Why is my child’s view of adults negative?

“The principal is so strict.”

“Grown-ups think they know everything.”

“My coach doesn’t put me in the game enough.”

“Adults always get in front of kids.”

Many kids complain about adults. They speak disparagingly of them, show them little respect, and shut them out. For some kids, this negative view is an inevitable result of being young and dependent. For others, it’s an adopted attitude, influenced by peers, TV, and movies. But for some, it’s a sign of troubling relationships with the adults around them.

At its simplest level, a negative view of adults comes from a child’s sense of powerlessness. Parents, teachers, grandparents, coaches, and counselors have high expectations and often make harsh-sounding demands: “Clean your room.” “Stop talking during class.” “Get over here.” “Don’t fight with your brother.” “Be on time.” Children, especially sensitive ones, are easily affected by an unkind tone or manner. They feel hurt, angry, or defensive, and react with skepticism and a broad generalization: “Adults are mean.”

Negative attitudes are reinforced by peers and the media. It may be “cool” to look down on adults. Since ten- to thirteen-year-olds are increasingly influenced by their friends, the attitude of one child may he copied by others. Many cartoons, sitcoms, and movies portray adults, especially parents, as bumbling, wrong-headed, or even evil. The more exposure kids have to TV, the more they hear about incompetent, uncaring adults.

Of course, there are some uncaring adults, and the negative attitudes of some kids are justified by the harsh treatment they’ve received. A child who feels threatened by the adults in his life will be angry and frustrated and he may act in a belligerent way. Any child who lives in an atmosphere of mistrust and inflexibility will have a hard time being open and cooperative. Misbehaving may be the only way he has to release his hostility and give back what he receives.

If your child shows a superficial dislike for adults, explain how you feel about his attitude and set limits on his behavior: “I don’t talk to you in a rude way, and I don’t want you to be rude to me.” “I want you to sound more respectful when you speak to your grandmother.” To lessen the impact of negative influences, limit TV time and talk to your child about his friends’ attitudes.

If he has a strong negative feeling toward adults, find out why. The cause may lie in the way he’s treated at home. Ask yourself, “Am I too controlling? Do I offer him choices or let him make decisions? Do I yell too much? Is my tone too angry? Do I compromise or listen enough? Am I a good role model?”

Let him express his feelings. This may be hard for you and for him if he hasn’t had much chance to speak out. Because of pent-up emotions, he may say very negative things about adults in general and you specifically: “You treat Jeffrey better than you treat me.” “You’re never home.” “You always make me do what I don’t want to do.” “You’re never happy with my report card.” “You get too mad.” “You never say I do a good job.” As difficult as it is to listen to such words, it’s important to take your child seriously. If necessary, use a timer so each of you can speak for five or ten uninterrupted minutes.

Once you know the causes of his negative attitude, both you and he will have to make changes. As a first step, give up unrealistic expectations for each other – there are no perfect children or parents. Show that you’re willing to compromise and cooperate. This may include treating him with more respect and changing some of the ways you act. Then set limits, letting him know how you expect him to behave. As he makes changes, offer frequent encouragement: “I’m enjoying our relationship much more now.” “Your attitude seems less negative.” “I appreciate the way you’ve been acting.” With patience and continuing effort, you and he can establish a more trusting and harmonious family life.

Picture Credit : Google