Reframe Your Struggling Learner’s Destructive Thinking

One of the most powerful beliefs that I think we can have is the belief that we get to choose our own beliefs.  We get to think whatever the heck we want to, good or bad.


When we recognize that thoughts don’t simply happen to us, that we are not at the mercy of our thoughts but instead can master our own minds, we instantly have the power to free ourselves from our own self-imposed destructive thinking.


That, of course, is easier said than done.


I think it’s pretty safe to say that many struggling learners are burdened by their own destructive thinking.


The thought “I can’t read” may sound like a factual thought, but it can also be charged with negative emotion.


I can’t read, and that means I’m a failure.  Everyone is better than me.  I’m stupid.  I’m broken.  I’m not good enough.


Thoughts like these can lead to feelings of inadequacy, shame, self-hatred.


The bad news is that the more we think our destructive thoughts, the stronger they become.


The great news is that if we adopt the belief, “I get to choose the thoughts I think” then we can make another choice, consciously and deliberately.


So how do we reframe such destructive thinking?


Start with helping your child see that when we choose to think “I can’t read” we sure don’t feel very good.  We’ve already learned to be kind to others, so let’s learn to be kind to ourselves as well.  Let’s choose something like “I’m learning to read now” or “I’m becoming a stronger reader.”  How do those thoughts help you feel?  Personally I think they feel pretty powerful.


Instead of “I’m a failure” try something kinder.  “I just learned what doesn’t work.  I’m that much closer to learning what does.”


Instead of “Everyone is better than me” try something kinder.  “Because I learn differently I have gifts that few people have.”


You get the idea.  It does take practice, lots and lots of practice.  I mentioned that the more we think our destructive thoughts, the stronger they become.  Well, the more we think our kinder thoughts, the stronger they become, too.


So I encourage you, dear parent, to instill the belief in your child that we DO get to choose our thoughts.  From there you can help reframe the destructive thinking that often accompanies learning difficulties.  Heck, it often accompanies childhood, period.


Caution:  Be careful that if your child doesn’t respond to new thoughts right away, don’t force the issue.  We need to allow space for them to feel what they truly feel and not judge them for it.  Trying to “fix” their thinking only helps reinforce the idea that they are doing it all wrong.


Sometimes kids (and adults for that matter) develop such a strong habit of beating themselves up that it feels familiar, dare I say it, comforting.  It becomes the easiest thing to return to.  Instead of judging it we can acknowledge it.  “Yep, that’s one way we can think about it.  And that’s totally our choice.  We can also practice being a little kinder to ourselves.  I wonder what thought might help us feel better.  Do you have any ideas?”


Keep at it, parents.  You’ve got this.


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