Are your thoughts your friends or your enemies?
Our thoughts influence our emotions which affect our behaviours. Many of us view life and, in particular, conflict from one perspective and an assumed knowledge of the other person and their motives. We see their behaviour and make our own judgements; perceptions which in turn affect our reactions. Thus our thoughts (whether growth or fixed mindsets) play a vital role in how we cope with adversity, including both internal and external sources of conflict.
WHERE OUR THOUGHTS COME FROM
Neuroscientists are now able to track a thought in the brain and have found that the brain creates automatic pathways of thinking and that these pathways get stronger the more that our thinking follows them. This means that some people become more wired to think pessimistically- out of habit- while others find optimistic thinking comes more naturally. Our thoughts represent our beliefs and our beliefs are influenced by a variety of things in our environment.
CAREFUL THE THINGS YOU SAY- CHILDREN WILL LISTEN
Children listen to the words that adults around them speak and these can become a foundation for their own thinking. When adults speak out-loud their anxious, critical or judgemental thoughts, children use that pattern of thinking as a plumbline for their own self-talk. They need help to think constructively about challenging
situations, and to believe that they can overcome them. This requires the ability to tune in to their thinking and to reframe it so that they make wise choices and become learners for life. With practise, children can find the ability to see positivity or the ability to learn from challenging situations and turn their thoughts from red to green.
HELPFUL AND UNHELPFUL THOUGHTS
Thoughts can be represented as having different colours. They can either be red, glass is half empty, and involve unhelpful self-talk, leading to angry, scared or sad feelings. Or they can be green, glass is half full, and involve helpful self-talk, where they feel brave, confident and calm. A red thought might be something like “This is too hard/unfair/boring!”, whereas a green one might be “I can figure this out/everything will be okay/you never know what I might learn from this”.
HOW TO CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS
You can’t control anyone else’s behaviour or thinking but you can choose to control your own. Ask yourself– are my thoughts helpful or are they harmful? If they are harmful, consider how your self-talk could be readjusted the next time your brain dwells on the negative.
TIPS FOR PARENTS:
- MIRROR AFFIRMATIONS: Write some positive, helpful thoughts onto post-it notes and put them up on the bathroom mirror. Every time a child looks in the mirror, they can say the thought out loud.
- QUOTE COLLAGE: Search the internet for encouraging statements, select the ones that you consider personally powerful, and print them out to glue into a collage. Alternatively, make them into a screen saver or background on your computer or tablet.
- GREATEST LESSON: Encourage children to see mistakes as a chance to learn and grow from.
TIPS FOR TEACHERS
- IDENTIFY RED/GREEN THOUGHTS: When a child comes to you with a concern, ask them if their thoughts about the situation are red or green. Help them to come up with some green thoughts and change their perspective, including putting themselves in the shoes of other people who may be involved in the conflict.
- WARM FUZZIES: Have each class member write down a compliment about an individual or the class, or a general affirmation that they enjoy, and swap with another class member. Try to encourage the compliments to be about the ‘effort’ that someone has put into something rather than just the success they have. Ask for volunteers to share the most effective and compelling ones with the class. Encourage students to keep these positive thoughts in a prominent place.
Jocelyne is an author, speaker, researcher, consultant and parent of three. Jocelyne has been a teacher for 30 years and specialised as a Social and Emotional consultant for the past 20 years supporting over 90 schools in conflict and bullying programs. Jocelyne is a crusader, on a crusade to create safer and friendlier schools and communities full of people
who have confidence in their value and who enjoy healthy relationships. Jocelyne is the founder of EMPOWERING Life Skills and the creator of the BRIDGE BUILDERS® Program which equips schools with a universal understanding, skills and language to deal with everyday conflict and bullying. She is the author of EMPOWERED for Life – Equipping children to deal with everyday conflict and bullying.
In 2018 Jocelyne has released the BRIDGE BUILDERS® Online Program to equip adults with the knowledge and resources to empower children for life. It has over 100 teaching videos, games, clickable interactives, quizzes and activities to link with the National Curriculum and make learning fun, relevant and lasting.
You can find out more about her and her programs at www.EmpoweringLifeSkills.com.au