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Attitude Makeover: Judgmental

Step 4. Challenge The Judgment
If your child has a consistently judgmental attitude, you may be able to temper it by confronting the content of what he's saying. Every time he makes a sweeping carte blanche judgmental statement, challenge him to prove it. At first (or with younger kids) you'll have to guide him through the process. But once he understands he must prove what he says, he'll start speaking less judgmentally.

Stage 1
Kid: All jocks are stupid.
Parent: The facts show that a number of athletes in many sports are downright brilliant.

Stage 2
Kid: Kevin is really a wimp.
Parent: So give me an instance when he's not. I can think of a few.
Kid: Okay, he swims ten laps a day.

Stage 3
Kid: I hate hip-hop music. Wait a minute, I actually like a lot of it. There's good hip-hop and bad, but the last one I bought really sucks.

Step 5. Penalize Put-Downs
If you've consistently tried other strategies and you're still hearing a steady blast of judgmental comments coming from your kid's mouth, it is time to take matters up a notch. She needs to know that a judgmental attitude can hurt. Here are three consequences appropriate for varying ages. Choose one consequence, and then consistently enforce it. Your kid must know you mean business:

  • Turn negatives into positives. A great rule to combat negativity is called: "One negative = One positive." Whenever a family member says a negative comment, the sender must turn it into something positive. If your kid says, "This is stupid. Why do we have to do this?", encourage him to turn the statement into something positive: "Okay, if I clean my closet, I'll have some room." Enforcing the rule gradually diminishes negative statements – but you must be consistent.
  • Issue a sincere apology. Enforce a household rule: anytime you say a hurtful, put-down comment, you must sincerely apologize to the recipient. The apology must state (1) why you are sorry, (2) how you think the recipient feels, and (3) what you will do to make amends. An example is: "I'm sorry I said you were stupid. I know it made you feel bad. I'll try not to say it again, but if I slip, I'll do your chores for a day." The apology may also be written, or young kids can draw it.
  • Use a put-down jar. Create a new house rule: "Any family member who says a put-down comment must put twenty-five cents of his or her money in the jar for each offense – parents included! If you're short of money, you must work it off." Then set aside a jar and post a list of twenty-five-cent chores. When the jar fills up, the family brings it to their favorite charity.
The First 21 Days
Start a Negative Comment Countdown Plan by keeping track of every critical comment family members make around the house each day. You may be surprised at just how many put-downs, sarcastic or cynical slams, or judgmental statements are uttered on a regular basis. Then for the next twenty-one days, everyone must commit to reducing their negative messages. At first, each time anyone says a critical comment, he or she has to say a positive one. Slowly the ratio of negative to positive comments will start to change. Ideally, set a goal that by the end of the twenty-one days, everyone says at least two positive comments for every negative one. You may be surprised how this strategy alone changes your family dynamics and may dramatically decrease your kid's judgmental attitude.

Attitude Makeover Pledge
How will you use these steps to help your kid become less negative and judgmental and achieve long-term change? On the lines below, write exactly what you agree to do within the next twenty-four hours to begin changing your kid's attitude so he is more positive and upbeat.


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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