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Stop Your Child From Jumping To Conclusions With This Skill

Updated: Mar 24

Cognitive distortions are flawed ways of thinking that lead us to believe inaccurate, harmful, or untrue things. As emotional beings, we are all susceptible to relying on cognitive distortions when overwhelmed because our emotional brain can hinder access to our logical brain. However, developmental implications significantly exaggerate this effect for kids due to cognitive limitations.

Jumping to conclusions

Common cognitive distortions include:

1. Rationalization: Justifying behavior to make it seem more acceptable.

2. Minimization: Making something seem less important than it actually is.

3. Magnification: Exaggerating the importance of something.

4. Black and white thinking: Refusing to acknowledge alternative perspectives.

5. Jumping to conclusions: Making conclusions without sufficient facts or evidence.

I feel blessed to address the impact of thinking patterns with hundreds of kids from K-12 every year, particularly in overcoming intrusive, negative thoughts. One thing I've consistently found is that if the skill isn't concrete, it can be challenging for the child to recall and execute when they're emotionally heightened. To address this, I've developed a concrete method for teaching kids how to prevent themselves from jumping to conclusions, called "Look for 3", which works as follows:

1. Make one of your hands into a "telescope" and hold it up to your eye as if you're looking through it. This represents our emotional brain, where we tend to zoom in on one possibility or explanation, ignoring other perspectives that could be more accurate or helpful.

Look for 3

2. Remove your hand from your eye, make an "OK" symbol, and think of three possible ways (one for each finger) of looking at the situation. This forces you to consider at least two different perspectives beyond the initial thought that comes to mind, slowing down your emotional brain and enabling effective problem-solving.

Key considerations:

- It's okay to include the first intrusive thought as one of the possibilities; it's not helpful or realistic to teach kids to deny their thoughts.

- It's okay if they still choose an irrational explanation after doing the exercise; the goal is to slow down and practice considering alternative views. Over time, they will learn that the power of cognitive dissonance will not allow them to keep choosing irrational thoughts unsupported by evidence.

- Expect to prompt them to use this skill before they use it independently.

Zack Kasabo is a certified school counselor who has been working with extremely challenging behaviors for over eight years outside of Philadelphia, PA.  He is the owner of Kasabo Behavior Management which is a coaching service that specializes in helping parents confidently manage their child’s challenging behavior in 8 weeks or less.

You can schedule your free consult today to learn more by going to: 

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