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Why I Believe in the Power of Positive Thinking in Divorce

Posted By Judy Williams || 5-Feb-2014

Power of Positive Thinking

I recently heard of a survey taken in 2012 quoting that 77% of marriages in Orange County end in divorce. To me that is a staggering statistic and also an American tragedy. It got me thinking about our practice here at CMD and why I even got into this facet of the law. It also forced me to think about what I have learned from my many years of practical experience that may be helpful to divorcing couples and possibly help others in difficult relationships with spouse or children.

Practicing the skills and techniques I use from my experiences can help couples in their marriages, in the divorce process and in life in general. My overall philosophy is to be positive in all things. Develop a positive mindset in your daily dealings with those around you. This mindset can change your life for the better—your self-esteem and your everyday relationships.

Over the next several weeks I will do my best to share practical information that can change your life when practiced. I’ll begin with the basics.

When my youngest daughter began high school, I decided to put my Masters in Elementary Education to work and bought the Memphis franchise of the then fledgling Sylvan Learning Centers. This company had a process designed to help children learn to read and do math using measurable testing and other specific techniques. If a child can’t read or do basic math effectively by the end of third grade, he or she will struggle with all of the subjects, like science and geography, which depend on the application of these basic skills.

Learning requires trying something new, and not being afraid to fail. Most of these kids had been told either verbally or non-verbally (the most insidious way) that they were not good learners. After a while they began to believe it, and began to wonder why they weren’t smart. They often quit trying or became problem children acting out in negative ways.

Their struggles generally transition from a loss of self-confidence to a negative feeling of self-worth. I can say from experience that this will nearly always affect the rest of their lives in a negative way. At Sylvan we got a lot of these children in the beginning. Parents brought in their children who were failing or acting out in school; the parents didn’t know what to do to help.

Sylvan had the answer for that. It was basically the power of positive teaching and motivation. We hired teachers that were highly qualified, but also had positive personalities. They smiled a lot and genuinely liked helping the kids. We taught them ways to praise each little step of learning a process with our sheet called101 Ways to Say, “You Did A Good Job”. Real learning was taking place.

The kids who were there because they were behind were starting to have fun and not being afraid to fail. The kids I describe above had lost the belief or desire to achieve, since they had been told in the past, either verbally or non-verbally that they were failures. So the process to change begins by noticing the little things they can do and achieve, and giving immediate, genuine compliments to them as small successes are observed. Positive reinforcement always works.

Armed with their own natural abilities, and encouraged by us to verbally compliment and reward the little things, our teaching staff used the rest of the positive learning system to get children turned around and even ahead in school. They were now learning at their own pace. Not just once in a while, but every time! The only exceptions were children with serious learning disabilities.

Sylvan had a reward system using plastic tokens that were given as a physical acknowledgement of doing things right. A child could accumulate 10 to 15 tokens during a lesson, with which he or she could purchase something small at the “Sylvan Store” for instant gratification. For some, it was the first time in their lives that they had actually worked toward a goal, achieved it, and were verbally and physically rewarded for it. Some would save up their tokens for weeks to buy something they really wanted. So it also reinforced good longer term thinking and the feelings of positive self-worth that come from working toward and achieving bigger goals.

The process worked. Kids made amazing progress. Their lives were literally changed. Parents got into it also. They were learning how to help the child grow in a positive way. Family relationships were solidified. The counseling sessions with these stressed-out parents were a great learning ground for me to understand what a couple needed to best help each child. Next week: how my husband Dick and Dale Carnegie shaped my belief in the power of positive thinking in divorce.

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