Trying to encourage more positivity...

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ellemenope
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18 Jan 2015, 3:46 am

I spend a lot of time with my boy (4yo) as he is homeschooled and I find his constant negativity really gets to me. I'd like to help him develop a more positive outlook not only for me and the rest of the family but, importantly, for himself as he goes through life.
Both my husband and I have histories of issues with anxiety and mild depression, so of course I expect my son to struggle with these too and he clearly does already. I have found that pointing out the positives, even the little things, as well as recognizing things to be grateful for is extremely helpful to me on a daily basis at staying relatively positive and keeping my perspective in check. Both my husband and I are not bubbly or cheerful people but we are pretty steadily even-keeled with an occasional burst of temper or frustration. We tend to regard overly positive or cheerful people as annoying and/or naive... on the flipside, people generally regard us as too serious and scarily pensive. LOL. We share an odd and sarcastic sense of humour and we appreciate this type of humour a lot too- we definitely have our share of laughs and our sort of fun and I think the kids can see this side of us. We have a lot of fun with our kids and I are positive around them, generally.

Something I've noticed a lot recently is that my son really grasps on to the negative language and negative emotions that are portrayed in his books and TV programs. It's really annoying that basically ALL kids' books and tv programs follow the same formula- 15 mins (in the case of TV) of wailing about problems and negative emotions that go with them, then only 5 mins of solving the problem and feeling happy or relieved or whatever. It's the same with books. (Actually the only books I've ever found that we NOT like this are the Pete the Cat books- these are amazing for teaching positive outlook and resilience) We don't watch a lot of TV and I'm careful of what he does watch, but no matter what show it is it's always the same. I take the time to really point out the resolutions at the end and talk about how everything turns out alright, but my son really takes away the negative stuff and the language to go with it. He still scripts a lot when he is playing, and he's always acting out the big problems and catastrophes from his books or TV a lot of "OH NO"s etc. This is all the time- he plays with animal and people figurines and it's always them having problems or difficulties and being panicked and upset.

And when he is upset or gets hurt, his reactions are always way over the top in terms of negative language and emotional displays and duration of his upset. His focus in everyday stuff is squarely on the negative side and I'd like to help him change this. He is happy and enjoying himself sometimes, but it's like when he's not completely happy, he's miserable and making sure everyone else around him is too. I'd like to help him to find the middle ground.

I make an effort to teach him a lot of positive self talk and that's been helpful. He likes to say "I did it!" when he accomplishes something. He also likes to point out when he's eating something he thinks his really yummy and he's really good at saying thank you and being genuinely grateful to people when he's given something. I've been trying to teach him to notice positive things and a couple of times of day we have a short conversation about good things that have happened that day and things that we're thankful for, even if it was just that it was sunny and breezy, he had fun on his scooter and lunch was good and simple things like that.

I have no interest in teaching my son to be one of those extremely positive people and I doubt he'd be capable given our genetic disposition. I would like to teach him to speak and act more positively and to recognize all the great things in his life, even though as an Aspie he of course has a rougher time than most. It's really important to me. When it comes down to it, I guess most of us just want our kids to be happy.

So... suggestions for this? How can I help him? What more can I do? Any books or TV programs for young kids that aren't mostly problem-focused and that are quantitatively, in terms of minutes, more positive than negative?

-Sorry this is such a long post, but I've been really thinking about this a lot lately.



ASDMommyASDKid
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18 Jan 2015, 2:34 pm

I think pretty much all of the pro-social programming on PBS and probably also on Nick Jr. are mostly positive in orientation. Well, it appears that way to me, for what that is worth.

We have had some progress in this area, but it is slow. Mainly, we point out catastrophic thinking when it happens, and explain why his thinking is illogical or too pessimistic relative to probabilistic odds. It hasn't worked at your son's age, but at 9, it has started to bear fruit. The logic approach requires, well, logical abilities, and for us anyway that really did not start setting in until recently. We still have magical thinking issues, which often manifests as him thinking he was unlucky or something doing something on it's own etc. it is not as bad as it was, at all, though.

