We are continuing our series on ANTS as in Automatic Negative Thoughts. ANTS are our internal dialog gone haywire! It's when we believe our self-talk in a situation that is actually benign, however, we make a negative interpretation from it. Thoughts cause feelings. So if you change the thought to no negative assumptions then you will feel better. ANTS can lead to worry, anxiety and depression and can be managed.
This month we will discuss the ANT called 'overgeneralization.' Overgeneralization is exaggeration. In this pattern, a person might make a broad, general conclusion based on scanty evidence or a single incident. For example, your teen might say 'I'll never have a date again,' after being dumped by her boyfriend. Or your younger child who is struggling with arithmetic might say, 'I've always been bad at math. I'll never learn multiplication.' Notice the absolute statements in both of these examples. When we overgeneralize, we often use words such as all, every, none, never, always, everybody and nobody.
According to Thoughts and Feelings By McKay, Davis and Fanning, overgeneralization can be balanced by quanitifying. Instead of using exaggerated words like huge or massive to describe hours left on a project, you rephrase with a quantity. For example, 'I have about five hours left to complete this project.' That feels a lot better than 'I have a massive amount of work to complete.'
Also suggested is to look for the evidence to your conclusion. The teen who says 'I'll never have another date' is basing this on one incident with one boy. There is absolutely no evidence to support her dire thinking.
And, finally, try to avoid those absolute words such as all, never, everybody etc. and substitute with appropriate language such as some, few, a couple of people etc. When you avoid this unneeded exaggeration, it's likely that your children will do the same.
More in the ANTS series:
Part 1 - ANTS: Automatic Negative Thoughts
Part 2: Polarized Thinking
Part 3: Filtering
Part 4 Catastropizing
Part 5: Overgeneralization
Part 6: "Mind Reading"
Part 7: Magnifying
Part 8: "Shoulds"
Copyright '2009, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
P.S. Please see my other column, SmileNotes, No-Cost August Family Fun!
Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT, is an internationally recognized family therapist with a private practice in north Texas. She is considered the leading expert on peer pressure having trained more than one million people across the U.S. and in Australia, Canada, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, Malaysia, the Philippines, Turkey, and Micronesia in her proven techniques. For information on bringing Sharon to your community or school to present one of her 29 dynamic workshops for children, teens, parents, or educators, please see her website www.SharonScott.com .
More Parenting Advice About Peer Pressure:
Families Online Radio Interview with Sharon Scott, Family Therapist
Books That Work!
By Sharon Scott
Sharon is the author of eight award-winning books including four on the topic of peer pressure.
The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.
|Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out'not just fit in! A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.
|Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy Cocker Spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun. Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled
Peer Pressure Experienced by Teens, Adolescents and School-age Children. Parenting Advice.