Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: with the dustbunnies & sugar beans
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I think a postive attitude/optimism can definitely be learned. She might be a negative Nancy right now, but that doesn't mean she can't learn some positive coping skills. My sister is a psychologist and she recommended a booked called "Learned Optimism" to my negative Nancy brother. I doubt he ever read it and I haven't either, but it might be someplace to start.
I think the pps' suggestions of focusing on gratitude might help, too. You can find a lot of resources that are appropriate for kids. I know there are kids' books, too. I think one picture book is "The Secret of Saying Thanks" which might be a jumping off point. (BTW, I think it may have a little bit of religious undertone, a mention of thanking God or something, which may or may not fit in with your family beliefs, but you could emphasize or omit as you saw fit.)
For the M&Ms incident, I would probably stop what I was doing and call her on looking at things as being glass-half-empty. I have a fear that my kids will turn out to be pessismists like my brother (who would say he is a realist, probably, but he can be so difficult and unhappy) so I often point out that there are two ways of looking at things (empty/full) and there are plenty of things in the world to be miserable/complain about without going to look for them.
If our goal in life is to find "bad things" to be unhappy about we'll surely succeed, but if we stop and look for "good things" we can find those, too, and I'd much rather have things to be happy about than things to be upset about. We talk about the cars we notice on the road and how they can pick out cars that are like ours (a silver VW golf), but we don't always notice the make/model of the other cars that are driving by because we're actively looking for the silver Golfs. If we actively look for something good we can find it, too!
Sometimes we play "the good thing game" where we just name one good thing we notice right now (it's a sunny day, we're warm in the car, we're on time, that's a beautiful cloud, the flowers are loving all this rain, etc, etc). We talk about it's all how you look at things, too. Some mornings on the way to school when it's all rainy and gray we talk about how it could be "a gray day" or we could look at it as "a misty magical morning" — "hey, do you see any unicorns in the woods over there? That might've been a pixie!"
We also play a game at supper we call "best thing, worst thing" where we just take turns saying the best thing that happened to us today and the worst thing. Since my kids are at school, sometimes I learn interesting tidbits or sometimes it's just the last thing that happened since they've forgotten about morning. DH doesn't get too into it, but he'll play along. I think it's good for him, too.
So, we have this ongoing conversation. I think it's an important thing to be self-aware of the attitude you're projecting. If my kids were whining about getting 100 m&ms (which I could totally see them doing, btw — they would probably think a big number like 100 would fill a giant bowl except tomorrow is the 100th day of school and we just counted 100 popcorn kernels) I'd just remind them of glass half empty/glass half full and call it on them. I'd ask them if 100 m&ms was a "good thing" or a "bad thing" and go from there.
Mama to two girl beans, Feb 2001 and Nov 2003 . DH , and two crazy . Running on biodiesel since 2004! "All you fascists are bound to lose" — Woody Guthrie