When was the last time you blew something out of proportion? Maybe you forgot to include a line on a job report and you thought that you just ruined your company as a result. When was the last time you didn’t give yourself enough credit? Like that time when you were the top performer on your team.
Both kids and adults are guilty of minimizing their accomplishments and magnifying their mistakes. No matter how much we try to avoid it, we tend to amplify the negatives in life—whether that means only seeing the bad or ignoring the good.
Minimization and magnification are cognitive distortions, but they ultimately stem from the same place: your attitude. While you might think that changing your attitude is easier said than done, my experience as a life coach has taught me that kids are incredibly talented at seeing the positive, a topic we covered last week.
Let’s take a look at some examples of minimizing and magnifying, and how you can help your kid with reinforcing the positive.
Whether your kid is the best on the team or they are just there for fun, everyone has a tendency to minimize and magnify in sports. If your son or daughter is a leader on the field, rink, or court, they might minimize their performance after a game—especially one a loss. Even if they scored most of their team’s points, their natural tendency will be to focus on the negatives.
Make sure that you reinforce how well they are doing, how they contribute to the team, and how others look to them as a role model. Losses are a part of life, and we can’t be the best at everything. That doesn’t mean that your kid should not be proud of what they have done.
On the other side, your kid might be playing sports for the fun of it. They might only score a goal or point once every few games and see losing as normal. They might have a tendency to minimize any of their accomplishments and magnify their loses and shortcomings.
Remind them of all the ways they contributed, no matter how small; they might have passed the ball and gotten an assist on a goal, or they might have saved the other team from scoring. Reinforce that winning isn’t everything, and focus on the fun that they had instead.
When you are reflecting with your child at the end of the day, or simply just asking how an assignment or test went, really listen to how they word their response. They might have gotten eight out of ten answers right on a test but could really be dwelling on the two they got wrong. Or they only got a B- on their latest math test, when really that is a lot of progress from the D they got a month ago.
In both situations, your kid is magnifying their shortcomings, while minimizing success and progress. When you are talking to them about their school work, be sure to highlight how well they did or how far they have come.
One of the best ways to defeat a magnifying habit, if they are still focusing on what they got wrong, is to treat wrong answers as learning opportunities. That way you and your kid’s life coach can focus on how much they have grown next time, when they kick the test’s butt.
Interacting with friends and other kids provides your child with a whole host of opportunities to minimize and magnify. This is where communication between your kid and you or your kid and a life coach becomes invaluable.
One of the most effective ways to get rid of the bad habit of minimizing and magnifying is to build a culture of accountability at home. This way, your child recognizes when they should accept responsibility, but—more importantly—when they shouldn’t. Just because a friend wants to magnify their role in something, doesn’t mean they should feel bad themselves.
It works the other way, too. Creating a culture of accountability at home prevents your kid from magnifying someone else’s role or minimizing the accomplishments of others.
Minimizing and magnifying experiences in your child’s life can have a serious impact on their development. Studies have shown that children and adults who are prone to minimizing the positives and magnifying the negatives are more prone to panic attacks and are less likely to want to try new things, for fear of the negatives that will show up.
Mind what language your kid uses when they are discussing events. Make sure that they don’t dwell on the bad, but put the focus on the good instead.