How to help student break negative thought patterns

The first thought your students have when they meet a challenge is an important one. Without a doubt, that thought determines what actions they will or will not take. Students with a growth mindset will assess the situation, utilize feedback and determine next steps. Conversely, students who haven’t yet developed a growth mindset may yield to negative thought patterns. These patterns are formed based on the past experiences of the student.

These negative thought patterns can be difficult to break if they are left unaddressed. I recently came across an article that discussed these thought patterns and how they work. Here are just a few:

Jumping to Conclusions

This pattern involves making negative assumptions about how things will turn out if the student were to give effort or make adjustments on the next attempt. I have found in my experience is that this is a way that students can protect themselves from the disappointment of missing the mark.


Similar to jumping to conclusion as well as a strong belief that the worst possible outcome is likely. When students resort to overgeneralization, it is difficult for them to shift to problem-solving mode.


Often, students would tell me “I’ve never been good at history.” This thought pattern gives the student what they believe is a reasonable excuse as to why they either will miss the mark if they try or to not try at all.

As a leader, the thoughts of your students are important. Helping students overcome these thought patterns can be challenging, but it’s a challenge worth accepting. Here is one solution I have used to help students defeat those negative thought and help break the pattern: Have the student make those negative thoughts material objects by writing them down on a piece of paper and throw them away. This strategy gives the students the opportunity to exercise power over negative thought patterns. What strategies do you have to help students defeat negative thought patterns? Please share in the comments below.


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