3 Parenting Reminders for Managing Negative Thoughts

Posted March 18, 2016 by

3 Parenting Reminders for Managing Negative Thoughts

Parenting is tough. We speak to many people every day who are struggling with challenging parenting issues. It’s easy and normal to get caught up in negative thoughts about yourself and your family.

Here are some common thoughts we hear from parents:

“I love my family, but sometimes I don’t like being a parent.”

”My friends’ kids are so easy! Why can’t my kids be like them?”

“I’m just not good at this, I’m failing as a parent.”

When we compare how other people seem on the outside to how we are feeling on the inside, it is easy to be discouraged and feel isolated in our struggles. The truth is, no one has it all figured out, and we all have negative thoughts about ourselves or our families at times.

So what do you do when you are stuck in negative thinking? Here are some things we’ve learned from working with so many parents over the years.

What our community members have taught us about managing negative thoughts:

Don’t compareThings might look better on the outside than they are on the inside. Don’t compare your life to someone’s social media pictures. Everyone has moments where they make parenting mistakes. Everyone has moments where they regret their words or their actions and they wish they could start the day over. This comes with the job. There is no such thing as a perfect parent.

It is O.K. to ask for help. When you are feeling stuck or unsure of what to do next, it is okay to reach out to a friend or to find resources online to help you. Sometimes talking to someone else can bring a new perspective and can give you some new ideas.

You are not alone. The coaching team has the privilege of speaking with so many parents from all around the world. We can tell you that if you are feeling overwhelmed, tired, worried, or upset about a parenting challenge, you are in very good company here.  It is very common to feel this way.

When you are having negative thoughts, be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that we are all just doing the best that we can. We are all in this together. We’re glad you are here with us.


Rebecca, Empowering Parents Coach


Rebecca Wolfenden is a loving Momma to her son and a dedicated 1-on-1 Coach. She earned her degree in Social Work from West Virginia University and has been with Empowering Parents since 2011. Rebecca has experience working with children and families in home settings and schools, and has extensive practice working with people of all ages who have survived significant emotional and physical trauma.

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  1. Bhawna Report

    Hi, I have 8 yrs old boy. He is very good kid. I have only problem I have been dealing with him that he doesn’t have focus of what is doing and what he should be doing evenafter many reminders. And it results to reaching late at places not completing work on time. I get stressed out. Same complaints receiving from school. That he isn’t focusing what her needs to be doing. What to do please help.

    • Empowering Parents Coach Rebecca Wolfenden, 1-on-1 Coach Report

      It can be very challenging when you have a child who is capable of doing the work, yet he struggles to stay focused on the task at hand. Something to keep in mind is that if you are giving him numerous reminders about what he should be doing, you are taking on the responsibility to keep him on task. As long as you are taking on that responsibility for him, he doesn’t have to. At this point, it could be useful to have a problem-solving conversation with your son about what he will do differently to stay focused on his work, both at home and at school. You might also find it helpful to practice some of the exercises outlined in 5 Simple Concentration Building Techniques for Kids with ADHD. Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.

  2. Rachel Report

    Regarding the article ‘Three Parenting Reminders for Managing Negative Thoughts,’ I appreciate the part about not comparing, especially in the light of posts on social media. Things at home have been so intense and difficult with my 18 year old son (who is VERY oppositional and defiant, in ways that are interfering negatively with his life), that seeing ‘proud parental posts’ has become just so painful for me. At times I just have to stay away from social media or zoom past what I suspect may be glowing reports of other peoples’ well children. I KNOW this sounds unfair to those people, cold even. But sometimes it triggers a negative comparing spiral for me, given the situation at home. I just HAVE to shut off the comparing switch, take a mental vacation from negative thoughts. This article reminds me of that. Thanks!

  3. Jaya Report

    Dear Empowering Parents team,
    I cherish all the mails I receive from you. I have found a friend, confidante and guide in you, and feel overwhelmed and a failure less often, because of you.
    Often, I don’t feel like holding the hand of my children’s father because of an awareness that I can’t deal with him in the context of parenting issues..but at all those times, an article from you on my mail, is the hand that gently holds mine.
    Thank you. Stay with me.

