Helping Students Turn Negative Thinking into Positive Thinking

During a SocialEyes Together®SEL group recently, our third and fourth graders responded in a way that was not surprising.

We asked them to think about this situation:⁣

“You’re late for recess because you had to finish some work. Some kids in your class are playing your favorite game. You ask if you can join them. They say that you can’t. How does this make you feel?⁣”

Our students said it would make them feel, “sad,” “bad inside,” “angry,” “hurting,” “mad,” “really awful.”

No one felt ok with this.⁣

When we asked why the kids playing said no, all the students came up with a negative reason about them: “They don’t think I’m a good player,” “They don’t like me cause I hate to lose,” “One of the kids hates me,” “No one lets me play, cause I’m not good at stuff.”⁣

I asked them how they knew this was true.⁣

They were stumped! They just accepted the first idea that popped into their heads.⁣

It revealed more about how they felt about themselves than it was about reality.⁣

“What could you think instead?” we asked.

Some of their answers were: “Maybe they had enough players,” “I guess I’ll play with other kids,” “I was late today. Next time, I’ll probably get to play.”⁣

Feeling hurt in the moment is natural. Forming a negative story about why you were rejected is where we can help our students. They can learn to consider options when the hurt happens.⁣

Teaching our students to question their automatic negative thoughts and find productive ways to soothe themselves builds resilience.

This is what we call Thinking on Purpose. Click here to read a blog post all about Thinking on Purpose.

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