It didn’t matter the time of day or where we happened to be, my son’s sentences always started the same. . .

“You know what sucks, Mom?”

It could be first thing in the morning. Or tucking him into bed at night. They were often the first words escaping his mouth after school. And, any old time I was standing in the kitchen, he meandered in with the same line;“You know what sucks, Mom?” I knew I was about to find out.

I was so frustrated.

Here I was providing everything for my  child – all he could ever need, and yet, he was starting every sentence, every conversation, every moment with a negative.

Of course, I handled it like a champ – with gentleness and grace and, “OH COME ON! STOP IT! YOUR LIFE IS NOT THAT HARD!”

Since then, I’ve learned that some people are simply bent toward negativity. My own dear child was one of them. I’ve spent a lot of my life fighting negativity too; so while I understand – I didn’t want to hear it!

Misery Loves Company

I’ve worked hard in my adult years to claim joy as my norm.

It’s taken time and training for my brain to see things in a better light; the greener side of the grass, the glass half full.

It hasn’t come easy, but I’ve fought for it because joy is worth fighting for. And ever so slowly, it has come.

However, having constant negative speech from my little person was beginning to mess with my vibe. His negativity undoing the joy I’d been striving for, and pulling me right down alongside him. It didn’t take long before I found myself actually agreeing with him! Nodding along. Adding in my two (negative) cents. Misery loves company – and all of that.

I’m glad I noticed this negative pattern developing as soon as I did – this downward spiral into finding the doom and gloom everywhere. Thankfully, we didn’t spiral too far down before I threw up my hands and declared, “No more!”

After thinking about my son’s negative bent for a few days, I came up with a plan. My boy was young enough – I could work to pull him out of this pattern and retrain his behaviour. I wanted him to learn to recognize joy, while he was still young enough to reform his negative-loving habits. I wanted to help him before it was too late and thought patterns were formed. And there was no turning back.

The Plan: Combating Negativity

Each time my son started in on his usual routine, I listened intently – looking straight at him so he knew he had my full attention. When he was done, I didn’t comment about his negativity, but rather said, “Now tell me something good.”

He thought, he hummed and hawed, and FINALLY figured out there was actually something good that day. He shared his good, and I celebrated. I declared how awesome it was and we would dive right into more conversation about the good in a celebratory, joyous tone – even if his only good was something as small as remembering his lunch.

“You did? You remembered? That’s AMAZING! I’m so glad. Remembering your lunch is AWESOME and even better? EATING YOUR LUNCH! I LOVE lunch. Lunch is the best.”

My plan was this, combat the negative by:

  • hearing it (this values the person)
  • changing the focus (ie. not rewarding the negativity)
  • celebrating the positive (ie. rewarding the positive)

I did this consistently and constantly. Him declaring the worst and me asking for the best. Eventually, he caught on. He slowly recognized how much more fun it was to talk about things that were great. And just the other day I caught him saying,

“Hey Mom, know what’s awesome?”

You are, son. You are!

Want to read more? Check these out!

Parenting: Teaching vs. Freaking Out

Choosing My Response: Adaptive Parenting

Written by Rhonda Fast

Rhonda Fast

Rhonda is a wife + mama, minimalist + adventurer, writer + dreamer,
broken + redeemed.
She works both for FamilyLife Canada as online content manager and at home to keep her marriage thriving, her three teenage boys fed, and her floors kept crumb-free. You can learn more about her spirited life by checking out her blog or visiting her social media sites.