“Too Hard”: Encourage Positive Thinking for Your Kids

Have you ever heard your child make negative self-statements about her skills and capacities?

Children frequently say things like, “That’s too hard” or “I can’t do it,” even about a task they have completed before. This type of negative cognition can undermine a child’s potential to perform to the best of her ability. Fortunately, parents and educators can challenge these negative statements and help children substitute them with more positive views of themselves. In this edition of the LearningWorks for Kids Beyond Games series we suggest strategies that can encourage positive thinking and build persistence.

Get a better vantage point. Many children struggle with task persistence because they misperceive the difficulty of a task. A child could improve her ability to plan for future projects by assessing the difficulty of a task by figuring out the steps required and its possible complications. Model good planning skills by talking about long-term projects at home such as the steps involved in painting the kitchen or a project you have been assigned assigned at work.

Make it relatable. Narrative stories to teach persistence and sustained effort can be very effective. Relate a short story to a child about someone who has achieved a goal they have worked hard for. She will be especially interested in anecdotes about other children who became excellent athletes or attained academic success. Tell him a story from your past about when you worked very hard on a project to demonstrate the benefits of being persistent.

Let her do the talking. Kids can reinforce their sense of self-efficacy when they talk about what was required to complete a task, from recognizing what spurred them initially to the persistence, problem solving, and checking of work required to complete the task. Self-efficacy influences how kids (and grown-ups for that matter) feel, think, motivate themselves, and behave, and it can lead to a sense of mastery that can encourage them to persist in other areas of their lives.

Open up. Discuss your experiences of getting through a difficult situation at home or work to demonstrate your ability to self-motivate and talk yourself through a situation. Provide a thinking template for a child to follow in similar situations by verbalizing: “I was given a job to do at work that was new for me. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to complete it but reminded myself that I have had difficult jobs before and completed them successfully. I knew I could do the task if I worked hard at it.”

Help them self-identify. Assist your child in finding things that he enjoys learning about and provide him with different ways to access materials on the topics. For example, a child who does not like to read but enjoys cars could go to an automobile dealership with you and pick up brochures. He could play racing video games, search the Internet for information about cars, or demonstrate his knowledge about them to relatives and friends. This could widen his ability to see himself as a learner in a variety of areas.

Complementing these core strategies with the use of apps, websites, and other technologies often leads to the best solutions to improve a child’s ability for thinking positively. Some of the best tech tools to help a child with improving task persistence through thinking positively include:

title540106419 A large part of positive thinking is flexibility. Skull Girls is a 2D fighting game recommended for older children that exercises this very skill. With a number of playable characters and varying opponents, players have the opportunity to learn and adapt to new fighting styles and work to find the best methods to defeat other players.


Stress-TrackerSometimes negative self-thought has specific triggers. Stress Tracker is a diary app designed to record those times when users are particularly stressed or anxious to determine which factors are likely to blame for those feelings. Stress Tracker specifically addresses the skills of flexibility and self-awareness,  critical partners in positive thinking.


GravSuitGrav Suit is a puzzle game that exercises the self-control skill required for positive thinking. Players must work through mazes, fighting gravitational pull and equipped with only a ray gun for propulsion. Accurate mouse clicks are required, and a slight learning curve exists that puts patience, persistence, and positivity to the test.


BADLAND - Educational Game Review BADLAND is a game for iOS devices that demands the kind of focus that aids kids in positive thinking. Players must constantly move forward in this side-scrolling forest mystery. With atmospheric graphics and soundtrack, BADLAND tests players’ ability to tune in to the most important aspects of the game, a resilience skill that will encourage positive thinking.



Featured image: Flickr user Sean MacEntee

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