What to do besides wait for logical thinking? Sometimes at a younger age you can redirect, but while in real perseveration mode, I found it upset him more to be redirected. Then I just rode it out until he was calmer and tried to relay the logic of it, when calm.


I don't remember if your son likes math. If he does, I recommend teaching probability as soon as you can. Realistic probabilities can be shown, over and over again, as well as that individual events won't reflect that law of large numbers, and results may appear unlucky, but it is not the world conspiring against you. I also started using ratios to show proportionality. If something should be a 1:1 ratio and you are worrying at a 2:1 ratio, it is disproportionate...



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20 Jan 2015, 6:17 am

The best way to encourage positivity is to model it. The more you practice it, the easier it will be. At first it will feel forced, but you get used to it.

I was a negative nelly, but my grandfather in particular always tried to encourage me to see the better side of people, look for good things, etc. I didn't catch on at the time, but looking at life trying to find good things is so much better than the alternative.



ellemenope
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20 Jan 2015, 8:20 am

ASDMommyASDKid wrote:
I think pretty much all of the pro-social programming on PBS and probably also on Nick Jr. are mostly positive in orientation. Well, it appears that way to me, for what that is worth.

We have had some progress in this area, but it is slow. Mainly, we point out catastrophic thinking when it happens, and explain why his thinking is illogical or too pessimistic relative to probabilistic odds. It hasn't worked at your son's age, but at 9, it has started to bear fruit. The logic approach requires, well, logical abilities, and for us anyway that really did not start setting in until recently. We still have magical thinking issues, which often manifests as him thinking he was unlucky or something doing something on it's own etc. it is not as bad as it was, at all, though.

What to do besides wait for logical thinking? Sometimes at a younger age you can redirect, but while in real perseveration mode, I found it upset him more to be redirected. Then I just rode it out until he was calmer and tried to relay the logic of it, when calm.


I don't remember if your son likes math. If he does, I recommend teaching probability as soon as you can. Realistic probabilities can be shown, over and over again, as well as that individual events won't reflect that law of large numbers, and results may appear unlucky, but it is not the world conspiring against you. I also started using ratios to show proportionality. If something should be a 1:1 ratio and you are worrying at a 2:1 ratio, it is disproportionate...


We watch some PBS and Nick Jr... It IS generally very positive programming, but again a lot of the shows always have a big problem to solve or problems to surmount along the way. Example: my son loves Dora the Explorer (I hate hate hate it :roll: ) and it's generally positive as she is always getting "help" from the various characters and in the end there is the whole positive "We did it!" thing. But my son focuses on Swiper and is always talking about him swiping his things etc. and all the little hang-ups that happen on the show. The "We did it" song is really great and I use that a lot, but the rest makes it a big headache for me. Also, he has always been a big fan of World World on PBS and we stopped watching that for a long while because my son would get really upset when the word objects would get "broken" for the sake of making other words and all that. When he was still learning to express his feelings properly (still has trouble with this of course) he would script some lines from it that made no sense to anyone else i.e. "My monster broke!" We still don't watch this one so much even though I generally think it is a good show.
We like Yo Gabba Gabba and that one has been really great for social stuff and he loves the music and the drawing segments... but again, there are always little problems etc. that pop-up and upset him and give him more negative scripts.

I just wish there was a show or books that didn't have ANY problems...that was just the characters going along on their happy way and everything was perfect all the time LOL. I know that the problems are presented for kids to see how to deal with challenges and to take away the methods to deal with difficulty, but that's just not what he focuses on.

