I wish I could bottle the enthusiasm and positive mojo of a second grader and spread it to the world!
I volunteer for an organization that teaches nutrition and wellness in the local public schools. Over the year and a half I have been involved I have seen evidence of the good the program does and in every interactive and mindful lesson we teach I find myself marveling over the great messages we are bringing to these kids. Today’s second grade lesson was about keeping our bodies healthy, why it’s important to keep your body healthy, and all of the things we can do to have a healthy body. One of the factors in keeping a body healthy is having a positive attitude.
We talk a lot about reframing and positive attitude at our house. Some people are more prone to a negative attitude, but we DO have control over how we spin things, how we talk to ourselves, and how we choose to frame a situation.
I’ve noticed that staying positive is especially challenging at times for our teens and tweens who are juggling adolescent drama and crazy hormone changes. Teens are learning to navigate all the not so positive stuff in life and it occurred to me this morning as I listened to the second graders tell me what it meant to have a positive attitude that teaching and fostering positive attitude skills is incredibly important because once these kids hit puberty they are going to REALLY need positive attitude habits!
Life experience may cancel out the naivety that makes these second graders so exuberant but does it have to kill their positive attitude? I’m learning that part of my job/challenge as a parent is going to be helping my kids tap into those positive attitude habits as they grow older.
My 13 year old had a notebook go missing, most likely stolen during PE, this week and suddenly his life was terrible, school sucked, he was going to fail his class, and he’d never get into college or get a good job. He might as well just sit on the couch and give up.
HOLD UP! WHAT?
I’m new to this whole teen parenting thing and sometimes I empathize so well with my kid that I want to cry and curl up in a ball with him when bad stuff happens. BUT I wasn’t about to let some jerky jackass who stole my kid’s notebook win and I definitely wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to teach my kid that sometimes bad stuff happens and how you handle yourself can make all the difference in the outcome. Getting him off the negative battlefield was my first plan of action! This really was a crappy situation but once we determined that the world was not actually about to end he was able to focus on how he was going to deal with this unfortunate situation.
I think the most effective way to help a teen (or any person) get to a place where they are emotionally and mentally ready to say, “That’s life, let’s make a plan and move on.” is to coach them through re-framing a situation in order to approach a solution with a positive attitude.
This was my tact:
What is the worst that can happen in this situation? (Fail the notebook check the next day. Notebook has ALL of his work for the quarter, so far about 2 months of work.)
OK, so if the worst happens what does it mean? (Grade of A drops to a B… honestly, I doubt it would have dropped that much. No Notebook.)
What, if anything, can you do to help/fix/change this? (Take advantage of extra credit “Egg Baby” project to boost grade. Ask Teacher for help: he approached the teacher and was able to download the 2 months worth of work and spent several hours redoing the notebook. It was a lot of work but once he determined what his solution was he went at it with a pretty positive attitude. Shifting the focus FROM how shitty it was that someone probably stole and disposed of his notebook TO “that’s life” and how to resolve the situation was crucial to the outcome!)
Some people may naturally tend towards a positive attitude but EVERYONE has conversations with themselves that effect that attitude. There is an effort required in this self conversation and I think part of my job as a parent is to model this effort but also to walk my kid through these self conversations when his world is falling apart around him.
So, what do you think? What would you have done in this situation? What else could I have done?