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Saturday
May312008

Instilling optimism

Pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don't think you can, you won't. If you think the world is out to get you, it will.  I want to instill optimism in my children. I want them to believe in themselves and think that the world is a great place to live. Not only will they be happier, but research has also shown that it will make them healthier, more successful and less stressed. Wouldn't we all like that?

When I Googled optimism and parenting to look for some solid research or guidance, I came across an interesting article called "Teach Children The Skills Of Optimism" by Michael Grose, an Australian parenting expert. He has four suggestions for promoting optimism in children:
1. Model positive thinking and optimism. Let your children hear your positive self-talk.

2. Challenge your children’s negative or unrealistic appraisals. For instance, “Everyone hates me. I have no friends” can be challenged with “Sometimes it feels like we have no friends but you spent all morning with Melanie yesterday.”

3. Teach your child to positively track. Children should look for the good things they do and say them to themselves or out loud. They can look for the good things that happen in life, no matter how small and say them to themselves or out loud.

4. Teach children to positively reframe. When something unpleasant happens or failure occurs they can actively look on the bright side. E.g. “I pranged my bike but at least I came out unhurt” or “That activity didn’t work but I know what to do next time.”

I also enjoyed this discussion of optimism on the Children, Youth and Women's Health Service (Australian government) Web site. It has a great comparison of optimists versus pessimists.

So far, my kids seem to be happy kids and appear quite optimistic. I think they are natural optimists, but I know that pessimism can be taught. I hope to use these strategies and also just generally create a positive environment and encouraging environment to reinforce their positive outlook and be conscious not to let their glasses get half empty.

A while ago, I bought my son a beautiful copy of The Little Engine that Could. Classic optimistic thinking that perhaps needs to make its way onto the bedtime story list more often.
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