5 Keys to Help Negative and Pessimistic Children

When it comes to negative and pessimistic children, it's key to inquire about the influencing factors and help them have a positive attitude.
5 Keys to Help Negative and Pessimistic Children
Mara Amor López

Written and verified by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Last update: 22 February, 2023

Not only do adults have negative thoughts, but children do as well. And this, moreover, hurts them. Even so, we can help negative and pessimistic children to have a more positive attitude toward life.

There comes a time when children who have negative thoughts perceive them as a reality. To understand this, we can give an example: There’s a little boy who plays soccer, but he’s not the one who scores the most goals, although he does score from time to time. However, he says that he never scores a goal. In the end, he believes that he never scores goals even though this isn’t the case.

In this situation, it’s not a thought that’s based on reality, but a negative and pessimistic one. But how can we help our child who has these recurring ideas? In this article, we’ll tell you what you can do in the case of negative and pessimistic children.

Learn how to help negative and pessimistic children

There can be many varied reasons why a child takes a pessimistic and negative attitude. Often, these ideas are found as a result of various experiences that lead them to generalize and take on that pessimistic thinking. For this reason, it’s important that parents investigate what may be causing this attitude in their children.

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to help, it’s important to go to a specialist for guidance on what we can do. Now, let’s look at some practical things we can put into practice to help negative and pessimistic children.

1. Detect what negative thoughts they have

If we want to fight those negative thoughts, the first thing we have to do is to identify them. To do so, we can use some of these signs to help us:

  • They get angry very quickly with themself.
  • They have difficulties tolerating failures, losses, or disappointments.
  • In the face of any obstacle they encounter, they give up.
  • They think that bad things always happen, but nothing good ever happens.
  • They exaggerate unpleasant events.
  • They generalize by stating that, because something happened to them once, it will always happen again.
  • Your child blames themself for things that have happened due to external factors.
  • They don’t participate in activities in which they believe they won’t do well.
A pouting toddler.
It’s key to be able to detect what the child’s negative thoughts are in order to act accordingly and try to change them for positive ones.

2. Make a distinction between negative thoughts and realistic thoughts

If it’s difficult for adults to differentiate between realistic and negative thoughts, imagine how hard it is for a child. However, to explain to little ones the difference between these two types, we can resort to play. To do this, we can take some of their favorite dolls and recreate a scene in which the protagonist has realistic thoughts and another in which they have negative thoughts.

For example, the happy bear and the grumpy bear have the same situation: They’ve both tried to gather a little bit of honey, but they’ve dropped it. However, they both see this circumstance in different ways:

  • The happy bear thinks: “It’s okay, I’ll try again, we all have our faults”.
  • The grumpy bear says something different: “I can’t get anything right, I won’t succeed, and I’ll never get my lunch”.

In this way, we show children what realistic and negative thinking looks like.

3. Use games

If we have positive thoughts and attitudes, our performance is always going to be better than if they’re negative. But how can we help children to be more positive? For example, we can use the following games.


For this game, we need to put 5 difficult situations on 5 pieces of paper and put them in a box. Each participant will take a piece of paper and read the unfortunate situation: “Unfortunately, the book I wanted was no longer in the store”. Then, the other person should respond with the fortunate perspective: “Fortunately, I can buy it online”. This is repeated with each of the situations.

In this way, when the child finds themself in a complicated situation, we’ll remind them of this game so that they get to see the positive side.

Give me 5 good things

When our child is in a difficult situation, they’ll have to find 5 good things about that moment. Adults can do this by putting themselves in those situations so that when our kids really go through one, they’ll always know how to find the positive side .

A child who's feeling negative about schoolwork.
Negative thoughts only make children feel bad, but you can resort to some games to show them that they can think differently and positively when faced with the same situations.

4. Reality check

Most of the time, negative thoughts aren’t adjusted to reality. To change this in our children, we can ask them these kinds of questions:

  • How much truth is in this thought?
  • Is thinking like this going to be of any use to me?
  • Instead of this negative thought, what else could I think about?
  • What am I going to get out of thinking this way?
  • What would my mother/father (or another reference figure) say if they were in this situation?

With these questions, children can come up with other ways of thinking that might actually help them and be more in line with reality.

5. Distancing ourselves from negative thoughts

It’s important for our child to distance themself from those negative thoughts and, to achieve this, we have to avoid telling them that they’re a pessimistic child. Instead, we should tell them that sometimes a part of their brain goes into negative mode. They can also give that alter ego a name, such as “Mr. Negative”, “Miss Disaster” or any other name they can think of that might even be funny. They can even call their negative thoughts “Bruno”, in reference to the Disney/Pixar film Luca. This way, they externalize that thought.

Thus, the child will see their thought as a heavy, annoying, or misinformed voice. In addition, we can elaborate different phrases to respond when the brain goes into heavy mode:

About negative and pessimistic children, we can say…

Negative and pessimistic children usually have a great ability to reflect. In addition, it’s important that we find the reason for this negativity and how to deal with it. All change takes time, but it’s not impossible to achieve if we work on it. We must be patient.

We must focus on the process and not on the results, work toward a positive attitude, and always keep in mind that this negativity isn’t a personality trait, but rather an attempt to adapt and protect ourselves. If even with all these keys, you don’t get your child to change these thoughts, it would be advisable to visit a psychologist for help.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Giménez Hernández, M. (2005). Optimismo y pesimismo: variables asociadas en el contexto escolar.
  • Shapiro, L. E., & Tiscornia, A. (1997). La inteligencia emocional de los niños. Buenos Aires: Javier Vergara.
  • Seligman, M. E. (2014). Niños optimistas. DEBOLS! LLO.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.