Negative thoughts come so easily. One look at the world around us and we can quickly settle into a mindset of hopelessness and despair. For teenagers, it’s even easier. Every parent of a teenager has heard the phrase “It’s not fair!” or “Nobody likes me.” Parents often attribute this to the mood swings and irritability that normally occur in people of this age group. However, left alone, it can shape the way your kid thinks — even into adulthood. This negative thinking can affect their success in school and their social lives; as well as their overall self-esteem and happiness.

As a parent, you have the incredible opportunity to help shift your child’s thinking. You can help them take every thought captive, assess it, and decide what to do with it. Adolescents are more prone to thinking the worst, because of the many changes going on in and around them. Indulging in this negative thought pattern can lead to chronic anxiety, depression, and anger — as well as interfere with developing established relationships.

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Thoughts have power. 

Listen closely to the kind of negative thoughts your child voices, and you may be able to identify their kind of negative thinking.

There are four main kinds of negative thinking:


This is where your teen jumps to the worst possible case situation. Consequences of failing a test can escalate in their brains to “never getting into college”. Constantly scanning ahead for the next possible disaster is a contributing factor to anxiety, it can also make your teen afraid to try new things.

Ruminating on Disappointment:

This kind of thinking allows any disappointment to overshadow any positive experience. Your teen can focus on a negative experience for days — despite any positive things that may happen after.

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Life Isn’t Fair:

When your teen constantly spouts “IT ISN’T FAIR!” they are equating every letdown as a grave injustice.

I Can’t:

This kind of attitude prevents your child from hurdling life’s obstacles because they’ve given up before they even try.

When approaching your teen about their negative thought patterns, remember that the idea isn’t to squish the thought, but rather to assess and address it. By attempting to just stop negative thinking, you can actually make the negative thoughts stick longer in their brains.

Teach your teen to examine their negative thoughts and replace them with more realistic and helpful ones. For example when they say “I can’t” teach them to replace it with “I can try!”. Ask them what they would tell someone who worries about the same, or similar things as them. This kind of balanced thinking leads to better confidence, higher self-esteem, and a more positive frame of mind.