Positive thinking can be the difference between a student persisting with a challenging activity and stopping too soon. As counselors, we can directly work on building a student's positive thinking, and give them the skills to be resilient when faced with challenges.
Identify & Replace Negative Thinking
I focus on two things when building a student's positive (realistic) thinking. One, emphasize that negative thinking is normal and everyone has negative thoughts. Two, we can learn a way to kick those negative thoughts to the curb.
I use a simple step-by-step CBT process.
First students learn what a thought is, kinds of negative thoughts, and practice recognizing them. Second, they learn ways to challenge negative thoughts to make sure they are based on facts. Last, they practice replacing them with more realistic, positive thoughts.
We take each of these skills one at a time and then chain them together. This lets them get better and more confident with each step. For more detail, check out this post on challenging negative thinking.
Show How Thinking Affects Them
One of the first things I do in this type of work with students is help the kiddos to understand the connection between their thoughts, their feelings, and their actions. Once they believe that their thoughts affect them, they’re more interested in changing their thoughts!
We go through some different stories together and talk through how different characters think, feel, and act in the same scenario. Then I want to get their minds thinking about different thoughts by showing them tons of examples, sorting them between helpful vs. unhelpful, and then identifying which helpful thoughts they want to have more often.
School Focus on Growth Mindset
At my school, we have spent the past few years focusing on what it means to have a “growth mindset.” By teaching students that we can learn from our mistakes, we can begin to increase positive thinking. My staff has worked hard to incorporate the concept of having a growth mindset by using hands-on experiences with students. We have also worked on integrating children’s literature with a growth mindset focus into the classroom. Check out some of my favorite growth mindset resources and activities in this post on my blog.
How do you make positive thinking a habit for students?