Yesterday was the last day of a long holiday weekend. We had gathered with friends and neighbors, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The children had played and stayed up late and I could tell that F, who doesn’t really nap anymore was headed for a meltdown.
Sure enough when we sat down for school, he started to come apart. I don’t even remember now what the trigger issue was (washing his hands?) but he was quickly slipping into that stubborn/tired mood where nothing is good and all he can do is whine and cry.
So I asked:
“Do you know what negative thoughts are?”
“No.” he pouted while flopping about on my lap.
I explained that positive thoughts are when we think well about something or someone, and gave an example, “today is a good day, because Papa only has to work in the morning.” Then I gave an example of a negative thought, “Today is a bad day, because Papa is at work and it’s really hot out.” F and Su understood that.
“Now,” I said,” you can build your attitude with your thoughts. It’s just like Legoes. If you start with a negative thought block and add another negative thought block on top, it is easier to add a third negative than to switch to a positive thought. Pretty soon, you have a tower of Legoes or a whole day filled with negative thoughts and because you thought about the day being bad, you had a bad attitude, it got you into trouble and you really did have a bad day.”
They seemed to understand that so I went on to explain how the same thing was true of positive thoughts and then asked them give positive thoughts about various family members.? They thought this was a good game and by the end of this ten minutes or so of discussion F was happy again and ready to tackle his schoolwork.
As I thought about this incident later I realized that I need to do more of this kind of thing. As preschoolers it is not enough for them when I point out that they have a bad attitude, they don’t have enough self-knowledge at this age to know how to change their attitudes and instead just feel like I am on their case for something they don’t really understand.
Instead I need to:
- Model a positive, thankful attitude myself.
- Explain what attitudes are until they do understand.
- Point out bad attitudes, and help them figure out the triggers.
- Encourage good attitudes, praise and reward them.
- Do more “counting of blessings” especially about each other.
- Point out and help them change body language that reinforces bad attitudes.
- Pray with and for them, for grace in this area.
- Take the time to deal with attitudes rather than making excuses (ie, “oh they were up late, last night” etc.)
- Begin and end the day thinking about the good things in life
- Discuss and sympathize over disappointments without focusing on them over much.
For more encourage visit Ann Voskamp, who has been a great encouragement to me in this area.
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