Stress Management for Parents Dealing with a Negative Child

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Stress management for parents can be a difficult challenge, especially if you are dealing with a negative child—a child who seems to maintain a dark cloud above her head.

Are you witnessing this type of behavior?  Your child comes home from school and tells you all of the things that have gone wrong during her day.  Over the years, when she starts complaining and whining you have tried to cheer her up, but to no avail.  Suggesting that she change and become more positive has just resulted in an increase in defiant behavior and a feed on her negativity.  

It’s difficult to raising a negative child.  Keep in mind that your child is not negative on purpose.  This is her personality trait that she has become most comfortable with displaying.  Over the years, she probably has become very good with her negative reactions.  She even has learned how to use her negative moods and responses as a tool to manipulate family members and friends.  She draws her attention by being negative.

The problem for children with negative personalities is that other people get tired of being around them.  For your child, this feeds directly back into their self-perception that nobody likes them.  If you find your emotions escalating and you are getting angrier, stop and reflect before reacting.  Then try the following two strategies.

1.  Stress management for parents: limit negative complaining

Your child’s first response to a situation is often to complain about what is wrong.  Why something won’t work.  Why nobody wants to include her.  You probably hear complaining and whining almost every day.  My suggestion is that you put a limit on the amount of time you will listen to her complaining.  Maybe 15 minutes!  Then ask her if she can suggest one good thing about the situation.  If she can’t think of anything, change the topic and talk about something else.  This can be a difficult pattern for you, the parent, to practice and it can produce a lot of stress.  But stick with it.

What you are doing in this conversation is helping her practice seeing alternative points of view.  Remember, only the public most often seen part of her personality is negative.  Learning how to more frequently be comfortable finding a positive response can start to chip away at her always responding negatively.  No one said stress management for parents is easy.  It certainly tests your patience level.

2. Stress management for parents: practice alternative reactions

Since negative reactions are the preferred way in which your child handles life situations, it is the reaction you see most frequently.  But if you remember that it is not the only way in which your child reacts, you can gently, over time, begin to nudge her to see different alternatives.

I would ask my children when they reacted negatively to a situation, for at least one other way to respond.  For example, if my son burst in through the door, complaining that the teacher had unfairly awarded him a bad grade on his test, I would listen for a few minutes as he ranted.  Then I would ask him about the amount of time he had studied, how well he understood the concept and how everyone else performed on the test.  Of course, he told me he had fully prepared and understood the materials, but the teacher hates him.  That is where I stopped the complaining remarks.

I asked him to state something positive that could be learned.  Initially, he stated that nothing could be learned.  Yet, this was the first test he had taken with the teacher.  The style of the test and the types of questions could be guidance as he studied for future tests.  He also agreed to talk with the teacher about assistance rather than being an adversary with her.  It’s okay to ask for help.  It is not a negative trait.

Sometimes it is difficult to see the positive aspects of a situation, but always reacting negatively can become a habit.  When considering stress management for parents, I always suggest they work slowly towards improving one behavior trait at a time.  Helping negative children to begin to see life more positively is a personality trait that takes time but is well worth it.

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