Step Confront Pessimistic Thinking

Many kids don't change their pessimistic ways because they are unaware of how often they are pessimistic. Psychologists teach clients to track their cynical thoughts using tokens such as marbles or poker chips. They instruct them to put the tokens in their left pocket, and then transfer a token to the right pocket for each negative comment stated either inside or outside their heads.They now have evidence of how often they are pessimistic and are more receptive to changing. Here are ways to help kids tune into their more pessimistic, cynical thoughts and then help them learn to confront the pessimism:

• Point out cynicism. Create a code, such as pulling on your ear or touching your elbow, that only you and your kid are aware of.The code means he's uttered a cynical comment.

• Tune into it. Encourage your kid to listen to his own cynical comments. Suggest an older kid wear a watch or bracelet as a reminder of negative thinking. Glancing at the watch is a visual cue that reminds her to tune into how often she is pessimistic.

• Count negative thoughts. Help your kid count his pessimistic comments for a set time period: "Listen for the next five minutes [or other brief time] to track how many times you say downbeat things out loud or inside your head."A young kid can count pessimistic comments on his fingers. An older kid can use coins, moving one from his left to right pocket for each pessimistic statement. Kids can also count them making tally marks on a piece of paper.

• Confront "stinkin' thinking." Teach your kid to "talk back to the pessimistic voice" so he doesn't listen to it.A great way to explain how is by using yourself as an example. Feel free to fictionalize the story, just as long as your kid gets the point: "I remember when I was your age. Right before I'd take a test, a voice inside me would say, 'You're not going to do well.' I learned to talk back to it. I'd tell it: 'I'm going to try my best. If I try my best, I'll do okay.' Pretty soon the voice faded away because I refused to listen to it.When you hear that voice, talk to it and say it's wrong."

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