Coaching Perspective To The Negative Child

Any advice for kids who look at life with such negativity?


Some children weather the bumps and bruises of childhood with good-natured attitude; others seem to consistently attend to the negative side of life. The ebb and flow of events inevitably finds them dissatisfied with some circumstance, decision, or outcome. Moody complaints and protracted protests spoil family time and leave parents shaking heads with dreadful familiarity. Parents’ intolerance with the child’s behavior creates a spiraling cycle of disharmony and blame, making a bad situation worse.


If these troubling interactions are too customary in your home, review the following coaching tips to instill a healthy perspective to alleviate your child’s negativity:


Revise the reflexive response of listing all there is to appreciate about life. This sets the stage for the child to dig their negative heels in further, spurring more conflict and incredulous responses by parents. Some parents accuse the child of trying to manipulate their sympathies and may view the spouse as enabling the problem by offering too much comfort and indulgence. Avoid this divisive trap by privately discussing individual perceptions and arriving at a united parental response. One that combines sensitivity to feelings and limits to the impact of negativity is recommended, i.e. “We understand you can’t help but feel this way right now, but won’t continue to respond to your complaints.”


Consider the possible factors forming the foundation of your child’s negativity. Some children nurse present day emotional wounds and can’t seem to find closure. Other kids carry the weight of past and/or ongoing disappointments from an aspect of their lives that seeps into current encounters. Another group struggles with low self esteem and a sharp edged, self-critical view of themselves. When parents aid the child in figuring out “where the negativity is coming from” this helps dislodge some of it from infiltrating present circumstances. Ensure there is time to talk through past pains but enlist your child’s willingness to “build mental fences” around those pains so as to enjoy life’s pleasures today.


Explain how others contend with life’s downtimes with a “mental cushioning” otherwise known as perspective. By looking at options, accepting tradeoffs, understanding the randomness of events, and reconciling ourselves to what we can control and what we can’t, healthy perspective is built one day at a time. Pinpoint times in the recent past when negativity could have been better managed by using these perspective tools. Reveal how disappointments in your life could have left the persistent residue of negativity without the use of perspective to find a balanced view of life’s ups and downs.


E    Ensure your child’s teachers are aware of their tendency to fall into the negativity trap, and ways you coach them to rebound to a better perspective of learning.  Introduce the notion of “positive errors” where the child shows constructive enthusiasm in solving a problem but still gets it wrong. Similarly, help the child use the tool of “criticism closure” when they receive critical feedback from teachers and need to move beyond it to continue with open-minded learning.  Look for opportunities during homework to impart these skills at home.


Dr. Steven Richfield is an author and child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting. Contact him at 610-238-4450 or