On Second Thought: from Iffy to Witty Thoughts | Notes for Parents & Therapists
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Notes for Parents & Therapists

If you’re the parent of a 3rd to 6th grader, you may find ordinary daily situations can lead to negative feelings, not only for your child but for you as well.

Picture this situation: Your child is at school in the lunchroom. Someone he or she knows walks past your child and doesn’t say hello. Your child thinks, “He always ignores me” or “She doesn’t like me”.

How does this thought make him feel? Let’s suppose these thoughts make your child feel angry. What will your child do with his or her angry feelings? Maybe the next time, he will ignore the person or perhaps when he comes home, he will slam the door and stay in his room all night. This is just one example of an ordinary daily situation that can occur.

Now, take a moment to reflect on a recent situation that occurred in your child’s life and how the thoughts it created affected your child and you as well.

After a moment, think about how you handled the situation. You may have:

  • Reassured your child by saying, “Don’t worry, everything will be ok”
  • Told your child to avoid the person next time
  • Used adult logic to speak to your child

 

Did any of these strategies work for you? If not, read on.

It is my intention to suggest another way to deal with this problem. The answer is for you and your child to understand, learn, practice and apply cognitive behavioral principles (CB) to everyday situations.

CB and Cognitive Distortions

Dr. David Burns, a researcher in CB principles pinpointed the notion of cognitive distortions which we call unhelpful thoughts. Dr. Burn’s list is insightful and sophisticated, yet it was intended for an adult audience. In order to deliver the essence of the cognitive distortions in a kid friendly way our goal was to find idioms that most closely matched each distortion. We call our list Busto & Busto’s Iffy Thoughts.

Below you will find Busto & Busto’s Iffy Thoughts in blue, followed by Dr. Burns’ original cognitive distortions.

  • Play Up/Play Down – Thinking that your problem is worse than it really is. Also, thinking that someone else’s success is greater than it is/Thinking that your achievements are no big deal. Also, thinking that other’s weaknesses aren’t so bad.
    Magnification or minimization – Distorting aspects of a memory or situation through magnifying or minimizing them such as they no longer correspond to objective reality.
  • Twist Someone’s Words – Denying yourself praise from others.
    Disqualifying the positive – Continually reemphasizing or “shooting down” positive experiences for arbitrary, ad hoc reasons.
  • Jump Off the Deep End – Thinking is based on negative feelings.
    Emotional Reasoning – Making decisions and arguments based on intuitions or personal feeling rather than an objective rationale and evidence.
  • Paint Everyone With the Same Brush – With little information, you use words like “all”, “always” and “never” to form your opinion.
    Overgeneralization – Taking isolated cases and using them to make wide generalizations.
  • Jumping to Conclusions – Drawing conclusions (usually negative) from little (if any) evidence.
    Two specific subtypes are also identified.
  • Read Someone Like a Book – Believing that someone is thinking negatively about you.
    Mind Reading – Assuming special knowledge of the intentions or thoughts of others.
  • The Handwriting is on the Wall – Thinking the outcome will be negative.
    Fortune Telling – Exaggerating how things will turn out before they happen.
  • One Track Mind – Constantly repeating a negative thought.
    Mental Filter – Focusing almost excessively on certain, usually negative or upsetting, aspects of an event while ignoring other positive aspects.
  • Do a 180 – Thinking with extreme words.
    All or Nothing Thinking – Thinking of things in absolute terms, like “always”, “every”, “never”, and “there is no alternative”.
  • On Someone’s Back – Using demanding words on yourself and/or others.
    Should Statements – Patterns of thought which imply the way things “should” or “ought to be” rather than the actual situation the person is faced with, or having rigid rules which the person believes will “always apply” no matter what the circumstances are.
  • Lumping Everyone Together –  Attaching a negative label to yourself and/or others based on an experience.
    Labeling/Mislabeling – Explaining behaviors or events, merely by naming them; related to overgeneralization. Rather than describing the specific behavior, a person assigns a label to someone that implies absolute and unalterable terms. Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally labeled.
  • Pass the Buck/Left Holding the Bag – Passing the blame onto someone else/Taking all of the blame.
    Personalization – Attribution of personal responsibility for events over which the person has no control. This pattern is also applied to others in the attribution of blame.

Further Skill Reinforcement

Use these colorfully illustrated iffy and witty game cards to have more fun and further support what you’ve learned in the program.

Witty Thoughts Game Cards

Game Cards - Witty Thoughts
Game Cards - Witty Thoughts
Game Cards - Witty Thoughts

Iffy Thoughts Game Cards

Game Cards - Iffy Thoughts
Game Cards - Iffy Thoughts
Game Cards - Iffy Thoughts
Game Cards - Iffy Thoughts

Challenging Iffy Thoughts

In order to challenge Iffy Thoughts, we’ve selected a list of idioms each one representing a more helpful Witty Thought.

Below is a list of Iffy Thoughts as previously indicated, followed by a Witty Thought that best challenges each one. Note: there is more than one Witty Thought that challenges an Iffy Thought.

  • Play Up/Play Down – Thinking that your problem is worse than it really is. Also, Thinking that someone else’s success is greater than it is/Thinking that your achievements are no big deal. Also, thinking that other’s weaknesses aren’t so bad.
    Come to One’s Senses – Use your senses (see, taste, smell, hear, touch) to think more clearly about a situation.
  • Twist Someone’s Words – Denying yourself praise from others.
    Earn Brownie Points – Give yourself credit for your efforts.
  • Jump Off the Deep End – Thinking is based on negative feelings.
    Collect One’s Thoughts – Ask yourself, “What am I thinking?”
  • Paint Everyone With the Same Brush – With little information, you use words like “all”, “always” and “never” to form your opinion.
    Go on a Fishing Expedition – More evidence leads to wittier thinking.
    Strike a Balance – Use less extreme words (i.e. sometimes, alright, a few, etc.)
  • Read Someone Like a Book – Believing that someone is thinking negatively about you.
    Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes – Ask yourself what someone else might think about the situation.
  • The Handwriting is on the Wall – Thinking the outcome will be negative.
    Tip the Scales – Your behavior influences the outcome.
    Go on a Fishing Expedition – More evidence leads to wittier thinking.
  • One Track Mind – Thinking over and over about a negative thought.
    Come to One’s Senses – Use your senses (see, taste, smell, hear, touch) to think more clearly about a situation.
    Tip the Scales – Your behavior influences the outcome.
    Go on a Fishing Expedition – More evidence leads to wittier thinking.
  • Do a 180 – Thinking with extreme words.
    Strike a Balance – Use less extreme words (i.e. sometimes, alright, a few, etc.)
  • On Someone’s Back – Using demanding words on yourself and/or others.
    Cut Someone Some Slack – Using less demanding words such as maybe and perhaps.
  • Lumping Everyone Together – What you do is who you are.
    Burning Questions – Ask/answer the questions: who, what, when and where to determine why.
    Come to One’s Senses – Use your senses (see, taste, smell, hear, touch) to think more clearly about a situation.
  • Pass the Buck/Left Holding the Bag – Passing the blame onto someone else./Taking all of the blame.
    It Takes Two to Tango – In any given situation, at least two people share the responsibility.
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