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Parents, Teach Thought-Stopping! Fix Crooked Thinking Caps

Does your child pout, blame and brood? Does he gripe, groan, and grumble? Do you worry about your child's attitude? If so, maybe your child's thinking cap is crooked. If it is, you can help. First, understand what's going haywire under that cap. Second, learn how too many crooked thoughts create crummy thinking habits. Third, teach your child how to straighten his thinking cap and grow into a person of character.

Does your child look, talk, and, feel sad? Perhaps you said "No" to watching TV, or didn't buy a toy she wanted, or you had to cancel a fun event. It's perfectly OK for your child to feel sad. It's not OK when your child broods and feels deeply depressed over every hurt and disappointment. It's time to help her adjust her thinking cap.

Perhaps your child looks, talks, and feels angry. Maybe you restricted him because of fighting, or told him to quit sassing, or caught him bullying his little brother. It's natural for a child to feel frustrated when things don't go his way but it is not all right for him to fuel his frustrations with grudges and hateful thoughts. It's time to help him adjust his thinking cap.

Let's say your child looks, talks, and feels worthless for making mistakes. Maybe your child tries to be too perfect and feels regretful when she is not. Maybe she thinks you'll be disappointed if her report card isn't excellent, or if she breaks a dish or spills her milk. It's OK if she feels regret but expanding her regrets into crushing guilt is not. It's time to help her adjust her thinking cap.

Does your child look, talk, and feel worried? Does he play it safe and avoid challenges? Is he unwilling to try new things? Does he care too much how others think of him? It's OK for him to feel concern about taking tests, speaking before his class, or when trying to make new friends but inflating his concerns into a habit of worry and fear is not. It's time to help him adjust his thinking cap.

Occasionally your child may slip into depression, anger, guilt or fear. To stay depressed, angry, guilty or fearful, your child will have to think a lot of negative thoughts. Lots of negative thoughts create a crooked thinking cap.

Perhaps you know adults with "bad" attitudes. Maybe they pity themselves and blame others. Perhaps they look for insults and exaggerate hurts. Maybe they belittle themselves and apologize for every tiny mistake. These adults definitely have crooked thinking caps. To avoid this kind of future for your child and all the pain such thinking causes, let's find out two ways to adjust your child's thinking cap.

First, use your good judgment and know there are times when you need to go to your child's feelings. When your child seems too sad, too angry, too guilty, or too fearful, put your arm around your child and ask, "What's really wrong?" Listen. Don't try to change, correct, or put down your child's thoughts. Just listen. Let your child pour out her heart and listen. When your child is almost done, ask, "Is there more?" Then listen. Congratulations! You've probably relieved your child of painful emotion and cleared the air for a new beginning.

The second way to help your child straighten his thinking cap is called THOUGHT-STOPPING. It's best to teach this technique when your child is not upset and is in a mood to talk with you. The first step is to encourage your child to notice his negative self-talk, like "Everybody hates me." "It's not my fault." "I can't do it." The second step is to help your child recall three powerful images of him having done something good that felt great. Here are a few examples of images that may be powerful for your child:

Playing with her pet

Catching his first fish

Learning how to swim

Laughing so hard her sides ached

Doing a great job on his homework

Make sure your child is the one who chooses the positive images. Tell your child that each image must be more powerful than the negative thought.

Teach and practice the following several times when your child is in a good mood. That way your child will know how to use THOUGHT-STOPPING when she needs it.

When your child catches herself brooding on negative thoughts tell her to switch them to one of the positive images by yelling, "Stop!" inside her head to the negative thoughts. Tell your child to stay with the positive image for 30 seconds. (This prevents her from switching back to her negative thinking.) Time the 30 seconds so she'll know how long it is. Then have your child say, "I am in control." Your child will be too. She'll be in control of her thinking cap.

You have just explored what goes on under crooked thinking caps. You have learned how crooked thinkers grow into unhappy adults. You have also discovered two techniques to help your child straighten his/her thinking cap. Now it's time to teach these techniques to your child so that your child grows into a positive person of character.

For your ease and convenience, Jean Tracy has created thought-stopping charts with simple instructions and award stickers.

Jean Tracy, MSS, invites you to build character in young hearts and growing minds. To raise your awesome kids with solid characters, sign up for her FREE Parenting Newsletter and download her FREE bonding activities, parenting tips, and parenting articles at,

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