To call me an optimist is an understatement. People used to make fun of my relentless tendency to find rainbows hiding in thunderstorms. Age and experience have tempered the glare of my sunniness, but I'm still pretty damn positive.
And so, the world, in its wisdom and ironic humor, gave me the job of raising a pessimist.
Where I see a world filled with possibility and adventure, my son sees threat and monotony. In his mind, new experiences are scary, but familiar experiences are boring. Expectations are either so high that reality is dissapointing, or so low there's little motivation to try.
My knee-jerk optimism doesn't help him feel any better. Too often it reinforces the internal voice that tells him he's all alone.
My challenge is to maintain my optimism but to offer it to my son in palatable doses. Rather than using it to beat away his negative feelings, I try to offer it as a lens through which he can interpret events. I lend him my rose-colored glasses, when he's willing.
It has taken years for me to figure this out on my own.
On a recent library jaunt I spied Freeing Your Child From Negative Thinking on the "Recommended" shelf. I've read my share of "fix your kid" parenting books and finish most feeling either underwhelmed or defeated. Plus, this one's written by a Ph. D. which immediately raised my suspect parenting expert hackles. But if someone can help me avoid more of those painful lessons learned by experience, I'm willing to listen. I checked it out. And I'm glad I did.
This book is compassionate, practical, intelligent, and realistic. It not only gives parents a plan and specific strategies for helping kids reframe their negative thinking, it encourages parents to reframe the process of having to teach these skills in the first place.
For most kids, feeling and reacting happen in a split second. Dr. Chansky demonstrates, with exercises and age-appropriate scripts (for little kids to teens), how to teach your child to become aware of his initial feelings, but then to gradualy change the habitual negativity those feelings set off.
There's way more in the book than I can summarize here, but all of these exercises are doable, and more importantly, they sound natural. This isn't feel-good "I'm OK, you're OK" lip service; this is concrete, makes-sense stuff that will help you and your kid unravel the confusing jumble inside his head.
Bad stuff happens. That's hard. Here are some ways to think about it. More importantly, here's how to recognize and hold onto when the really good stuff happens. Because it happens more often than you might realize.
I just finished the book so I'm still formulating what it means to me, and how I will put some of what I learned into practice. I'm sure I could write a better review in a few weeks. But I was so excited about this book I wanted to share it with you right away. I wish I had a few to give out.
Is your kid a negative thinker? What strategies and tools have helped you along the way?