Absolute Thinkers: Parts versus Whole

“I never get a turn.”mcol-pie-chart

“My mom always gets me here late.”

“No one ever wants to play the game I want to play.”

“I lose every time.”

Does your child revert to absolutes when something is frustrating or doesn’t go his or her way?  Does he or she not see that while the current situation might be frustrating or not to his or her liking, that he or she is caught up in a bad moment rather than an entire day?

My 11-year old friend, Noah, was demonstrating some of this type of absolute thinking at a social group recently.  Things were going along well and the boys had been engaging in having fun playing the Wii.  We had been playing a favorite board game of Noah’s for the past couple of weeks and after we had finished with the video game he wanted to play that particular game.  Unfortunately, the other boys in the group had temporarily tired of that game and wanted to play something else.  Noah became upset and stomped out of the room, saying, “No one ever wants to play what I want to play.”

In social coaching Noah, I first empathized that I understood his frustration in  that no one was interested in playing that game on this particular day and how disappointing that was for him.  I expressed my concern that he would leave the group, get in the car and tell his mom or dad how awful it had been. I labeled what was happening as “whole time thinking” instead of “thinking in parts.”  I reviewed with him what I had observed during the course of the group and the specific moments I saw him enjoying himself with the Wii and the other boys.  I pointed out nice conversations he had engaged in and times when I saw him laughing and joking.  We talked about having a “bad moment” rather than a completely bad time.  With a little patience and explanation, Noah was able to work his way through the absolute perspective to a more flexible and realistic description of the day’s experience.