion and put a name on it.
It is crucial for you to discuss emotions with your child to know that what they’re feeling is okay. So, we encourage you to share some whispers of the fiery dragon with your kids so that they can understand that it’s normal to have negative thoughts sometimes.
You need to make it acceptable for your child to acknowledge and address these emotions.
After all, your child needs to know if the fiery dragon is around to slay it!
Introspection: Why Am I Feeling Poorly Today?
Has the fiery dragon come out to play again?
As you teach your child how to become emotionally literate, you also need to teach them how to introspect.
Here’s a real-life scenario:
Meghan doesn’t want to run in the race because she feels that her classmate, Priscilla, is better than her and win. So, she’s holding herself back because the voice in her convinced her she couldn’t do it.
Mom: Meghan! You’re so good at running, why don’t you want to participate in the race?
Meghan: Because Priscilla runs really fast and will win! I don’t want to lose.
Mom: Hmm. It looks like Mr. Dragon is out to play. Why do you think Priscilla is faster than you? Have you raced against her before?
Meghan: No, but the kids at school say she’s really good.
Mom: You won’t know unless you try. What’s the worst that could happen?
Meghan: I could lose.
Mom: Losing doesn’t sound as bad and not doing something you enjoy.
Meghan: Hmm. You’re right.
Here are a few questions that your child should ask themselves and answer:
● What are you feeling?
● Are the thoughts true?
● What is the worst thing that can happen? What if it does happen?
Get Your Swords Ready: Let’s Slay the Fiery Dragon!
Did you know that children are less negative after they discuss things with their parents?
Teach your child about the secret weapon they have to slay the fiery dragon inside them---the flaming sword! It is crucial to teach your child that they are in control of their thoughts---not the victim of their thoughts.
Step 1: Let’s Go Back to the Beginning
Negative thinking makes minute problems seem unchangeable and permanent. Help your child out by zeroing in on what started the bad feeling or when the dragon first started whispering to them. This helps you get to the source of the problem!
It can change “I’m terrible at drawing!” to “I can’t draw Mickey Mouse’s eyes right!”
Step 2: Let’s See Things With a Change in Perspective
You can help your child understand that s/he’s under the influence of the fiery dragon by switching perspective. You can do so by asking our child to think of the situation from someone else’s angle. It could be anyone they look up to! Problems don’t seem so catastrophic when you look at them through someone else’s eyes.
Mom: What would Peppa Pig do if she couldn’t draw? Would she quit?
Meghan: I don’t know, maybe she would give it another try and practice.
Step 3: Let’s Find a Viable Solution
Once you have gotten your child calm, ask them what you can do to improve the situation. In this case, you can enroll your child in a drawing class, look up tutorials on YouTube, etc.
It’s important to tell your child about your personal battles with the fiery dragon to make them understand that they’re a normal part of life. Tell them about the challenges you faced in life and how you dealt with them.
It is essential for your child to know when the fiery dragon is around to slay it which is why it is important to teach your child how to recognize negative thinking. You can do so by emotionally educating your child so that they know how they’re feeling at a given time. Additionally, you also need to share negative thoughts with your child to help them understand how unreasonable and silly they can be.