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Attitude Makeover: Judgmental

Step 2. Accentuate The Positive
The first step to squelching your kid's negative attitude is captured in the lines of a great old song: "You have to accentuate the positive to eliminate the negative." After all, the best way to learn any new attitude is by experiencing it, so begin your kid's makeover by intentionally stressing a more positive outlook in your home so he does. Here are a few ways to do so:

  • Model positive self-talk. Kids often learn negativity from listening to others, so deliberately say more positive messages out loud so your kid overhears them – for example, "I love the recipe I used today. I really liked how it turned out." "I'm proud of myself: I stuck to my 'to-do' list today and finished everything I'd planned." You may feel strange affirming yourself at first, but once you notice your kid copying the positive comments, you will overcome any hesitancy.
  • Create a family covenant. One way to curb critical comments that members say to themselves or each other is to establish a moratorium against them. Gather everyone together and say, "In this family, put-downs are not allowed. They tear people down on the inside, and our job in this family is to build people up." Take a vow as a family to squelch them by creating a family care covenant that clearly spells out in writing that critical comments are not permissible in your family. After all members sign it, post it in a visible place as a concrete reminder.
  • Monitor negative consumption. Tune in closer to what your kids listen to and watch: TV shows, Internet, musical lyrics, video games, and movies. How much of it is providing a negative outlook on life? Are any changes needed? If so, turn off any media that might be contributing to your kid's negativity.
  • Bury put-downs. Many teachers have shared with me an activity they say is powerful in reducing classroom negativity called a "put-down funeral." The ceremony begins with the teacher asking students to write as many negative comments as they can think of on slips of paper. The comments are placed in a shoebox, and the students march solemnly to the playground, where they bury the box. The symbolic gesture clearly conveys to the class that those negative comments are buried and never to be used again. They are dead. Consider holding a put-down funeral in your back yard.
Step 3. Teach Positive, Appropriate Alternatives
Negative kids often say so many critical comments that positive ones are temporarily misplaced, forgotten, or even lost. Sometimes kids don't feel comfortable saying positive comments because they haven't practiced them enough. Don't overlook that you might actually have to teach or reteach your kid how to be positive:
  • Teach encouraging words. Start by explaining to your kid that one of the easiest ways to make the world a kinder place is by saying encouraging, caring words. You might ask, "What are words you say or you hear others say that make people smile and feel good?" Then make a poster of ideas and display it. Here are a few to get you started: "Tell me what I can do." "I enjoyed that." "Hope you feel better." "Do you need anything?" "Are you all right?"
  • Institute the Two Positive Rule. Launch a strategy called the Two Positive Rule: the child must say at least two positive comments during a specified time period. You might begin in the safety of home by challenging your family every night for a week: "Everyone must say at least two positive comments before they leave the dinner table."
  • Say positive comments. Encourage your kid when his friend comes over: "Remember to tell your friend at least two positive comments before he leaves." Finally, when your kid leaves your house, gently remind him of the rule: "Remember to say two positive comments today."
  • Practice positive attitudes. Continue finding practice opportunities for your kid to use the rule until positive comments become a natural part of his daily speech replacing negative ones.

Next: Steps 4 & 5 >>

From Don't Give Me That Attitude by Michele Borba, Ed.D. Copyright © 2004 by Michele Borba. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Buy the book at www.amazon.com.

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