QUESTION: I really struggle to have a positive outlook and always seem to dwell on the negative aspects of life. Is there something I can do to help me be more positive about things?
JIM: Does it sound trite and perhaps cliched to suggest that you “count your blessings” whenever you’re feeling negative? Perhaps, but in all honesty, that’s a good approach. In a few days, you’ll likely be sitting down with family or friends to have Thanksgiving dinner. If you’re like many folks, you’ll spend some of that time reflecting on the blessings you’ve been given and expressing gratitude for the good things in life.
We would suggest that a strong antidote to negativity would be to adopt an attitude of thanksgiving throughout the year. Don’t save it all for just one day.
Of course, there may be specific events or relationships in your life that are contributing to your negative feelings. We certainly wouldn’t suggest that you sweep those under the rug. It’s also possible that persistent, pervasive feelings of negativity could be related to clinical depression or some other physiological issue.
If you feel that might be the case, we’d encourage you to confide in a friend, a pastor or even a professional counselor. Visit focusonthefamily.com to speak with one of our staff counselors and to get a referral to a counselor in your area.
QUESTION: My child is constantly getting in trouble for talking in class and generally being unruly. How can I help him understand that the talking is excessive and that it is important to be self-controlled?
JIM: This question is tailor-made for Focus on the Family’s executive director of Parenting and Youth, Leon Wirth.
LEON: It’s rare for a child who is compliant and well-behaved at home to become defiant and uncooperative in other settings. There may be a number of factors and issues contributing to your son’s behavior. You didn’t go into detail, but is it possible he has the same problem with disruptive behavior at home that he does at school?
If so, it’s possible that he’s picking up a pattern at home of others giving in to his demands and allowing him to have his way when he resists your authority. Once he’s at school, he finds himself in a situation where this mode of operation no longer works for him — where he’s expected to obey adults and follow the rules. Kids used to having few limits at home usually don’t like having limits set on their behavior elsewhere.
On the other hand, if your son is well-behaved at home, it’s possible you’ve been too strict with him. His compliance at home may simply be for the sake of avoiding harsh punishment. Under this scenario, your son may not have internalized the character traits you’ve been attempting to teach. Once outside the home, in a less rigid environment, he may be “letting loose” and misbehaving in ways he couldn’t at home.
There are other possibilities and factors to consider: the negative influence of a classmate, possible attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and so on. You alone are in a position to decide which of these hypothetical situations applies.
But as a first step, we’d encourage you to take the time to carefully self-examine your parenting practices. Whatever your style, it’s important to provide a healthy balance between love and limits. Are you affirming and rewarding your child for good behavior, as well as punishing him for negative behavior? Are you helping him to develop compassion and understanding for others rather than simply adhering to a strict set of rules and regulations? A thoughtful assessment of your parenting approach may do wonders.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus