goodManners: Lead By Example Accentuate the positive when disciplining

Often one learns by simply listening and observing. Lately I’ve spent a fair amount of time doing typical summer activities and I’ve made an unsettling observation. I’ve noticed that a good number of children tend to be very negative in their words and actions. I know, this is not a groundbreaking discovery, but it is disturbing.

It could be said that we live in fast paced, somewhat unsettling times, and things do not always go as we wish. However, those factors are not likely to change and the end result should not be the development of a negative attitude. In fact, quite the opposite should occur, for several reasons.

First, it isn’t practical to be negative. It wastes time. Spending a few moments to recognize that something is not pleasing or did not go well is fine, but pontificating endlessly is unproductive. “Blowing a little steam” may be human nature, but trying to solve, resolve or accept the situation rapidly is more efficient.

Secondly, being negative is not a pleasing way to conduct yourself and makes a poor impression on others. Have you ever noticed that when you go to a large party the person that people gravitate towards is usually cheerful and behaves like he is truly enjoying the event. Alternatively, the person looking at the floor or his watch is not the person people want to spend time with or be around.

Teaching children that adopting and displaying a positive attitude is a worthwhile endeavor.


When I conduct etiquette classes I frequently ask children – “Are we all born with good manners?” The answer is “No – we learn them”. A positive attitude is very similar because children are not born with a positive attitude. It is something that must be learned, and therefore taught to children. 

Catch them in the act – If your child is displaying a negative attitude, they may not even be aware of it. When you have a quiet moment with your child, discuss the scene you observed in a non-threatening way and challenge your child to come up with alternative ways to positively view or resolve the negative issue.

 If you observe your child displaying a positive attitude offer praise and say you are so proud that she displayed a positive attitude.

Choose to be positive – Being positive is always a choice. No one is forced to be negative. Teaching children to find the “silver lining” takes time and patience. Teach children to search and think really hard for a way to positively react. Let your child come up with the solution – it will make her feel so proud and confident. She also will be more likely and able to repeat the positive process again in the future. 

Surround yourself with positive people – This can be difficult for children. Children frequently fall victim to the downward spiral of peer pressure and the desire for acceptance. Give your child some practical solutions to avert the “negative” crowd and surround themselves with a more positive group of children.

Maybe, he can be the one to try and influence the conversation to a more positive tone, or simply choose to walk away and not participate in the discussion.

Be a good role model – Children mimic what they observe from us. As challenging as it may seem, displaying a positive attitude will only help your children.

A child with a positive outlook makes an incredibly good impression on others, and enables them to consistently conduct themselves with grace and confidence.