NORMAN — Q: Our 7-year-old son is very negative about everything. He’s a middle child, so that may have something to do with it, but everyone else in the family is very happy, positive, optimistic and so on.
He never has anything positive to say about anything. Things the rest of us enjoy he says are “stupid” or “dumb.” We raise all of our kids the same, so we don’t understand where the negativity is coming from or what to do about it. It’s beginning to drive us a tad batty. We are starting to not want him around us, which is causing us guilt. By the way, he’s often this way around his friends and other people. We’ve tried talking, but that’s gotten us nowhere. We hesitate to punish for fear that he can’t help it. Any ideas?
A: So, if I understand you correctly, you are beginning to have a negative reaction to your son’s negativity. That’s perfectly understandable. As for not wanting your son around you, that’s perfectly understandable as well.
You are obligated to love him unconditionally. You are not obligated to like everything about him. In this case, the behavior in question is clearly anti-social. As he grows, if this isn’t checked soon, it’s going to become a significant social handicap.
As for why he’s this way, some professional might tender a guess, but it would only be a guess. The most likely explanation is “just because.” Maybe because he discovered, quite accidentally, and early on in his life, that being negative in a family of positive people caused him to stand out, to get lots of attention. That’s a guess, mind you, but it’s one informed by lots of parenting experience, both personal and professional.