My boy is kind of advanced when it comes to academic stuff- he's doing addition and subtraction right now for math, but I don't think he'd get probability at all yet. I'll remember that for later though. Logic... I'm not sure. We deal a lot with fantastical thinking...he definitely understands what's real and what not but just prefers to think about things in a fantasy world. I've tried explaining how things work logically ("Swiper is not real, he's not going to swipe your stuffed dog so you don't have to be worried about that"), and while I think he gets it, somehow it's almost like he ENJOYS worrying and stressing and expressing negative feelings about these kinds of things. Maybe it's a way to work through those kinds of feelings? I'm trying very hard to understand...

Thanks for your reply. It's always helpful and interesting to hear about you and your son.



ellemenope
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20 Jan 2015, 8:33 am

elkclan wrote:
The best way to encourage positivity is to model it. The more you practice it, the easier it will be. At first it will feel forced, but you get used to it.

I was a negative nelly, but my grandfather in particular always tried to encourage me to see the better side of people, look for good things, etc. I didn't catch on at the time, but looking at life trying to find good things is so much better than the alternative.



Thanks. I am trying my best to do this. I see how important it will be for my son. I know I get some of my dark outlook from my dad but I also can remember my mom's goofy and positive side trying her best with me as an anxious kid. Sometimes I think the curse of always seeing the negative comes with being more intelligent than average. My sister was always so happy-go-lucky and even though I was younger I always had "very serious concerns" LOL.

Now that my son is getting older and farther from the baby stuff, the basics I guess, I am really trying to focus on him becoming his own person and making his way in life. It is making me think a lot about how best to help him do that happily and healthfully.



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20 Jan 2015, 7:07 pm

Could you write your own story/ies? I don't do it myself, but my husband writes/illustrates books for our kids tailored to their lives, and I was thinking you could write a perfectly happy story for him maybe? I'm not a good writer or drawerer so I couldn't, but maybe you are more talented than I am. :P

I wonder if that's a good thing to do though, because inevitably he will encounter problems, so it might be better for him to learn in a safe way, since he's already so affected by it. So maybe it's better just to keep talking a lot about the good parts of the story and the resolution, even though right now it seems too negative, thinking of long-term.

One of my kids gets a little bit fixated on negative parts too, but mostly because he likes the dramatic reactions. He likes Thomas the Tank Engine (which is really bad for this because they're ALWAYS getting in accidents! :lol: ) and his favourite parts are when they crash. He does the sound effects and acts out crashing in front of the mirror. It sounds like your son's more advanced but I do see this a bit with my son too. The people who work with him all seem to find this pretty typical for ASD.

"There's a Monster At The End of This Book" is a good book to show that sometimes you can worry unnecessarily- if you're not familiar, Grover is worrying about the monster at the end of the book but it turns out to be him (lovable, furry old Grover!). If he gets scripts from it, it might be bad though because he does go on and on about being scared (and embarrassed at the end).


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20 Jan 2015, 7:46 pm

Well, he seems to be identifying with the negative things he encounters rather than the positive. I think this is his way of expressing his own frustration and sadness and his way of communicating it. So he could be falling into depression. I suggest teaching him the power of positive thinking. The key I think is to force one's mind to focus on the positive, that is, force oneself to find the positive in a given situation. Hard stuff though.



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20 Jan 2015, 8:07 pm

You also have to show this person EVIDENCE of the RESULTS of positive thinking. Otherwise, it's just an abstract concept.



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20 Jan 2015, 8:20 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
You also have to show this person EVIDENCE of the RESULTS of positive thinking. Otherwise, it's just an abstract concept.


That's tricky because at first there is no evidence. Its only after one has changed their thinking patterns that the benefits can be seen. And if there is underlying depression, medication may be necessary. I became suicidally depressed st 10 years old and started self harming soon after.



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20 Jan 2015, 8:25 pm

Couldn't the mother speak about her successes in life as "evidence." But do it in a loving way?



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20 Jan 2015, 8:30 pm

kraftiekortie wrote:
Couldn't the mother speak about her successes in life as "evidence." But do it in a loving way?


