Can We Adjust Our Attitude?

— Written By Shirley Rush and last updated by
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What is Attitude? Attitude is a predisposition or a tendency to respond positively or negatively towards a certain idea, object, person, or situation.

Attitude starts with feelings and ends with action. Your attitude could be considered your self-image in action. Attitude can also be how a person looks at things emotionally and mentally. It reflects how people feel and think about themselves and others. Attitude can also be changed.

You are your child’s first and most influential teacher. If your own attitude towards life is negative, your child’s will be too. How do you respond to a frustrating situation? How do you treat friends, loved ones, or co-workers? What is your reaction if you feel a situation is unfair? The more you can focus on the positive factors in your environment, the more positive you will remain. Your child absorbs and mirrors the behaviors you teach him or her.

Children test boundaries as they grow and develop. This boundary-testing can manifest itself as a sassy, overbearing, disruptive, or disobedient attitude. Recognize that these outbursts of poor behavior are a normal part of human development. Understanding how to redirect negative behavior and encourage a positive attitude, you can teach your children to cope with life’s challenges and develop good character.

Nothing pushes a parent’s buttons more than being on the receiving end of back talk from her own child. You have to develop something called tolerance, the ability to accept differences among children and adults. You may not always agree with them, or with your child but you make an effort to get along with them, other wise you can get into a major power struggle and you’ll just stress out more, yelling isn’t going to win you respect.

Developmental stages:

Attitude problems signify the challenges your child is facing as he or she grapples with the unique dimensions of each stage along the journey from infancy to adulthood.

Toddlers and young children displaying attitude problems are likely testing your reactions to learn the boundaries of proper behavior. They are learning what to do or not to do. Children in their early elementary years are old enough to learn from consequences. Elementary school-aged children are also increasingly influenced by the behavior of friends and playmates.

As children reach their “tween” and teen years they are starting to develop their own, unique identity. Your role is to help them through this often-bewildering stage with clear expectations, respect, and plenty of personal attention.

Consider how your child learns best:

Be consistent.  Say what you mean, mean what you say, and follow through on any stated consequences, don’t give in.

Remain calm.  Avoid responding to your child’s poor attitude with anger. Instead, calmly deliver your request and then disengage.

Praise your child.  Let your child know when he or she is displaying a great attitude.

Take advantage of teachable moments.  When you see evidence of good or bad attitudes, in everyday life, point these out to your child that is how they learn best.

You can change your attitude from negative to positive, but you cannot control someone’s actions and attitude toward you, but you can control your actions and attitude toward them. Re-examine your attitude toward yourself and others. Does your attitude need to change?

For additional information, contact Shirley Rush at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Hoke County Center, at 875-2162 or email sarush@ncsu.edu.