Thursday, March 31, 2011
“Bad. Really bad. First, M. wouldn’t play with me. And then J. took my Barbie. And then….” H. would reply.
After about a month I started getting concerned. I noticed that my four-year-old H. was really focusing on the negatives of her day. This despite the good things that happened.
“Did anything nice happen to you today?” I asked.
“Yes. I got to eat cake. But then it was a bad day because S. wasn’t nice to me.”
Hmmmm…..my normally upbeat daughter was quickly turning into a pessimist. I started asking the teachers for more specifics on what H. had done that day and started focusing on those.
“How was your day?”
“Not good. M. wouldn’t play with me.”
“Hmm. That’s too bad. So nobody would play with you?”
“No. I played with S. but M. wouldn’t play with me.”
“But you got to play with S., right? What did you play?”
“We played in the sandbox and got to ride the tricycle.”
“That sounds like fun. Did you have fun?”
“And you still had a bad day?”’
“That’s too bad. Because I would think that you got play with S. and that would make it a good day.”
The next day I changed the question. “H., what made today a good day?”
I started asking H. a more specific question to get her focused on the positives of the day, to the point where she stopped telling me about the bad things. And pretty soon she was changing her tone.
“How was your day today?”
“GREAT!!!! I got to bake a cake and eat it!”
I noticed that she complains less, and I recently chatted with her about balance. I don’t want her to ignore the bad things that happened in the day, but I don’t want them to be the things she focuses on. We’ve come to a compromise—she shares one bad thing (if necessary) and then focuses on the positive. I hope that she learns the broader lesson—bad things happen, but when you focus on the positive you change your perspective on the whole day.
Reace Alvarenga-Smith is a Public Relations Manager for Texas Health Resources and Mom of two.