“You’ve got to accentuate the positive.” (Song by Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer, 1944)
A positive attitude (or even a less negative attitude) has the potential to change lives. This old song lyric came to mind while reading The Roller-Coaster Years – Raising Your Child Through the Maddening Yet Magical Middle School Years (Gianetti & Sagarese). This is a fascinating book for parents of 10-15-year-olds, and for parents who want a glimpse of what’s to come.
In Chapter 4 there is a section about recognizing which discipline efforts work most effectively. The authors have this to say about the negative programming and orders we often give our kids:
“Our unconscious doesn’t pay much attention to ‘Don’t.’ So if your child is attached to the telephone for hours, edit ‘Don’t stay on that phone so long!’ to ‘Please keep your call to twenty minutes.’
“Moreover, negative programming can be destructive. If you tell your twelve-year-old son who has been sliding academically, ‘You’ll never be able to handle marine biology if you don’t bring that science grade up,’ or ‘You’ll never get into medical school the way you’re going,’ all the child really hears is ‘You’ll never.’ Inadvertently you are internalizing this message: ‘You’re not good enough, smart enough to do’ whatever. To a middler whose psychological task is to define his identity and find his strengths, this is disastrous input. Turn the warning into a positive by saying, ‘If you want to go to medical school, or become a marine biologist, you have to demonstrate you can do well in science.’ What a difference a don’t versus do approach can make!"
What a difference indeed! Accentuate the positive and you will plant the seed of what is possible. This attitude allows us to look forward, to use the positive energy that comes from anticipating something wonderful that can happen. It encourages us to focus on our strengths to propel us into the future of our choice.
So, in order to guide our children into this positive mindset, we parents have a little self-programming to do. It’s all about R & R – how we react and respond, that is.