For sure!

And also a reward system could be helpful in the early days.



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21 Jan 2015, 2:57 am

Evidence on this one is tricky because it really is just about a feeling. But I know I FEEL better when I'm more positive. There's also the way that people react to you. Remember us NTs have all these mirror neurons, when someone is negative it can make us feel negative, too. That's not a way we want to feel, so we're often advised to surround ourselves with positive people. My MIL is scathing and negative, I absolutely can't stand to be around her. I get tense and nervous for days before I have to see her. And frankly it's just more fun being positive - embracing the good things in life.

I think there is something about an analytical mind that makes it easy to spot the negative - but it also makes it easy to spot the positive, too - if we look for it.

Sorry to do this on the parents forum, but try the sh!t sandwich technique. We have to spend a lot of time critiquing our children - correcting them, helping them learn. So don't deliver just negative, deliver it in a sandwich

Bread: You've really tried your hardest on this and didn't complain about doing this homework, which I really appreciate.
Sh!t: It could still be a little neater, some people might find it hard to read.
Bread: But I can see real improvement from a while ago and I know you're going to get better at this.

It's also ok to acknowledge the negative.

-There's so much evil and violence in the world.
-There is. People can be really cruel to each other. But people can be incredibly kind, too (mention a charitable endeavour, someone being kind to you, someone being kind to them.)



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21 Jan 2015, 12:43 pm

ellemenope wrote:
ASDMommyASDKid wrote:
I think pretty much all of the pro-social programming on PBS and probably also on Nick Jr. are mostly positive in orientation. Well, it appears that way to me, for what that is worth.

We have had some progress in this area, but it is slow. Mainly, we point out catastrophic thinking when it happens, and explain why his thinking is illogical or too pessimistic relative to probabilistic odds. It hasn't worked at your son's age, but at 9, it has started to bear fruit. The logic approach requires, well, logical abilities, and for us anyway that really did not start setting in until recently. We still have magical thinking issues, which often manifests as him thinking he was unlucky or something doing something on it's own etc. it is not as bad as it was, at all, though.

What to do besides wait for logical thinking? Sometimes at a younger age you can redirect, but while in real perseveration mode, I found it upset him more to be redirected. Then I just rode it out until he was calmer and tried to relay the logic of it, when calm.


I don't remember if your son likes math. If he does, I recommend teaching probability as soon as you can. Realistic probabilities can be shown, over and over again, as well as that individual events won't reflect that law of large numbers, and results may appear unlucky, but it is not the world conspiring against you. I also started using ratios to show proportionality. If something should be a 1:1 ratio and you are worrying at a 2:1 ratio, it is disproportionate...


We watch some PBS and Nick Jr... It IS generally very positive programming, but again a lot of the shows always have a big problem to solve or problems to surmount along the way. Example: my son loves Dora the Explorer (I hate hate hate it :roll: ) and it's generally positive as she is always getting "help" from the various characters and in the end there is the whole positive "We did it!" thing. But my son focuses on Swiper and is always talking about him swiping his things etc. and all the little hang-ups that happen on the show. The "We did it" song is really great and I use that a lot, but the rest makes it a big headache for me. Also, he has always been a big fan of World World on PBS and we stopped watching that for a long while because my son would get really upset when the word objects would get "broken" for the sake of making other words and all that. When he was still learning to express his feelings properly (still has trouble with this of course) he would script some lines from it that made no sense to anyone else i.e. "My monster broke!" We still don't watch this one so much even though I generally think it is a good show.
We like Yo Gabba Gabba and that one has been really great for social stuff and he loves the music and the drawing segments... but again, there are always little problems etc. that pop-up and upset him and give him more negative scripts.

I just wish there was a show or books that didn't have ANY problems...that was just the characters going along on their happy way and everything was perfect all the time LOL. I know that the problems are presented for kids to see how to deal with challenges and to take away the methods to deal with difficulty, but that's just not what he focuses on.

