Our children tell us so much about how their mind works by the language that they use. If your child uses the words always and never when they tell you about upsetting things, they are showing you that they are generalising a negative moment into much bigger and more significant event than it actually is. This is sometimes called catastrophising.Most of us have tendency to do this more when we’re cross or sad. “My friend always leaves me out at lunchtime;” “He never helps me to tidy our room. I always have to do it;” “You never listen to me;” “She always gets to sit next to you. It’s not fair!”
Have a listen out for such examples, and if you hear them, gently challenge them by asking “Always? Was there a time when he did help?” or “Never? I thought we had a lovely chat after swimming on Tuesday and I listened to lots of things that you told me about your lesson and your day.” We’re not saying that their complaint is invalid; on the contrary, we probably want to look into it if they feel really strongly about it. It’s just that by generalising, they get caught in a negative mindset and see the negative pattern or incident as being the only one and they forget all of the times when the opposite was the case. This can lead to pessimism and bitterness.
By being gently challenged to remember that this isn’t always or never, but just this time or sometimes, then their perspective of life is less likely to get into a negative, pessimistic spiral. Where the possibility and habits of positivity and optimism exist, so does a brighter perspective on the world. (I gave myself similar advice to this here) Children and adults can be more resilient when they have this more balanced perspective. This is not Pollyanna land though, of course.
If your child is complaining about something that does seem to happen on the majority of occasions, then they need your support to make this thing that happens more manageable. As with most coaching tools, this is not a one size fits all resource. Starting with this challenge may not be the most empathetic stance to take, so use this challenge carefully and thoughtfully and don’toverdo it or your kids will just roll their eyes and think “Oh here (s)he goes again with that always / never stuff!”