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Dealing with Your Kid's Negativity. It Ain't Easy.

Dealing with Your Kid’s Negativity. It Ain’t Easy.

By Kelcey Kintner

My 5 year old son, Chase, is not a “look at the bright side” kind of kid. Like when my husband recently bought tickets to a baseball game and it ended up conflicting with a superhero party, my son was pretty much convinced he had the worst life ever.

For two straight days, all I heard was the constant whine, “I WANT TO GO TO THE SUPERHERO PARTY.” It got so repetitious and soul-sucking, that I finally gave-in and said, “I’ll take you to the party. You don’t have to go to the game.” And he responded, “But I don’t want to miss the baseball game!”


Look, I get it. He’s five. Disappointment and choices aren’t easy to process at his age but sometimes I find with all my kids (and there are five of them, so it’s not a bad sample size) that negativity is their default emotion. And it makes me crazy.

Sometimes when my older daughters get in the car after school, they are talking over each other, trying to tell me the worst part of their day. I know I’m the mom and I’m glad they feel comfortable sharing their angst and upset but I want/need to hear the good stuff too.

I don’t really know how to respond when my kids focus on the glass half-empty. Sometimes I want to squash the negativity by telling them to be grateful for everything they have. Other times I try distraction. (Cupcakes anyone?) Or another technique I use, is that I turn into Sunshine Suzy and become ultra-positive about whatever is going on.

I usually bounce back and forth between these solutions and none of them really work. But I am starting to realize that sometimes you just have to honor and empathize with your kids’ feelings.

Dr. Alissa Sheldon, a child psychologist, says, “If a child feels disappointment that is the result of an actual event or slight, then parents can use the experience as a teaching tool.” She says, let them know that it’s okay to be sad or angry.

Kids (like adults) need to feel heard and acknowledged. And then as parents, we can help them deal with these emotions.

Sheldon says, “By helping to translate what these feelings mean and that they are normal, a child can then begin to incorporate this understanding and perhaps be less troubled by these feelings when future disappointments occur.” As a parent – this is a hard place for me to be because my inclination is to try to fix everything, not sit there and help them process their feelings. 

My son Chase went to the baseball game. I survived his complaining and he survived the disappointment of missing his friend’s superhero party. I think he even had a pretty good day.

The reality is that disappointment is a part of life. If we can allow our kids to feel it and move through it, haven’t we taught them a valuable life skill?

Published May 21, 2015. Last updated May 21, 2015.
Kelcey Kintner
About the Author

Kelcey Kintner

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog 

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog The Mama Bird Diaries and writes for the Huffington Post. You can follow her @mamabirddiaries or on Facebook. She’s still trying to fit 5 kids on a Vespa. 

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  • trishwah

    May 21, 2015 at 11:11 am

    My 5 yo has always been a glass half empty kid. He’s also a kid that has a VERY specific picture in his head of how any given situation is supposed to look. I’ll agree to a trip to the park and while I’m putting on his brother’s shoes, he’ll start spining himself a tale about how we’ll then go to the Science center and then the zoo. By the time we are out the door, he’s in tears because he’s ONLY going to the park. We try to correct him as the ideas pour forth, but of course, he mostly hears what he wants to . 

  • Ally

    May 21, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    I have three very positive-nothing brings them down- kids, and one negative nelly. It is really tough. He’s almost 8 and I’m pretty sure every day of his life he has said “this is the worst day every”. I really struggle with just being around him. I feel like as a family we work on this constantly. He is starting to learn that people do not like to be with him when he is so negative. It’s hard to watch him navigate life with his attitude. 

  • Sarah

    May 28, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    Hey, try looking at ‘how to talk so kids will listen, and Listen so kids will talk’. Great ideas in there!

  • Steph

    May 29, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Oh, I can relate.  When I arrive to pick up my daughter from school, she is smiling and playing with friends.  When she spots me, she immediately frowns and tells me her head hurts, etc.  Both my daughters’ default attitude around me is negative.  Ugh.

  • Sarka

    May 30, 2015 at 4:22 am

    And what about telling your kids that it makes you sad hearing only the negative things from them? Maybe if they will know that you are sad about it, it will make them try to be more positive and see how their bad stories and comments make other people around them feel.

    They will be more thoughtful.