Attitudes Count: Tips for Success in Middle School and in Life
written by: Deb Killion
• edited by: Tricia Goss
• updated: 9/16/2014
What is the most important thing to teach kids regarding how they can learn to get along and to succeed academically? If you could give them one piece of information that would ensure their success, what would it be?
slide 1 of 2
The Importance of a Positive Attitude
Earl Nightingale, a world-renowned author, public speaker and media personality once said that the right attitude is the single most essential ingredient in any worthy endeavor you take on and the only thing that determines its outcome.
Nightingale recommended that adults put a yellow note with the word “attitude" on their bathroom mirrors. His theory was that seeing this first thing in the morning would set the pace for the day by helping people focus on their own attitudes.
Entrepreneurs and millionaires agree that despite all of the obstacles, setbacks and disappointments they encountered on their way to the top and the times they wanted to give up, the force that kept them driving toward success was attitude.
The same is true for kids. Teachers view kids with good attitudes as better students. Other kids look at peers who are radiant, smiling and open as better friends. People are more open in general to others who exude warmth, friendliness and confidence, as opposed to people who are drab, uninterested or rude.
So how do you instill a good attitude in your child? The truth is, you can’t. Attitude, like motivation, is an intrinsic quality and must come from within. You can, however, utilize some proven techniques that encourage kids to think in the right direction and help them learn to relate well and have more friends, as well as achieve their goals.
slide 2 of 2
Improving Attitudes in Kids
Teach your child that you get back what you put out. Everyone emits a certain aura to others, which largely determines whether they seem approachable. As this is the essence of making new friends, kids should think about how they present themselves to others. Remind your child that people connect with others who seem interested in them.
Remember that attitudes reflect inner feelings and thoughts. Learn to observe and evaluate your child’s actions as the product of his inner thoughts and talk to your child about his attitude. If he is bossy, perhaps he feels that others are always bossing him around and is looking to increase his sense of power. If she is reserved, perhaps she was bullied at some point and is guarding herself to maintain control.
Ask your child to work on his attitude and reward him for improvements. Stress to him that you want him to be himself, but that some attitudes are not appropriate. Being obstinate toward adults or other kids, presenting rude behaviors or smarting off are traits that are not considered positive or suitable. Talk out frustrations to help him.
Be the parent. Sometimes, if attitudes still do not change, you may have to take something away or otherwise discipline your child. Remember, you are not punishing her for the thinking that causes the attitude, but for the inappropriate behaviors that accompany it. You really cannot ethically punish anyone for what they “think," only for what they do and it is important to make this distinction. Attitudes ultimately determine actions in kids, so it is important to keep that in mind.
Communicate with teachers and the school counselor. Depending upon the attitude issues, communication with school staff such as teachers and counselors can help by making them aware that you want your child to improve his attitude. This shows that you respect the school and want your child to learn the important lessons of getting along with others and showing respect. It also displays that you have good intentions toward school staff and illustrates to your child that you want to help him improve.
Remember that there is a time to negotiate with kids and a time to enforce the rules. In addition, behaviors and attitudes started in early childhood can spill over into their teen and adult years, causing problems down the road. Your child must understand that while it’s okay to be different or opinionated, it is NOT okay to be rude, disrespectful or uncooperative. Her happiness and success as an adult depends on learning this lesson.
It is important to stay “in the middle" as a parent, to support your child and his teachers or others who work with your child. This way, your child feels you are there for him without feeling you will always come to fight his battles.