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Do you ever catch yourself paying more attention to negative feedback, than positive? When you do receive positive feedback, do you find yourself looking past that and on to what you think needs improvement?

There are ways for us as to combat this way of acting and thinking. According to neuroscientists, our brains are hardwired to focus more on the negative, including worry, disapproval, danger, illness, fear, and even the word, “no.” As we verbally express these thoughts, additional stress chemicals are released.

Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, M.D., and Prof. Mark Robert Waldman, authors of the book Words Can Change Your Brain, show how negativity and stress are related.  For example, with just one flash of the word “no,” our brains release dozens of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters that create havoc with our normal functioning.

So, how do we combat this? We do it by using positive psychology. Positive thoughts affect the brain. This method was pioneered by Barbara Fredrickson, in her book , Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive. In it, she shows how to overcome our bias  toward negativity by developing a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative thoughts. When we achieve this balance, we are more likely to find ourselves in a more caring relationship with our child. In turn, the balance allows our children to develop more positive relationships now and in the future.2012-03-049510-54-4895207a

For a moment, think how many times your son/daughter  hears the word “no” or experience negativity  at home or daycare. Each exposure to negativism, as well as the child’s own negative thoughts, is likely to cause emotional turmoil over time.

How do we help kids achieve the optimum balance between negativity and positivity?

There are several parts to the puzzle. First, we must acknowledge that adult behaviors influence children. And second, we must understand how children develop their own patterns of positive thinking.

  • It all starts with  positive communication. When communicating with children, keep these simple principles in mind.  Stop and think about your words, pay attention to your delivery, and  slow down and think about how and what you want to say in a positive way. 
  • Yelling and arguing produces bad chemicals in the brain. If you feel frustrated with a child, take a deep breath and try to relax before engaging in conversation.
  • In addition to building healthy channels of communication, research suggests three ways to build the roots of positivity in children. Develop gratitude ,  help them define and experience a positive day, and finally develop their best selves, when children imagine themselves at their best, their confidence increases.
  • We can  help our children become their best selves by showing interest in them and the kind of young people they want to become. It may all seem a little soon to be doing this, but research shows that this interest produces calm feelings, particularly with children who may feel anxious or angry. It also deepens a child’s  connections with you, allowing you to better understand each other.

I have been doing this method with my son since he was a newborn.

We don’t live in a perfect world, nor does everything work the way theories sometimes suggest, but I believe trying to do these things is what is important. As G.I. Joe would say, ” knowing is half the battle”. 😉

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