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