When I was in college I had a friend who had a habit of being overly critical, or judgemental, about everything. We would go through the mall or sit around campus and just people watch. I noticed how quickly she critiqued a person’s clothes, facial expression, haircut, gait, etc. I felt awful listening to her comments. After awhile I told her that her comments were unfounded and down right unkind. Funny, she was aware of her negativity and actually wanted to get out of that judgemental cycle. I’m sure that pattern was a long part of her childhood history before she met me. That story would take up a whole other blog entry. However, to help break her habit of negative comments, we came up with a system that would turn any quick judgement into a positive. The rule was if she negatively critiqued something or someone, she had to immediately follow up with two genuine positives about it or the person. I know it sounds a little forced, but honest to goodness, it worked for her.
Initially, she really struggled when I called her out on it. “Oh my goodness, can you believe that guy had socks and sandals on!? But, he did have a nice smile and held the door open for us.” After a while my friend stopped judging or being negative and only vocalized the two positives she saw at present. And truly, her comments were genuine. She said that she had learned to retrain her focus on finding the positive in any situation she faced.
Finding the positive in any given scenario is a habit that we should all practice, as human beings and especially in our role as parents. Many of us know a “Negative Nancy” or “Debbie Downer.” Admit, it gets a bit tiresome and hard to be around others who are judgemental or overly pessimistic. Imagine what message is being sent to children when we are too quick to point out the negative in a given situation. Our comments and actions say, “Focus on the worst! Find the awful!” After awhile, children pick up on those cues and begin to model the same negative perspective. Before we know it, we find ourselves in an embarrassing situation where our child may only be repeating a negative comment that they have overheard us say OUT LOUD!
Here is my challenge to you. When you find yourself or your child focusing on the negative in a situation, practice the 2 Positives Rule. I’m not saying to completely disregard or turn a blind eye to what may feel unpleasant or be an obstacle. It’s important to acknowledge it and process it. However, the key is to then follow up with the practice of looking on the bright side and finding two positives in the situation. It can be a simple verbal cue of “Okay, I can see you’re upset. Let’s find our positives here, I’ll find one and then you find one.” It will take some time to fall natural practice but the point is to cue a conversation with your child in guiding them to a learn how to sustain a positive perspective when faced with discomfort or adversity.
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