It’s All In How You Look At It…

Ever take a look at your kid and with a sinking feeling think, “Wow. She is one bossy little lady!” Or maybe it’s more like, “I can’t believe my son is such a tattletale! He’ll never have any friends.” We all secretly notice certain traits in our kids that aren’t too flattering. Some come and go, while others tend to stick around.

When those once-in-a-while behaviors that you can’t stand start to become business-as-usual, you worry about how to turn them around. One of the best ways that I’ve found to get things moving in the right direction is to see if I can look at whatever he or she is doing another way. The idea is to search for the hidden potential in what appears to be nothing but ugly and work to pull that piece out.

 It’s called “reframing” and there is real magic to it. When you can start to see that nasty behavior from another angle, your thinking about it expands. You begin to feel less stuck and start to get ideas about how to hone and polish the crappy behavior into something new.

But it’s not enough to simply reframe the behavior. That’s just your starting place. You wouldn’t be doing your job if you just ignored the bad behavior once you got a new view of it. That’s called denial! And you don’t want to try to sell Junior’s obnoxiousness to your friends as something fabulous because at this point it isn’t.

Instead, you want to reframe the behavior for yourself and help your child see it in a new way, too. Once he gets a handle on how great he could be if he tweaked his behavior a bit, he may want to make different choices in how he acts. And you can help him develop strategies that reveal the hidden positives.

Here’s how it works: You take a hard look at Little Miss Bossy, for example, and search for something favorable hidden within the snarkiness. As you think about it, you realize that with a little work, some really strong leadership skills might be teased out of the yuck.

So you introduce the reframe to her by explaining that you’ve noticed how she always likes to call the shots and be in charge. The upside is that it shows she has a lot of confidence in herself and her ideas and may make a great leader one day. The downside is that at this point, her bossiness is getting in the way because it makes people mad and feel like their ideas aren’t being respected. So even if she has something helpful or important to offer, they won’t listen to her. She can work on developing her leadership skills by learning how to listen to everyone’s ideas. Then she can have more impact.

That annoying little tattletale can start to get a sense of how he could become a powerful advocate for those in need since he seems to have such a strong sense of justice and great observational skills. Learning to tell when it’s best to either speak up or keep his mouth shut will make all the difference in effectively using his talent.

A noisy, loud kid can be introduced to his “inner actor.” You can help him find a place where he can express all that energy and his “great ability to project” appropriately. Teach him to train his voice and modulate it depending on where he is. The “stage voice” only comes out on stage.

The overly timid kid who everyone calls “chicken” can be helped to see that his cautious, careful nature and great observational skills can be used to spot danger and warn others of it. You can also help him learn how to tell when the danger is real and to practice taking appropriate risks.

A “crybaby” can be taught that she has a wonderfully sensitive nature that can be developed to understand and appreciate how other people may be feeling. This skill can help her to grow into a caring, compassionate person.

The pushy kid can be introduced to the idea that he has a strong will and assertive nature that he can use to get things done in the world and maybe help those who have no voice. Help him find a cause that he can get excited about and work to support.

Your little blabbermouth can be helped to see herself as one who is not afraid to speak up. Maybe someday she would make a great reporter but first she needs to learn how to keep things to herself and to track her observations in a journal or notebook. The key to success for her will be to learn how to tell when it’s the right time and place to spill the story.

This reframing business is not a one shot deal. Your kids will need to be reminded many times of how to bring out their inner goodies and hidden talents. It will take some creativity on your part and lots of reminders but once you see the potential and help them to see it too, things are bound to change for the better!

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.


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One response to “It’s All In How You Look At It…”

  1. Reframing Made Ridiculously Simple

    […] a follow-up to our post a couple of weeks ago, It’s All In How You Look At It… , here’s the down and dirty on turning negative descriptions of our kiddos into positive […]

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