“You are what you think.”
How does negativity affect your son’s healthy development? We all have private conversations with ourselves. It is those conversations that neuroscientists have discovered are naturally more negative than positive, with children’s inner voices being particularly negative, usually driven by doubt, fear, and shame.
Have you ever heard your son ask questions like, “Do you think Steve likes me?” In his head, it’s likely to materialise into “Does Steve like me? Of course he doesn’t. I’m not cool enough.” It’s these negative thoughts that are likely to be repeated over and over.
Then think about how many times your son hears the word “no” or experiences negativity at home or at school.
According to neuroscientists, negativity produces stress chemicals in the brain, which can lead to poor mental health. 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.
The power of positivity
Barbara Fredrickson, a pioneer in the positive psychology movement, discovered how positive thoughts affect the brain. In her book, Positivity: Ground-breaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive, Fredrickson shows how to overcome our bias toward negativity by developing a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative thoughts.
By achieving this balance, we are more likely to find ourselves in caring relationships and productive work situations. By promoting positive self-talk for children, we are encouraging resilience – a powerful skill for a successful life.
So how do we help our boys achieve the optimum balance between negativity and positivity? How do we encourage children to become positive thinkers? The good news is that we (parents, mentors and teachers) can all help to make our boys’ lives and thoughts more positive. Here are five practices to help your son think positively:
1. Have a great day
Have your son plan a day that would make you both happy. At the end of the day, talk about your positive experiences by reflecting on the things you most enjoyed.
2. Nurture his best self
When we imagine ourselves at our best, our confidence increases. You can help your son to realise his best self by showing an interest in him and who he wants to become. Help your son to capture his thoughts and feelings at a time when he felt great, what were they? What feels good to him?
3. Develop his self-awareness
It will help him to recognise himself as uniquely different from other people, which will enable him to know his own mind, feelings and body, leading to better emotional health and a positive outlook.
4. Foster gratitude
When children learn to recognise and appreciate the good things in life, they develop satisfaction and a sense of optimism. In The Transformative Power of Gratitude, Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD outlines five ways to nurture gratitude in homes and classrooms, including helping children to focus on the present moment and fostering their imagination. When children are inspired to speak their gratitude aloud, it becomes even more powerful and transformative.
5. Model positivity yourself
One of the best ways to encourage your son to become a positive thinker is by modelling it yourself:
- When communicating with your son, speak slower. It is shown to produce calm feelings and deepen people’s connections, particularly in children who may feel anxious or angry.
- If your son asks you a question and the answer is “no”, try to reframe your response to encourage positive conversation.
- If you feel frustrated with your child, take a deep breath and try to relax before engaging in conversation. Yelling and arguing produces harmful chemicals in the brain. Good eye contact and a warm tone in your voice sends positive signals to the brain.
Our mission at Trinity Grammar School is to provide a thoroughly Christian education for boys from Pre-Kindergarten to Year 12, imparting knowledge and understanding of the world we live in, and recognising the importance of spiritual qualities in every sphere of learning. We actively encourage our students to grow in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man, in order that they may become responsible, contributing members of society.
Our Pastoral Care guidelines focus on the fundamentals of good parenting — providing a balance of care and discipline — enabling boys to grow into self-confident, trustworthy and resilient young men. Combined with an ongoing partnership between the School and home, your son will thrive in a consistent, caring and nurturing environment.
Our Life Skills Programme is part of a whole of School approach to health and wellbeing that enhances our boys’ capacity to be emotionally resilient and socially competent.
To learn more about the Trinity difference, and how we support boys through the demands of Year 12, download our Year 12 Life Skills Programme.