  4. Ket Report

    There’s nothing in this article to counteract the negative thoughts – it is very biased. All these parents are going thru some real fiery trials. Does anybody look at the diet, the music their children listen too, the consequences of not obeying, how children need to do chores, how too they need to work for some things while under your care. Also the parents need to take charge from young and if things cannot be agreed from 16 upwards and they are not listening to your authority then show them the door…….let them find out how hard and bad it is out there on their own if that’s what they want to choose

  5. Tina Report

    Thankyou Rebecca, it helped to think I am not alone as a parent trying to work out things with my child. Thankyou for reminding me that things do look different from the outside. Negative thinking arises from a place of feeling alone, we forget many are facing their own battles.

  6. SowbhagyaLakshmi Report

    Please send me d article hw to tackle things with naughty kid? My know everything but he behaves too unknown in school, home , studies and interrupt like old age people enter in b/ w while somebody is talking, more over he has become too lazy compared to his KG classess.

  7. Marijo Terleski. Report

    I am so thankful for these letters. I am a single working mom raising a 13 year old son. Though I love more than anything else I feel overwhelmed and worn out a lot. It’s very challenging to always be ahead of the game! I always get inspired and feel like I’m not alone after reading these letters. Thank you

  8. cham Report

    thank you for this article it is so timely for me especially now that i have hard time with my son in dealing with his grades in school.. i almost giving up on him, but i know he is a talented young boy it’s just that he doesn’t know how to prioritized or balance school and play of focus on his weaknesses.. I pray that someday he’ll find time to reflect whAt really his goal is or what he want to be cause not all the time im around checking on him.

  9. Gina Report

    What to do about adult children. My brother and I are working on getting my mother moved out of her house. He is controlling everything. She’s moving into his house. But is bossing me around like crazy. He is making all the decisions . I’m the oldest sibling and it’s getting worse.

    • Empowering Parents Coach Rebecca Wolfenden, 1-on-1 Coach Report

      We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and sharing your story. I hear how frustrated you are with your brother and his behavior right now. Because we are a website aimed at helping people become more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and suggestions we can give to those outside of a direct parenting role. It may be helpful to look into local resources to help you develop a plan for addressing your particular issues. The 211 National Helpline is a referral service available 24 hours a day, nationwide. They can give you information on the types of support services available in your area such as counselors, support groups, kinship services as well as various other resources. You can reach the Helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222. We wish you the best going forward. Take care.

  10. Salman65 Report

    About my son,
    aged 21 years old. He
    has a good reputation at University or work-place as part-timer; responsible,
    being liked by friends, lecturers and always elected as leader. Academic wise
    is good, like helping others, whether at home or elsewhere. Caring
    and cheerful.
    I faced a problem of his attitude as deceitful, hypocritical, dishonest, always
    has an excuse or answer when told about it and did not want to admit the
    mistake and apologize.
    difficult to accept instructions or advice to change or need to be improved and
    things happens repeatedly, after being told sepecifically as for examples of
    such behavior:
    1) Big spender and not
    saving. Being
    told the value of money and saving practices. Formula
    demonstrates how to create cash flow but did not commit.
    Like exaggerate a little story, whether true or totally a deception.
    Associating a group of so call rich kind university friends after being
    informed by neighbor’s son which his classmate that their group’s bully other
    Identify that he is immature person for not making the right decisions or
    actions by priority.
    Handsome looks but not macho enough..

  11. Lynsey Report

    I have a 12 year old son who can be a wonderful child to be around, very funny, very caring etc. however when he “starts” he shows no respect for me or his dad, he is especially nasty to his dad. If Dad asks him to do anything, i.e. be nicer to his brother, not answer back etc, his response is “what are you going to do about it”. He can be so defiant and it’s also affecting his schooling as he is spending a lot of time in isolation due to the disrespect he shows his teachers and class mates. We put consequences in place like taking his x-box or phone off him however this doesn’t bother him, he just kicks off more! He has trashed his room and thrown things down the stairs (granted this doesn’t happen anywhere near as often as it used to do when he was 9/10). Dad, especially, struggles with this behaviour and walks away from it a lot saying “just do what you want then”. I’ve tried to explain that this doesn’t help and we need to follow things through but he’s so fed up that he doesn’t feel he has the strength or patience to carry on with it all. I’m worried that their relationship will become non-existent and will be damaged beyond repair. Any advice would be greatly received.

