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Building Character: 6 Strategies for Helping Kids Overcome Dark Thoughts

By Jean Tracy, MSS

When your child has problems and his mind is filled with dark thinking, what can you do? Realize that character starts with how we think. Then teach your child how to think brighter and better. First, let's find out the danger signs for problems and then discuss solutions.

Pay Attention to Your Child's Words:

Words are signs that tell you what your child is thinking. Beware of black thoughts, victim thinking, revenge, and all the shades in between.

Don't blast your child with, "You shouldn't say that. You shouldn't think like that." Words like these will shut your child down. He might stop talking. How will you help him then? Be patient. Listen.

9 Black Thoughts That Signal Your Child Needs Help:

Statements like the following, reveal your child's thoughts ~

1. Nobody likes me.
2. I hate school.
3. You love Sis more than me.
4. I don't care.
5. This is too hard.
6. You can't make me.
7. It's his fault.
8. I can't.
9. You never give me what I want.

Of course these aren't the only dark thoughts your child could think. But they do point to negative thinking. Negative thinking is dangerous if it becomes a habit because it will shape his character; make him unhappy, self-pitying, and angry. He may even surround himself as a teen with friends who share similar thoughts.

6 Solutions for Building Character by Changing Black Thoughts:

1. Ask and Listen

When you hear a black thought, know it's a blinking light for trouble. Pay attention. After you've listened patiently, ask him "How does that thought make you feel?" Listen again.

2. Empathize

By empathizing you're already taking him on the path to a brighter character. Why? We all want to feel our listener cares and understands us.

3. Guess

Next, ask him if he'd like to feel happier? If he says, "Yes," ask him how? See if you can get him to solve his own problems. Tell him to "GUESS" if he needs help.

4. Discuss

Explain how happiness comes from the way we color our thoughts. If we color them black, we'll feel unhappy. This is not to mean if something bad happens we should be filled with joy. Instead, we can say, "Yes, that's there but I won't let it take over my mind with unhappy thoughts."

5. Brainstorm

Teach your child how to switch his negative thoughts to positive thinking. Explain that the best thinkers look on the bright side of problems. They look for solutions. Ask your child, "What is a better way to think?" Brainstorm together.

6. Practice

Have him write down the better thoughts and post them on the back of his bedroom door. Ask him to practice by reading them before he sleeps at night and when he gets up in the morning.

Conclusion: Building Character by Changing Black Thoughts:

Building character starts with getting your child to talk about his thoughts. Your task is easy. Get him to talk by being kind in your approach, listening well, empathizing, and guiding him toward positive solutions.

Use the same method we've just discussed with other negative thoughts your child might reveal. Congratulate yourself for helping him become a happier person with a brighter character. And one more thing, be sure to model the good advice you give.


Jean Tracy, MSS, publishes a FREE Parenting Newsletter. Subscribe and receive 80 fun activities to share with your children.

Pick up Jean's Thought-Stopping Kit and teach your child how to change any disturbing thought in step-by-step detail. This skill will help him throughout his life.

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