How You Can Use Rational-Emotive Therapy To Help Children

Let’s say one of the girls in your class, Daphne, confides in you that she’s a failure, and will never make it to the next grade. You ask her why she’s a failure. “I failed my arithmetic test again,” she whimpers, “I never pass anything.” Ask her to go on and tell you all the reasons she can think of, which make her a failure. Write down each one. When Daphne can’t think of any more reasons, go through each one with her, and discuss whether it’s true or not true. Dig up some of her old tests, and ask her to count how many she failed and how many she passed. Look through all her schoolwork and point out assignments which Daphne did well on or was particularly proud of.

Ask Daphne to change all her irrational beliefs to true ones, by looking only at what she does, not at how she feels about what she does. This will help Daphne recognize her strong points, which she normally overshadows by her weaker traits.

Leon is another child who can benefit from rational-emotive therapy. Chances are you’ve met Leon before, he’s the “I-gotta-be-Number-One” kid, who constantly worries about his schoolwork, and gets upset if he doesn’t get the top mark in the class. Here is what you can say to Leon:

o “Tell me the absolute worst thing that can happen to you if you don’t get the best mark in the class? Will you get a lower grade on your report card? Will you not get into university? Will your mom and dad hate you?”

o “Why do you always have to get the top mark in the class? Aren’t there other accomplishments which are just as important, like having friends, or playing a good game of basketball? Do you want people, when they see you, to say, `There goes Leon, he’s the smartest kid in his class,’ or `There goes Leon, he’s a swell guy’?”

o “Isn’t trying your best what counts–no matter if you get straight A’s or straight C’s? Nobody has to feel bad about getting C’s, so long as they try.”

o “Say you do a science project which you think is fantastic; it’s the best work you’ve done all year. You expect an “A,” but only get a “B+.” Next class you get back your social studies assignment which you didn’t try nearly as hard on, but still get an “A.” Which project are you the most proud of? It’s what you think that’s important. People aren’t always going to agree with you, but you shouldn’t let what they think influence what you think.”