  12. catalina77 Report

    I have a 16 year old son  will be 17 in August 2016. our communication is sometimes almost non exsisting. only when he want something then he opens up and I feel great. He attends a small School and does fairly well. He asled me that he would l;ike to attend a friends prom. that the ticket would be $150.00  I told him that was nice but I didnt think I could afford that because of the laptop I bought him im still paying for it (laptop cost $800qvc 6 payments) . I have showed my son how to do his laundry and we’ve done it together and he has done it when hes down to no underware. So because we love our kids and want to make them happy I thought maybe he can work for the Prom ticket  (he hasn’t washed his clothes in about 3 months) I told him if he washed his clithes and cleaned his room I would make a sacrafice and get him the tickets. he said yes did not wash  or do anything so i said no prom tickets he started yelling and cursing at me i had to walk out the house. later on he tells me he is not having a prom because its such a small school trhey dont have proms. however i did not know this next morning io tell him  im going to give him the money and that i did not know he nwas not having a prom and that that would’ve been the prom he was not having he said forget im not going already told the girl he was not going also that he was going to drop out of school ? said was was not going to school today because he would be more productive at home? OMG!! All i do is cry in silence any advise?

    • rwolfenden Report

      I’m so sorry to
      hear about the situation you are currently experiencing with your son. 
      The teen years can be ripe for communication difficulties and power struggles,
      and you are not alone in this.  It sounds like you recognized that prom
      tickets for your son was not something in your household budget, and you gave
      him an opportunity to earn some extra money.  When he did not follow
      through, you didn’t give him the money.  While it’s OK for him to be upset
      about the natural consequences of his actions, this does not mean that he is
      excused from meeting his responsibilities and following the rules around things
      like swearing, or attending school.  At this point, it could be useful to
      allow both you and your son some time to calm down.  Then, I encourage you
      to have a conversation with him about what happened, and develop a plan for
      moving forward.  Debbie Pincus outlines some great tips for this in her
      article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/fighting-with-your-teen-what-to-do-after-the-blowout-7-steps-to-defuse-the-tension/. 
      I recognize how difficult this must be for you, and I appreciate your writing
      in.  Please let us know if you have any additional questions.  Take

  13. Mannon Report

    I have a nine year old son who was recently diagnosed with adhd, generalized anxiety disorder and fire alarm and lockdown phobias. With this severe anxiety, it is pratically impossible for us to send him to school even with the help of a teacher picking him up in taxi. Us and school don t know what to do anymore to get him IN the school. It s like throwing your child who s scared of water in the river or pool. He gets up and gets ready, not always easy, but he does. He is medicated for his anxiety. We have plans set for him, and he does have behavioral therapy once a week. What else can we do to help him out. He is going to fail his year since his anxiety took over and out of control. Im being told im doing everything right but there s bearly any positive results. How can it get better? How can we make him understand that things are to be ok at school
    I have no clue what to do anymore! He is a very good child. But once his anxiety takes over, he s not the same boy and can be quite agressive verbally and physically

    • rwolfenden Report

      I hear you.  It can be so frustrating when you are
      doing everything “right”, yet you are not seeing the behavior change.  It
      does sound like you have taken many of the steps we typically recommend to
      address this type of issue, such as partnering with the school to develop
      plans, and working with local supports in your community.  If you haven’t
      already done so, you might develop a plan with his therapist about what you can
      do to reinforce new skills outside of his weekly sessions.  In addition, a
      large part of addressing behavior is being as calm, consistent and patient as
      possible with how you are responding, as new coping skills and strategies do
      not typically develop immediately.  Even though the positive results may
      be few and far between at this point, I also recommend praising and reinforcing
      those times when your son is using appropriate coping skills.  Thank you
      for writing in, and please let us know if you have any additional
      questions.  Take care.

    • poornaraj15 Report

      Mannon HI Mannon, 
      I understand as a Parent how it feels like.I faced same situation when my child was 4 year old.Now he is 9. He is ASD and ADHD. He scared of fire alarm and smoke detectors some times now too.When I was struggling how to make things better, At home I behaved like some of his peers whom he sits besides and pretend in same name, and play school games at home.So, the routine and the structure what they have in school, when they play with Parents at home(even the name of other friends) I felt my son was comfortable and some coping skills.He was getting used to it and find some positive outcome. Practiced some  fire drill at home and hold hands and we walk outside the doors like how they do in school.I’m not good in grammar or good in writing sentence, hope this will help him too. Every child is different ,I hope this helps.Stay Blessed!

