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Negative Attitudes

What parent has not been on the receiving end of a child’s negative attitude? An attitude problem often shows itself in grumpiness, looks of disgust, and a general air of unhappiness. The apostle Paul knew about attitude problems when he instructed his friends in Philippi, “Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). What parents wouldn’t be overjoyed if their children acted that way when told to do chores? Paul added that this kind of positive attitude comes out of love for the Lord.

Attitudes can be thankful or ungrateful, forgiving or unforgiving, loving or uncaring. A positive attitude does not happen on its own. Children learn about attitudes from their parents. When parents talk positively to each other, they model a positive attitude for their children. If children hear only complaining and negative thinking, they may grow up to be complainers.

Children also learn a positive attitude when they are able to see parents doing positive things, such as showing respect for others, demonstrating kindness, being generous, and exhibiting patience.

Love and encouragement from parents also build a child’s positive attitude. When parents praise the appropriate behaviors of a child, rather than just criticize the negative behaviors, they are also cultivating a positive attitude in that child.

Besides being able to hear, see, and experience a positive attitude, a child must learn how to show a positive attitude. Paul told his Philippian friends to do things without complaining as a way of showing their love for their Savior. And he wrote to Christians in Corinth that whatever they did should be done “for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). So parents need to tell their children that carrying out the garbage, drying the dishes, and making their beds are ways to show love for Jesus. That too is part of a positive outlook on life.

If your child frequently has an attitude problem, begin by looking at the attitudes you are modeling. Ask your child to tell you why he or she is unhappy, and describe the signs of a negative attitude that you are observing. Be prepared to listen. If the negative attitude continues to occur regularly, you may need to set some consequences for continuing to carry on with that attitude. And be sure to look for those times when your child shows a positive attitude, and praise and compliment him or her for it.

From Patient Parenting, by John Juern. © 2006 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.