One significant challenge for youth today is that they are born into a cyber-powered world that hypes negative reasoning. This is an intense environment which when unchecked can shape a personal view of the world; that it is never going to “feel safe.” And this world view can weaken a person’s confidence in their own inherent capacity to withstand and learn from cruel and unkind behavior, injustice, adversity, failures and differences of opinion.
The challenge for parenting in this cyber-powered environment, then, is to establish and maintain a human connection in order to empower them. This means that caring adults can engage youth as emerging executives who are born with the inherent capacity to choose what to think about and how to respond to how their life is going. This requires everyone, including parents, to patrol our own thoughts. Do we agree with the experiences and thoughts that inspire anxiety? Or are we going to agree with thoughts that bring about peace and empower us to learn and grow stronger as individuals and in relationships?
In this feature, I share some insights about the negative thinking endemic in the social network our children are navigating which can lead to mental health issues, and offer some specific steps to redirect thinking to inspire confidence.
In their book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (2018), Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt describe habits of thinking that reinforce this victim mentality which the authors refer to as cognitive distortion. These distorted thinking habits include:
- Emotional reasoning – allowing your feelings to define your reality. “If I feel depressed, then nothing will work out for me. I have no future.”
- Discounting positives – minimizing the positive things that you or others do so you can make a negative judgment. “You’re my mom, so your supposed to support me.”
- Labeling – Assigned global negative traits to yourself or others…such as “I am not enough or desirable” or “He is a bully.”
- Blaming – Focusing on the other person as the source of your negative feelings; you refuse to take responsibility for changing yourself. “It’s your fault I am angry, and that we cannot get the job done.”
- Global statements (over generalization) – Perceiving a global pattern of negatives on the basis of a single incident.
- Dichotomous thinking (everything is black or white, no allowances for new possibilities) – Viewing people or events in all or nothing terms. “I get rejected by everyone,” or “It’s a complete waste of time.”
- Catastrophizing – Hyper-focusing on the worst possible outcome. “I will not survive if I do not get into the prestigious college.”
- Mind reading – Deciding you know what people think without giving them a chance to say what is on their mind. “He thinks I am stupid and ugly.”
- Negative filtering – Hyper focus on the negatives and seldom notice the positives in circumstances and people. “Nobody likes me.”
Steps to redirect your child’s dominant thoughts from negative to confident
- Consider this wisdom thought that makes a free society possible for people of all creeds: that every human being is born with God-given intelligent life and free will. And this is inalienable power to choose your own thoughts and actions in all circumstances that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device.
- Listen. Listen to how your child’s childhood or teen years are informing them and then ask them: Do they really want to agree with those thoughts that make them feel sad, worthless or hopeless? (Of course not.)
- Express confidence in your child. Once they have opened their mind to the possibility that they actually have power to choose different thoughts in response to what is happening, then express your confidence in them as a whole person with inherent power of self-determination that can never be taken from them. Make a simple statement: “I believe in you. You are intelligent, brave and capable. I am in your corner.”
- Examine thoughts as helpful or harmful. Introduce the concept of patrolling your own thoughts to take charge of feelings. Your child needs to realize they are in charge of the thoughts that take center stage in their own mind. These are dominant thoughts. Some examples of taking charge of feelings is to introduce the opposite thought of a negative feeling: “I am stupid” can be replaced with the thought “I am intelligent and what I learned from this experience is…..”
- Clarify the role of feelings in your life. Explain to your child that while their feelings are real responses to life experiences, they are not the facts unless they choose to agree with them.
- Guide your child to choose the thoughts that empower them. Then challenge them to choose different and more generous thoughts about their capabilities and consider another way to respond to a circumstance or event that reflects a more positive narrative of who your child is (confident, capable, brave, creative, strong, trustworthy and kind).
Note: If you are concerned that your child is struggling with serious mental health issues, then seek out a good counselor to discuss your concerns. Contact Joanna for a local list of resources.
Where you will find me:
2019 Student Mental Wellness Conference at the Sacramento Convention Center, Sacramento CA – January 22 -23. On January 23, I will be speaking on: How Parents Instill Learning Discipline Among Tech-Savvy Youth.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device.
Peace on earth begins with peace at home.
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Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.
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