  14. Helpwithsports Report

    My children 8 and 10 spend one week with me, Mommy and one with him. We don’t get along. He refuses to take our children to any sports. The only way he will is if my family and I agree not to attend anything on his week and he will not attend on my time (he admits he never has). I will not agree. They deserve all the support they can get. History-prior to the last 8 months he was court ordered to take them to everything. Eight months ago our plan changed and we started sharing one week and one week. This was an increase in time. Everything is shared decision. Even knowing that the court still encourages cooperation and the kids participation in sports. Any other parents have this problem? How do you handle it?

    • Ashley Report

      Helpwithsports Same situation here. Same ages also. Its been 6yrs and he finally has started participating and we are slowly starting to get along. I hated the fact that my kids couldn’t do sports because dad refused to take them on his weeks. The kids are the only ones suffering and its stupid. I think him getting remarried had a lot to do with it. Not sure how you feel about it but i absolutely HATE week on week off scheduling. For me the reasons are he has been evicted 11 times in 2yrs so he is constantly moving and theres no stability for the children.

  15. keilamendez1977 Report

    I’m struggling with my 2 daughters
    They very intelligent they were honor roll
    In school all the times,but the 17 decide that she didn’t want to go to high school, and she use the system making them believe that she has anxiety and can’t be in a big school but then at home acts up example cursing all day,don’t clean after herself, sleeps all day, awake all night making noises with music laughing at loud knowing I have to get up by 430am to go to work,if I tell her to lower her voices,she even hits me and she leaves the house when she wants too, have counselor coming to the house for her explain this things to them and there answer is to avoid.
    Avoid means let her do what she wants.
    I had try everything, but she just got in her mind that when shes 18 she would leave the house, the counselor had told her she going to help her get ssi a check from the government and that they have to help her with an apartment.
    now my daughter had gotten worse knowing all this,she has the 14 yrs old doing same. if I say something to my smaller kids she tells them don’t worry soon I have my apartment and I’m taking you with me you don’t have to listen to her.
    Like if I’m doing something wrong wanting them to go to school that’s all I ask.
    The system don’t work kids get worse.

  16. Askchck2do Report

    Parenting can be a bit tough, these days, we need tlc & be reminded that the rewards are there when kids grow up & live it say “I’ve made it this far & you can say ” I ve made it “.

  17. Luvmy3kids Report

    My son will have months of good behavior. But when he hits his breaking point it is usually really bad. We try our hardest to pick and choose our battles with him to keep the arguing to more severe issues. But there are days were it just seems like we are fighting all the time. We usually Waite till he has a clear head to sit with him and talk about all that has happened. Punishment is what we struggle with. How do you keep a 15 year old boy in the house if he chooses to just walk out? What do we do if no rules stick cause he disobeys them. I feel like we just throw are hand up but he is not getting consequences to his wrong doing.

    • rwolfenden Report

      Finding a way to hold a child accountable for his actions
      can be a struggle at times, especially if your son is not willing to comply
      with the consequence.  In this type of situation, it can be more effective
      to focus on things that you have ultimate control over that do not depend on
      your son’s compliance in order to work, or a https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/parenting-odd-children-and-teens-how-to-make-consequences-work/  One example of this might be that instead of telling
      your son that he can’t leave the house, you might instead tell him that you
      will not give him a ride anywhere for a certain period of time.  I
      understand how frustrating this situation is, and I encourage you to let us
      know if you have any additional questions.  Take care.

    • SusanLMFT Report

      You can take away electronics andvTV cell phone privileges if he chooses to just leave as those are things you can control. And let him know if he leaves and is gone past curfew you’re calling the police. Let him know cell phone and electronics are privileges earned for good behavior, not things he gets automatically regardless of how he behaves. Use the things he likes the most and tie them in as rewards/consequences.