My boy is kind of advanced when it comes to academic stuff- he's doing addition and subtraction right now for math, but I don't think he'd get probability at all yet. I'll remember that for later though. Logic... I'm not sure. We deal a lot with fantastical thinking...he definitely understands what's real and what not but just prefers to think about things in a fantasy world. I've tried explaining how things work logically ("Swiper is not real, he's not going to swipe your stuffed dog so you don't have to be worried about that"), and while I think he gets it, somehow it's almost like he ENJOYS worrying and stressing and expressing negative feelings about these kinds of things. Maybe it's a way to work through those kinds of feelings? I'm trying very hard to understand...

Thanks for your reply. It's always helpful and interesting to hear about you and your son.


We had the issues with small things my son would hyperfocus on also. With us it was not the problems. It was minor details like Dora saying the alphabet and being interrupted which did not interface well with a hyperlexic who thinks everything must go to completion especially the alphabet.

We just rode those things out when these issues would pop up, expectantly. We would not turn on any episode we knew would be an issue. if your son can't handle the drama of any problem, he may need to internalize that everything in a little kid program will be all right in the end. Every now and again, something is too scary even in our scaffolded world, and I need to press that point. I have had to skip grade-level material in our reading anthology b/c it was "too sad." He just is not ready.

Unfortunately, a plot by definition has to have a problem to be solved. i don't know where to find shows that don't have a problem. The best I could suggest was tro look for things your son would know was only a perceived problem and not a real one. Like Daniel Tiger being afraid of going to the doctor for no logical reason or something like that (if your son would get that it is not a problem) or like Tiny Pteranodon being afraid of letting others know she had to pee, when no one thinks it is embarrassing or weird to have to pee. You would need to prescreen episodes to be double sure once you thought the synopsis sounded harmless enough.

My son could not have understood that at your son's age. Understanding the difference between reality and fantasy is not all that is involved. My son understood that, also. Understanding that an author or artist makes choices and agreeing to allow discussion of those meta concepts is much different. Even now my son will tell me he wants an inside the story answer sometimes, and reject answers that are exogenous to the fantasy.

Example:

Him: Why does the clock say 9:00 but not also say A.M or P.M?
Me: The artist chose not to draw it for simplicity (or was lazy, or forgot.)
Him: No, I mean what is a reason in the story why it would not say A.M or P.M.?



ellemenope
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22 Jan 2015, 5:04 am

WelcomeToHolland wrote:
Could you write your own story/ies? I don't do it myself, but my husband writes/illustrates books for our kids tailored to their lives, and I was thinking you could write a perfectly happy story for him maybe? I'm not a good writer or drawerer so I couldn't, but maybe you are more talented than I am. :P

I wonder if that's a good thing to do though, because inevitably he will encounter problems, so it might be better for him to learn in a safe way, since he's already so affected by it. So maybe it's better just to keep talking a lot about the good parts of the story and the resolution, even though right now it seems too negative, thinking of long-term.

One of my kids gets a little bit fixated on negative parts too, but mostly because he likes the dramatic reactions. He likes Thomas the Tank Engine (which is really bad for this because they're ALWAYS getting in accidents! :lol: ) and his favourite parts are when they crash. He does the sound effects and acts out crashing in front of the mirror. It sounds like your son's more advanced but I do see this a bit with my son too. The people who work with him all seem to find this pretty typical for ASD.

"There's a Monster At The End of This Book" is a good book to show that sometimes you can worry unnecessarily- if you're not familiar, Grover is worrying about the monster at the end of the book but it turns out to be him (lovable, furry old Grover!). If he gets scripts from it, it might be bad though because he does go on and on about being scared (and embarrassed at the end).


