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Parenting Tip

September 26, 2014

Bad Attitudes Are Automatic Responses 

Attitudes can be good or bad and are inherently interwoven into everything we do. They often rest just below the surface and are sometimes difficult to read or understand in adults, let alone our children. Billions of dollars are spent each year to create or change attitudes in you toward certain products or activities. Furthermore, attitudes are highly contagious. As a parent, you know that children can develop a whole outlook on life based on the latest TV show or by spending time with a particular friend. Attitudes affect how we view life and respond to it.

Attitudes are a way of thinking about certain aspects of life. They actually have a purpose: to prepackage a response based on a history of other experiences similar to the current one. Attitudes help people understand the world and make sense of the things around them. They are necessary shortcuts and provide consistency and clarity for knowing how to respond to repeated events and situations. Without attitudes, you would have to reevaluate each person, food, and entertainment choice over and over again, making life unbearably complicated. Instead, your attitude prepares your posture and gives you a pattern of responses every time you see a familiar trigger.

One helpful way to address bad attitudes is to stop using the word “attitude.” In many families it’s overused and is just a trigger for conflict. You might use the words “automatic response” instead. “Bill, I’ve noticed that whenever I try to give you an instruction you have an automatic response of resistance.” Or, “Tanya, it seems that you have an automatic response toward homework. We need to talk about that.”

Helping children deal with bad attitudes is not easy and requires insight from parents into the hearts of their kids.

For more ideas about helping children with attitudes, read chapter 6 in Good and Angry, Exchanging Frustration for Character In You and Your Kids by Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN.

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