by Mark Gregston
In a time when it’s en vogue to rate everything—and everyone, and when filtering what comes out of our hearts and minds is discouraged, it can be difficult for teens to navigate the muddy waters of this negative world. Our culture seems obsessed with telling it like it is and pointing out what’s wrong with the world—and the people who live in it. Yet, research shows us that what we think has a powerful influence on how we feel—emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And our thought life greatly influences how we behave.
Years of research also illustrates that when kids are surrounded by constant negativity or by someone who is constantly complaining, physical symptoms, such as: depression or anxiety can manifest in their lives. And this continual subjection to negative thoughts or negativity in general can cause an overall tendency for your child to want to withdraw from friends and family.
As a parent, we have the job of making sure we’re going against the grain, and being a positive influence in our kids’ lives. By being a positive authority figure, instead of a negative one, you’re going to create a safe, healthy environment while reminding them that they can—and should be, a light and positive force in this negative world. This in turn, will help them gravitate away from the drama and dramatic situations that they might face, towards more positive and fulfilling situations and relationships.
How Negativity Affects Children
Author Gary Smalley once said, “Unfortunately, negative words (or just the lack of affirming ones) can turn out the lights in a child’s life. Lights that may never be turned back on again.”
Our children are the future and our hope, and I would venture to say that the majority of us want them to have every opportunity to shine—and to shine brightly. But with the creation of social media and other arenas that invite and even encourage arguments and being critical of others and other points of view, it’s important to understand how negativity affects kids.
Studies show that show that hurtful words in the sixth and seventh grades can have a life-long effect on kids. And negative views of the world create distrust, disappointments, and an overall lack of respect for authority which can lead to severe disconnectedness. There’s so much complaining in our world about the president, the former president, our military, our police force, our politicians, and our teachers—that the list just goes on and on—using every opportunity to offend. But all this negativity and complaining wipes out the opportunities for our young people to engage in conversation with people in authority and gain the wisdom of learning from them. And this in turn, leads us to have a generation of young people who lack the very skills needed to negotiate, problem-solve, and communicate effectively.
Create a Positive Environment
The world outside the doors of your home is filled with a culture of ideas that you can’t control. And while we can’t change the culture, we can control how much negativity is doled out at home. When you’re being positive with your kids, you’ll encourage and create an atmosphere of positivity. And your positivity will set the bar for your kids to respond in kind because it follows the principle which says, most things that kids learn are caught—not taught.
This reminds me of an algebra instructor that I once had in school. Mr. Roberts told me: If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t you won’t. And if you want to win, but think you can’t, it’s almost a cinch that you won’t. His words have stuck with me all these years—because they’re true, and because they hold the power of positivity in them.
So, consider the environment you’re creating for your kids. Are you correcting and criticizing them all the time? Or are you helping them as they venture further down the path and away from you. Give your teen hope. Be an encourager to them. And when all else fails, just hang out with them in a fun, relaxed way. Remember it’s important to communicate that there is nothing they can do to make you love them more—and nothing they can do to make you love them less.
Mom, Dad … your teens are surrounded by negativity which focuses on who they aren’t—what they’ll never, or never have. And shaming them for attempts to stand up for themselves or others. So many kids are more concerned with capturing negative behavior on their phones and other social media platforms than they are for standing up for others to be a positive influence. It is a tough world, so don’t make it tougher for them. Your home needs to be a respite—a retreat from the pressures of life where your kids know of your unfailing love for them. It’s important to quit correcting them all the time—and stop pointing out all the insignificant aspects of their lives. Let your praises be many and your criticisms be few. You are to be the same refuge to your kids that God is to you!