The part I bolded really sounds similar to what we have going on here. Often my son isn't ACTUALLY upset by the problems or negative things in books or TV and the reactions to them, I guess it is more that he likes that part and that is what he chooses to repeat and replay for himself and recreate in his own life and in play. It's really, really unpleasant. He likes the dramatic worried voices and expressions- "Oh no!" "You'll never find your hat now!" "Your car has a flat tire!" "It's BROKEN!" "Watch out, the monster is coming!" He is always repeating these kinds of things or modifying these types of expressions to fit into what he's doing. I don't think he is actually stressed or worried most of the time, he just LIKES saying these negative things. And then there are the times when he is stressed or worried and of course he has these big dramatic reactions and expressions ready. And he goes overboard with them when something is really wrong.

It's rather annoying and stressful for everyone. It's a pretty fast and easy way to put a damper on anything fun that is going on too. My younger daughter doesn't understand that our car really doesn't have a flat tire and isn't broken, or that every time my son sees a man and says "Oh no, a man! And he's coming this way!" or "Watch out! A tree!" isn't something to be alarmed about. It's hard to explain the effects this behaviour is having on us all... but it's not good.



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22 Jan 2015, 9:03 am

ellemenope wrote:

The part I bolded really sounds similar to what we have going on here. Often my son isn't ACTUALLY upset by the problems or negative things in books or TV and the reactions to them, I guess it is more that he likes that part and that is what he chooses to repeat and replay for himself and recreate in his own life and in play. It's really, really unpleasant. He likes the dramatic worried voices and expressions- "Oh no!" "You'll never find your hat now!" "Your car has a flat tire!" "It's BROKEN!" "Watch out, the monster is coming!" He is always repeating these kinds of things or modifying these types of expressions to fit into what he's doing. I don't think he is actually stressed or worried most of the time, he just LIKES saying these negative things. And then there are the times when he is stressed or worried and of course he has these big dramatic reactions and expressions ready. And he goes overboard with them when something is really wrong.

It's rather annoying and stressful for everyone. It's a pretty fast and easy way to put a damper on anything fun that is going on too. My younger daughter doesn't understand that our car really doesn't have a flat tire and isn't broken, or that every time my son sees a man and says "Oh no, a man! And he's coming this way!" or "Watch out! A tree!" isn't something to be alarmed about. It's hard to explain the effects this behaviour is having on us all... but it's not good.


I agree with WelcomeToHolland. If this is what is going on, it is a positive thing for him to do this. I misunderstood and thought he was upset. (Of course, being upset can overlap with this sometimes.) Scripting is how they work things out. It may be annoying but i do think that for the kids who do it, it is developmentally necessary. He is going to play around with hyperbolic reactions, and that is where you explain what a proportional reaction would be.

it is easier for them to analyze and replay/script (and if on some form of media other than non DVR TV, actually replay) cartoon reactions than it is to understand what real kids in the real life do, and understand it on the fly. This is a self-scaffolded skill workshop, in a sense.

It can be annoying, especially when they repeat one particular scene over and over, but i think it is a thing you have to get used to. My son is 9 and he still does it. It is just more advanced and it is different material than when he was your son's age.

At age 4, that was when imaginary play really came into being a major part of our day. it was not NT spontaneous stuff; it was this. Eventually you can build on it by asking questions and changing parts of the script. That takes work to build a tolerance for that. If you want to emphasize positively at that point, if he is accepting of it, you can introduce more positive elements.

Edited to add: We don't have multiple kids, so I don't know if there is a way to get him to maybe do it away from his sister. I do understand your distress in how it is impacting her, and expecting her to adjust like an adult can, is not realistic. I don't know if you can make a compromise with him, to limit that sort of play to certain parts of the day.

We did not limit it, nor I think our son would have, as this kind of play was too compelling to him for him to have much if any self-control of. We found that for us (being adults) that the negativity had less of an impact on us once we understood what was going on, although it still can be a downer. You may find that holds true for you, as well, though i understand it is not the solution you were hoping for.