5 ways parents can break the habit of negativity

By Janis Meredith | Posted 3/6/2017

Parents are notorious for justifying negativity by calling it “reality.”

Do you find yourself with that same default? It’s a hard habit to break, but I’ve got a few suggestions if you’d like to break the negative mindset.

  • Filter your words. Do you know what your kids are thinking as you remind them about the realities of life?  Why is Dad so negative? Why is Mom such a wet blanket? Try saying the words in your head and think of how they may sound to your child.
  • Rephrase your statements. A few words can change everything. Instead of saying, “You really struggled with your tackling tonight,” try “Hey, good job being aggressive! You will get it.” Another way to rephrase the point you are trying to make is to ask a question instead, one that forces them to come up with an honest and realistic answer. There were many times when I felt like the only “realistic” thing to say after a game was “You stunk tonight.” However, that obviously was not the right thing to so. Instead, I’d ask, “How do you feel about your game tonight?”
  • Focus on victories. As a sports parent for 21 years and a coach’s wife for 29, I’ve seen that many parents focus on the negative, not the positive. They are frustrated with their child’s lack of playing time or their child’s lack of aggression. They point out the mistakes made by the refs, coaches, and teammates. How about looking for the little victories to celebrate instead?
  • Check your expectations. Are you expecting too much from your child? Are you allowing them room for mistakes and growth? Your kids will not always perform to the best of their ability. Every athlete has a bad game. Parental expectations should make room for the ups and downs of life.
  • Recognize that you don’t have to fix your child. I think this has been one of my biggest failings. It’s MY job, isn’t it, as a parent, to help my child see things as they really are? There are definitely appropriate times for honest and open conversations with your kids. But often other “teachers” will speak into your kids’ lives. Friends, coaches, family members, employers, and sometimes life itself dispenses its own harsh reality, like when your child doesn’t get the starting spot or the college scholarship.

Parental negativity is an ugly habit. And one that is very hard to break. But with consistent practice and some major tongue-biting, it can be conquered.

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called jbmthinks.com. Her new book 11 Habits for Happy and Positive Sports Parents is on Amazon.