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Interrogate the child’s tricky thoughts

By Amalie Lillienthal Bønding -

Our thoughts play an important part in why we experience different emotional problems. This is often caused by the fact that thoughts over time has shaped themselves so they manipulate our mind into thinking that certain things will happen. These thoughts often make the child underestimate their ow ability to solve certain things. We call them tricky thoughts.

Irrational thought patterns

Does your child feel anxious, shy or uncertain then it’s very likely that your child’s mind keeps repeating: “Oh no, as long as [insert a specific scenario] don’t happen”. The child uses this way of thinking to avoid ending in unpleasant scenarios, but if these thought patterns become habitual then they can also prevent the child from experiencing pleasant scenarios. The reason for this is that these tricky thoughts can make the child avoid every situation where they fear that something bad might happen, even though there only are the slightest possibility of this. In other words: these tricky thoughts can make the child isolate themselves by avoiding certain places or situations.

Is your child stuck with certain convictions that you sense are unhealthy for the child? Maybe your child was bullied and over time has a great deal of anger bottled up inside. If this is the case then your child might think that they can never trust another child because they might bully them as well. Your child could also think that they can’t withstand the bullying and that they might even deserve being bullied. Tricky thoughts can take many shapes and they are concerned with stuff happening inside and outside the child.

From tricky thoughts to problematic thinking

There are many thoughts which can have a harmful influence on your child’s emotions and that over time can fester and become emotional problems which needs to be dealt with.

The more we think a certain thought the more vi start to believe in it, this can be both a good or a bad thing because our negative thoughts can magnify the more we think of them which means we risk that they become problematic. The good news is that we can this mechanism as a way of learning how to think I a new and more positive way. The more we think of something else than the old and negative thoughts, the more the new way of thinking will take control and push those tricky thoughts out of the way.

Investigate just like a detective

It can be quite a challenge to change your way of thinking when all your thoughts are the same.

In which case it can be very helpful looking at your way of thinking from another angle. One thing your child can do is to interrogate their harmful and negative thoughts with questioning. We call these questions detective-questions.

A detective is a person who solves cases or investigate crimes. The detective’s job is discovering the truth which is why the detective looks for clues that can prove that the crime has taken place.

When your child has emotional problems, it is a good idea to play a detective investigating the thoughts. The child should look for clues whether the thoughts are true or false, just like a detective would do. The child does this by questioning their thoughts. If you are lucky you the child will invite you into their mind and then you might be able to take part in the investigation and help the child by also playing a role as a detective.

When the child investigates their thoughts and starts questioning them they usually see them for what they are: faulty and inaccurate. This help the child to ignore these thoughts whenever they appear, and not waste energy on them anymore.

What is detective-questions?

There are no specific requirements to how you form these detective questions and what you ask. The only requirement is that these questions helps the child investigate whether the thought is accurate or not – is the thought real. We have made a list of different detective-questions you and your child can use.

Examples of how detective-questions can look:
  • Is there any evidence that proves the thought are telling the truth?
  • Is there any evidence that proves the thought isn’t telling the truth?
  • How convinced are you that the thought is accurate?
  • Is there anything about the situation that could point in a different direction?
  • Has it happened before that the thought was proven right? Does it happen every time?
  • Has something completely different ever happened than what the thought predicted would happen?
  • What is the worst thing that could happen if the thought is accurate? And what more could happen?
  • What is the best thing that might happen if the thought is accurate?
  • Could something entirely different happen than what I imagine?
  • What would my friend think?
    What are the odds of my thought actually being accurate?
  • Has what I imagine happened to anyone else?
  • Can I interpret this thought in other ways?
  • What would I be thinking if I didn’t feel the way I am feeling at the moment?
  • Is my way of thinking caused by previous experiences?
  • If I had completely different experiences behind me, would my thoughts then be different?
  • Can I change my way of thinking in this situation?
  • How will I react to this thought in three months?

The list is a comprehensive source. We suggest you make your own detective-questions that investigates exactly what your child is thinking.

It might take some time learning how to think just as a detective and in the beginning your child might need your help. Make investigating a fun activity you do during breakfast or supper until the child has mastered the skills and can use them on their own.

A good starting point is focusing on a specific situation that was affected by the child’s tricky thoughts during the day. Was the child anxious about doing a presentation in class? Or did he or she think that they are no good at math? Then have a conversation with your child about which detective-questions you could use in to investigate these specific tricky thoughts.

Ready, set, go!