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Nipping Negativity in the Bud

I'm trying to change how I handle things at home.  I realized I had gotten myself to this bad place of thinking "what is it this time?" when dealing with my stepson and even my husband.  That kind of negativity only leads to bad outcomes.

Yesterday at work I returned from a meeting to find a missed call from my stepson.  In true "what is it this time?" fashion, I thought "don't tell me he's locked out of the house again."

Then I caught myself.  How was I to guess the reason for his call?  Besides, even if that initial theory proved true, my stepson was probably scared and frustrated.  The last thing he would have needed is for me to be cross with him.

So I changed the thought.  I put myself in the "what can I do for you?" mindset and gave him a cheerful, "Hey bud.  What's up?"

His disappointment carried through the phone line as he replied, "I didn't do well on my math quiz.  I left a message for dad, too."

"First," I said, "I'm proud of you for calling to tell us because then we can help you, right?"


I let him know his teacher had sent an email to all the parents saying she had stalled her lesson plan to review the material again today since many of the kids were struggling with it.  I hoped that would ease his mind to know it wasn't just him that was having trouble.

Then I continued, "Tonight when I get home, let's go over it together and get you feeling comfortable with it."

He agreed.  No fuss, no drama.  We went through the questions he got wrong and walked through his work step-by-step to see what happened.  It only took 20 minutes for both of us to feel comfortable that he understood it enough to solve the same types of problems in the future.

With the "what can I do for you?" mindset, my hope is that he feels supported rather than feeling like he's in trouble.  After all, I'm here to help and show love, not to judge.


  1. It is so easy to get stuck in a negativity rut. Great job at changing your approach and finding a way to help him that eliminated the stress for all of you.

  2. I like this "change the thought" thing you've got going; I think we often don't realize how habitual our thought processes are, and how much they determine our overall outlook and experience. Noticing them, and deliberately changing them when they're negative (or otherwise not helpful), is perhaps the only way to make real change in our overall lives. You're such a great stepmom Sherri! Keep up the positive attitude and approach. :-)

  3. As a parent it can be difficult to live each day 'fresh'. Sometimes our preconceived notions can get in the way of us being helpful, like you say. I know one thing I do is think about how I would feel if it were me. I do dumb things sometimes. And I even do dumb things more than once sometimes. The last thing that would help would be for someone to say 'what is it this time'.

    What a great example of redirecting yourself.


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