By Erica Rood, M.A. Ed.
If you have a teenage daughter, chances are there’ve been times when you’ve had to help her work through negative self-talk and self-doubt. It’s very common for teen girls to get caught in a cycle of “not-good-enoughness.” When this happens, the “I’m not…” messages begin to wreak havoc on an otherwise optimistic teen. I’m not pretty enough, I’m not thin enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not athletic enough. It’s important that parents be on the look out for the “Negative Nag” that is influencing their daughter’s behavior, and offer her positive alternatives.
Fostering a mindset of gratitude is a powerful antidote to the Negative Nag.
In my coaching practice, I spend a lot of time helping girls understand their Negative Nag, minimize its power, and replace its unkind, unhelpful messages with those that are empowering, energizing, and compassionate. These are often messages of gratitude. When girls bolster their capacity to notice and appreciate the positive in their world, their outlook begins to change. They naturally turn down the volume of their Negative Nag, their anxiety lowers, and their focus and energy increase. Study after study proves that increasing gratitude paves a way to positive emotions. And, when your daughter feels good about herself, she is able to see the good in others.
Robert Emmons one of the world leading gratitude researchers says:
“We’ve studied more than one thousand people, from ages eight to 80, and found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:
- Stronger immune systems. Less bothered by aches and pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Exercise more and take better care of their health
- Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More alert, alive, and awake
- More joy and pleasure
- More optimism and happiness
- More helpful, generous, and compassionate
- More forgiving
- Feel less lonely and isolated
- More outgoing”
Gratitude literally changes thinking patterns. It helps girls get control of their Negative Nag and naturally lends itself to healthy relationships with themselves, with friends, family, and their world.
So, how can you bolster a sense of gratitude in your daughter?
- Make every day one of Thanksgiving. Express your gratitude to your daughter and other members of the family. Share your sincere gratitude for who they are, not what they do. This means highlighting their qualities over their accomplishments or actions.
- Make gratitude a family practice. Get crafty with your daughter and make a family gratitude jar. Transform an ordinary mason jar into a container for your gratitude and appreciation. Decorate the jar with stickers, positive words, symbols and pictures that represent gratitude. Place the jar in a common area in the home, along with a stack of mini post-its. Each day, write a gratitude on a post-it and place in in the jar. The jar is also an effective visual reminder to be grateful.
- Gratitude texts. It’s no secret that teens love technology. Make the most of their phones by sharing gratitude texts. Each day make a commitment to sending your daughter at least one gratitude text. You’ll inspire her to start seeing the positive in her world and spark her to respond with her own gratitude.
- Nix the Negative Nag. When your daughter starts to express the comments of her Negative Nag, ask her how she can replace those thoughts with something more helpful and positive. Inquire with open-ended questions like, “How can you turn that around?” or “If you chose not to listen to the messages of the Negative Nag, what other message would you hear?” This encourages her to think out of the box and creatively discovery more positive ways of thinking, and responding.