      • keilamendez1977 Report

        I had done all this with my kids and it got worse they had even hit me.
        I had call the police they told me to call this program name perform care they send counselor to the house it been almost 1yr the kids still at home don’t go to school don’t follow rules do wherever they want.
        Counselor still tell me I have to avoid confrontation.
        So then I can’t tell my kids nothing to avoid confrontations.
        Can’t believe the system.

  18. Anna banana bobanna Report

    This is a disappointingly simplistic article. Does the author really think parents who are on this page really never thought to stop comparing and get some help? Wow I’m glad it’s that simple. :-/ 
    And of course the “you are not alone” is clearly a plug to sell coaching services. It is largely because of lack of comprehensive, thoughtful empathy in society that parents struggle so much.

  19. mpjbaby917 Report

    My two boys are just 10 months apart so when there is an issue with one there always an issue with the other. They fight constantly but cant live without the other one. How do u handle two teenage boys who think they are men both in words and strikes when they are double TEAMING you and they both over power u. How do u be a parent to unruley teenage boys?!?!

    • rwolfenden Report

      Adolescence can be
      a challenging time for many families, as most teens believe that they are
      adults and want all the freedom and independence which comes along with that,
      yet do not demonstrate the maturity or appropriate skills to handle a given
      situation.  I recognize that this is even more difficult for you having
      two sons, close in age, who are both acting inappropriately and
      aggressively.  The first thing I recommend doing is setting a clear limit
      that violence and aggression are not allowed in your home, whether it is
      directed toward each other or to you, as James Lehman explains in his article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/when-kids-get-violent-theres-no-excuse-for-abuse/.  Please be sure to
      check back, and let us know if you have any additional questions.  I wish
      you and your family all the best as you continue to move forward.

  20. MumOfTwo Report

    What if you or your spouse or stuck in a habit of being negative about your kids? One of mine is quite challenging at times, and we find ourselves spending a lot of time complaining about her, even when she has done something quite minor to annoy us. It’s hard to tell my partner to ‘stop being so negative!’ when I was probably the culprit last time.

    • rwolfenden Report

      It’s quite common
      for parents to fall into a negative thinking pattern, especially when your
      child’s behavior is often challenging or obnoxious.  As the saying goes,
      the first step toward solving a problem is recognizing that there is one, which
      it sounds like you and your partner have done.  It’s helpful to keep in
      mind that changes can take a while, particularly in long-standing patterns or
      behaviors.  It tends to be more effective to learn from times when you are
      triggered into becoming negative or complaining about your daughter, and
      figuring how to handle this type of situation differently in the future, rather
      than feeling ashamed or guilty for falling into negativity again.  For
      more advice about how to view your daughter in a more positive light, I
      encourage you to check out https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/positive-parenting-5-rules-to-help-you-deal-with-negative-child-behavior-more-positively/.  Take care.

  21. Denise Report

    Does REbecca have any experience with Parental Alienation? Pathological Parenting? Getting through to your 17 year old son who hasn’t spoken to you or seen you in a year for no reason after always having a loving relationship?  Who one day just stayed at dad’s, hated you and decided never to speak to you or see you again?

    • Anna banana bobanna Report

      @Denise this particular article is shallow and overly simplistic, not helpful to nitty-gritty reality unfortunately. For what it’s worth I had an 18 year old who pulled a similar stunt, got under the influence of some bad people and cut us out of his life for a while. While we are currently reconciled, it is apparent that he still has a great deal of growing up to do. He loves you, he’s just immature and confused. Kids these days, especially boys, are often still children in big bodies until they are about 30! This is temporary. Painful but temporary. Hang in there… sorry you are going through this!

    • rwolfenden Report

      I am so sorry to
      hear about what you are experiencing with your son.  Unfortunately, you
      are not alone in your situation, as seen from our reader response to articles
      such as https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/estranged-from-your-adult-child-5-things-you-can-do/.  As mentioned both in the
      blog above and this article, it can be valuable to make sure that you have some
      kind of support system, such as a nonjudgmental friend or family member, or
      more structured supports such as a support group (either in-person or online)
      or a therapist.  If you want more information about available support in
      your community, try contacting the 211 Helpline at 1-800-273-6222, or http://www.211.org  I recognize how difficult this
      must be for you, and I wish you all the best moving forward.  Take care.



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