Nurturing Attitudes

When I was a teen, my mother pretty regularly told me to “stop with the attitude”, “change your attitude”, or “watch the attitude”. If you have teens, you probably know what she meant. A  teenager’s approach to their blossoming independence often comes with some changes in attitude.

But teenagers aren’t the only ones that have attitudes. Part of being human is the process of forming attitudes and people of all ages have them.

What are attitudes and where do they come from?

Attitudes are ideas that we hold about ourselves, others, objects, or experiences. We can have a favorable attitude about something, a negative attitude, or even an ambivalent attitude. All of our likes and dislikes are formed by the attitudes we hold about those things. 

For example, you might have heard people talk about “cat people” and “dog people.” I grew up with both a cat and a dog in our household. I remember enjoying them both equally and never preferred one over the other. I never had a bad experience with either cats or dogs. And yet, today I admit I am a dog person. Dogs are friendly, cuddly, and always delighted to spend time with you. While some cats are also friendly, cats are often aloof, standoffish, and uninterested in cuddling. 

I’ve had some unpleasant experiences with cats as an adult. So it is not surprising that I ended up with this attitude about cats. Despite a pleasant childhood surrounded by both a cat and a dog, my experiences with cats have resulted in an attitude about cats that isn’t very favorable.

Psychologists define attitude as an evaluation a person makes about an object, person, group, event, or issue. I have definitely made a judgement about cats. Since our attitudes can be favorable, neutral, or unfavorable, we can have attitudes about both things we like and things we dislike.

The ABC Model of Attitudes

There are three components of an attitude, often referred to as the ABC model. The first component, A, stands for ‘Affective.’ Before we form an attitude, we experience or observe something. 

We may have a physical reaction that results from the chemical changes that occur as our brain processes the experience. For example, suppose I see a spider scurry up the wall beside me. Without conscious thought, my body reacts by jumping away.

This is the second component of the ABC model of attitudes, Behavioral. The experience results in feelings or emotions inside us and in response we take an action or behave in some particular way. 

Our experience and resulting behavior help us form a belief and an attitude about it. The third component is Cognitive, our conscious thought process. We form a belief based on the experience or observation. That spider startled me and I don’t like to be surprised. So I form an attitude about spiders.  

The attitudes we have formed as a result of our experiences and observations affect how we respond to new experiences. As parents and educators, understanding the way attitudes are formed can help us nurture healthy attitudes in the children in our care.

Join us virtually on Wednesday, June 2nd, for an indepth look at Nurturing Attitudes in the children in our care. Dr. Aoife Magee will guide participants as we examine the three components of attitude and explore approaches that promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-bias in early childhood. We will explore practices to develop positive environments for growth and learning among children, families, and professionals. 

The workshop will be held online from 6:30pm – 8:30pm. To register: email poel@linnbenton.edu or call 541-917-4899.