Like it or not, our brains are hardwired for negativity. It’s a human survival mechanism. And that little voice in our head that questions everything, it’s something that has naturally evolved from the flight or fight reflex that kept our ancient selves out of the way of tigers and quicksand.
But when we observe the same negativity in our children it can be really confronting. So this blog focuses on our five top parent hacks for developing a positive mindset in your kids — and maybe you too. And that’s where we’re gonna start, because when parenting everything starts with you.
“I want my kids to understand, the way they think and the way they feel influences every single atom in their life. I want them to know that their thoughts create their life”.
– Dr Joe Dispenza
International Lecturer, Researcher and Brain Scientist
1. Demonstrate positive behaviours
Until the age of 12, children don’t really have an analytical mind and tend to live in an imaginary world. Science has proven that children and young people don’t learn from what you tell them, they actually learn from the behaviours they observe. So if you want your kids to develop a positive mindset you absolutely have to develop one in yourself.
And because kids are unconsciously modelling and emulating your behaviour, you must be the living example of everything you want them to be. You can also take this a step further by paying attention to other sources of positive and negative behaviours and widening or limiting their power and influence — it could be TV, friends, games, or grandparents.
2. Help kids to think wider
How many times have you heard your kids say “oh I hate the rain …” then almost shout at it; or come home every day from school with a new best friend? Children tend to the view things as either “all good” or “all bad” and often quickly form attachments without any apparent reason. Teaching them to widen their thinking is a positive skill that can remain with them all their lives.
Next time your son or daughter shouts at the rain try asking them “why don’t you like the rain?”. Then help them find answers. Because my hat got wet, I was scared in the storm, I wanted to play outside today. After a bit of gentle interrogating you might even discover the reason they ‘hate’ the rain so much is because they heard you cursing the flooded backyard and 3-day wet washing.
You also have an opportunity to add to the rain narrative: it helps the trees grow, gives water for our puppy to drink, fills grandma’s backyard swimming pool, washes the roof, and cleans the roads. By challenging your child to develop a wider point of view, they have an opportunity to learn greater empathy and tolerance. Oh, and you should definitely ask loads of questions about why Yasmine is their best friend and Saul is not.
3. Teach children to understand their emotions
Emotional blocks cause us adults so much suffering and can trigger so many injuries and diseases. Helping kids to identify and experience emotions fully promotes positivity and prevents them getting stuck in the negatives of fear and anger; or emotional numbness and confusion.
You can start by helping them visually identify emotions: what does scared/happy/angry look like? The Disney movie Inside Out does this so well by assigning each emotion a colour and shape. You can talk about facial expressions and actions — I laugh/cry/shout/jump/run. And the way it feels inside their bodies — heavy, light and bouncy, strange and nervous. Encourage your children to feel each emotion fully, to clear their bodies of the feelings and reset for new experiences.
4. Use living examples
One of our favourite ways of teaching kids real positivity is a method taught by Dr Joe Dispenza, who used this technique to teach his own children the power of a positive mindset. Basically you get three pots of soil and label them …
Now get some seeds that are easy to grow (like beans or sunflowers) and plant them in the soil, caring for them with water and sunlight. With the first pot labeled ‘good’ … every day have your child tell the seed how much they love the seed, and how excited they about the new life growing in the soil. With the second pot ‘bad’ have them shout at the pot and angrily tell the seed that it is no good and useless. The third pot ‘ordinary’ … they don’t say or do anything apart from water and rotate in the sun. Also it’s really important that your child feels the emotions as they project them onto the seeds.
Over the next two weeks have your child observe the growth. The ‘good’ seed will sprout earliest, the ‘ordinary’ seed next, and the ‘bad’ seed will often die and rot. This powerful exercise is a great way for your child to observe real positivity working and an excellent follow up narrative is to talk about how positive and negative talk can actually affect another person you are talking or gossiping about (as well as you). NOTE: if you aren’t a gardener, try this experiment yourself privately before sharing with your child.
5. Play the gratitude game
Finally, play the gratitude game. You don’t have to be a Christian, Buddhist or Islamic to give thanks for a meal and the food that has been provided before eating. Let your children hear you saying thank you to the sun for shining on the washing, or to the neighbour for returning the hat you dropped in front of their driveway. Be vocal and enthusiastic in your praise of the small things that give your life meaning, and help your children to make their own gratitude lists too. I love grandma because she always brings chocolate and oranges, I love Aunt Cindy because she always has time to play with me, I’m grateful to my teacher for hanging my painting in the classroom.
The gratitude game is infectious and those moments you spend in their final waking hours each day — saying thank you and connecting over a happy memory — are very likely the ones that will remain in the final waking hours of your own life.
Here at BodyICE positive parenting is as important to us as wellness and recovery. Please visit our fun BodyICE Kids rangeto tend to any bumps and bruises – we’d love to be another positive influence in development of your little ones.
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