Step 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.

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