Change Your Thoughts and You Change Your World:
Teaching Kids the Art of Productive Thinking
By Sally Sacks
Sometimes we think our thoughts are just there, immovable with no room for change. It is important as parents to teach your kids that they run their mind, and they can pick and choose their thoughts. You want to teach kids to choose thoughts that are productive vs. non productive.
Kids think non productive thoughts all the time and often believe their thoughts. But their thoughts, just like adults can be negative and self defeating and we as parents need to know how to help kids change and manage non productive thoughts. Thinking stems from learning, and random energy that can often produce scary or negative thoughts. A child is afraid to sleep in her bed at night due to scary thoughts about monsters. A child may think someone is going to break into their house.
Sometimes a child is sad, and doesn't know how to leave that thought behind when they need to. Remember thoughts hook up to feelings, so if your thoughts are negative and self defeating your feelings will be upset, depressed etc. The art of thinking is such an important gift to offer your child because successful leaders are produced by the way that they think.
The best way to teach your child how to think productively is to do it yourself. If as a parent you make a mistake, are disappointed by an outcome, or want to change something in yourself, take a positive look at it. If you criticize yourself, or others, your children will learn how to do that as well. Remember children live what they learn. They copy us as parents. We are their early mirrors. If your children have learned positive thinking from you, they will let you know. They will tell you that they love you, and that you are a good parent, Children are very wise. They can spot effective parenting when they see it.
For example, you can teach your children that the mind is capable of thinking anything, even things that are stupid, untrue about you and silly. You are the captain of your mind and decide what is a worthwhile thought that you want, and what is unwanted and therefore non productive. Ask yourself, "Who is driving the bus, your thoughts or you?" "You are" is the correct answer, and true answer. Teach your kids how to think positively and they will.
For example, Laura told herself how bad she was at team sports, and how no one would ever want her on the team. Her mom told her she was pretty good at soccer, but she denied it disregarding mom's remark as trying too hard. Mom continued praising her at some other things she tried, while Laura's mind forcefully rejected every compliment. Mom needed to stop and find a way to teach Laura how to talk to herself in a kinder more productive way even if she wasn't the best player. Even if mom makes suggestions and Laura rejects them, she will still hear the positive message.
Remember when kids are engaging in negative self talk to listen to their feelings but explain to them how the mind works and what kind of thinking would advance them in their life rather than hinder them. This is how thinking can work for us or against us.
We need to show children the need to manage their thinking. If they don't their crazy or non productive thoughts will manage them, and they will not experience freedom to be in the here and now, without trying to predict the future or dwelling on the past.
The other important thing in teaching productive thinking to kids is to teach them how words affect their mood. For example if I say that I am so depressed I lost the game or that my friend was mean to me, I am lost in negativity. But if I use a word like disappointed, it has less power to depress me. If I say that I can't do something I am absolutely paralyzed, but if I say it may be tough and a challenge, but that I can do it, I am much more open to optimistic thoughts and behavior.
In conclusion know that there is an art to thinking. You must help your children find ways to talk to themselves that gear them toward success, and coping with the many failures and mistakes that they will make along the way. Teach kids that when they choose their own thinking they rule their world.
Sally Sacks, M.Ed is a licensed psychotherapist, with 20 years of experience, counseling individuals, children, families and couples. Sally is the author ofwww.sallysacks.com.
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