9 Strategies to Boost a Child’s Positive Thinking 

By Laura Driscoll
Read Time:  min
Try one of these kid-friendly positive thinking strategies.

We can all get down on ourselves from time to time. Negative thinking can cause us to feel sad and angry, feel bad about ourselves and others, avoid activities, ruin relationships, and more. Our brains also tend to dwell more on those negative thoughts than on the more helpful positive ones. Kids are no exception. 

We can boost positive thinking in children with some simple kid-friendly strategies. Try some out and see which ones your child or students like best. 

One word of caution -- Negative thinking is okay. The point of these strategies is not to never have another negative thought again or to dismiss every negative thought. It is to be in charge of our negative thinking, so it isn't in charge of us. We are not looking for 1000-watt fake smiles. 

9 Positive Thinking Strategies

1. Ugh, But

Crummy things happen. It's unavoidable at times. Try an Ugh, But statement. Say the thing that happened that wasn't so great, and then say something about it that isn't so bad.

Positive Thinking Strategy: Ugh, But

2. Boss That Thought

Sometimes, negative thoughts can push us around and make us feel bad or act poorly. But they aren't in charge of us! Be the boss of your negative thoughts.

When your thoughts are too negative, tell them why they are wrong. Tell them another way to look at the problem. You are in charge of your thoughts. Sometimes, you have to show them who the boss is.

Positive Thinking Strategy: Boss the Thought

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3. Throw It Away

Physically, getting rid of negative thoughts can be powerful.

Write down your negative thoughts. Crumple up the paper into a tight ball and throw it away. As you crumple it up and throw it away, picture your negative thoughts leaving your mind.

Positive Thinking Strategy: Throw Them Away

4. Picture It Perfect

When you are imagining that something is going to go badly, take a minute to picture it going perfectly. Remind yourself that it won't go perfectly, and it won't go terribly, either.

Download the free poster in my store

Positive Thinking Strategies poster

5. Silver Lining

Finding a silver lining is a classic example of looking for the good parts of a thing that isn't so wonderful. Write down some common negative events (i.e., being left out, forgetting your homework, getting in trouble) and brainstorm one tiny part that is positive. 

Ask yourself: What's another way to look at this? What is one small positive thing I can find about this?

Children, just like adults, are prone to negative thinking. Their negative thinking can lead them to be avoidant, have meltdowns, get into fights, and take other harmful actions. The concept

Helping Children Challenge Negative Thinking

6. Glass Half Full, Half Empty

Similarly, you can present the concept of half full/half empty. The child can come up with half-full thoughts and half-empty thoughts. You can use the same idea to have children sort negative and positive thoughts.

7. Gratitude

Sometimes, those negative thoughts about ourselves, an event, or someone else can fill our brains. Take two minutes and write down three positive things about yourself, the event, or the other person. Shifting our focus to the positive can help us see things more clearly.

Lots of the students you see for individual or group counseling struggle with some sort of negative thinking. Those negative thoughts can lead to negative feelings and negative actions. We

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8. Best Friend's Eyes

Sometimes, the way we talk to ourselves is awful! Things like "No one likes you" or "You will never be able to do that." Can you imagine saying that to someone else? Then why do we say it to ourselves?

Think of your best friend. Now, think of the negative thoughts you just had about yourself.

If my best friend heard me say this to myself, what would they say? If I listened to my best friends say this to themselves, what would I say to them?

Students can get stuck in a rut overreacting to small problems again and again. You've done size of the problem lessons, but in the moment students often have a hard

Size of the Problem – Strategies When Everything is a Big Deal

9. Control

Sometimes, the best thing we can do to get a handle on our negative thinking is to think about what we can and can't control.

The field trip gets canceled because of the rain. What a bummer! Instead of sitting with lots of negative thoughts about how everything is unfair. Think about what you can control and what you can't. You can't control the weather. But you can control not letting a canceled field trip ruin your day.

Positive Thinking Strategy: Control

Negative thinking is part of being a person. It certainly isn't the best part. But negative thoughts, just like negative feelings like sadness and anger, are okay. We can be in charge of our thoughts! We can use simple strategies to ensure our thoughts are realistic and not make us feel worse. 

Try one of these nine strategies to help your child or student boost their positive thinking.

Download the free positive thinking strategies poster in my store.

Helpful Resources

Challenging Negative Thinking

Challenging Negative Thinking Activities

Counseling resources to change negative thoughts and replacing them with positive self talk.

CBT Counseling Bundle

CBT Activities Bundle

Hands-on and digital cognitive behavioral therapy CBT activities for kids to help them understand their feelings, thoughts, and actions.

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I’m a school psychologist who left her office (closet?) and got busy turning a decade of experience into ready to use counseling and SEL resources.

I live in New York City with my adventurous husband and relaxed to the max daughter who’ve grown to appreciate my love of a good checklist.

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