Parenting

Teach Children The Skills Of Optimism


Optimists do better academically, socially and enjoy better health than pessimists.

Helping your child look on the bright side is a significant life skill to develop. When children think that can succeed they are more likely to give things a try. In other word, if they think THEY CAN, THEY WILL.

Optimists look at the flip side of negative events for some good, some hope and some reason to be positive. It means having a strong self-belief and confidence to deal with situations.

Experts in the area of optimism agree that there are five building blocks of optimism:

1. Having a go and persisting
2. Practising skills
3. Coming to terms with success and failure
4. Planning for the future
5. Having the belief and confidence to try again

Importantly, these building blocks link optimism with competence so when children experience success they are more likely to believe that they can achieve and have more success.

Some children are natural optimists. They are born with optimistic temperaments and have natural dispositions to deal with challenges and problems. Others expect the worst and tend to see catastrophes where really small challenges exist.

Recent American research indicates that children learn their optimism from their experiences of success and through their interactions with parents, teachers and significant others in the first eight years of life.

So the way adults talk is significant in the way they shape a child's belief about success or failure. The message is clear that adults need to be aware how they present the world to children as our explanatory style (the way we explain events) is on show.

Optimists explain adverse events in the following ways:

1. Adverse events tend to be temporary: "It takes time to find a friend" rather than "No one likes me."
2. Situations or causes are specific: "I am not so good at soccer" rather than "I am hopeless at sport."
3. Blame is rationalised rather than personalised: "I was grounded because I hurt my sister" rather than "I was grounded because I am a bad kid."

Pessimists have a tendency to build mountains out of molehills and give up before trying. The trouble with pessimism is that it tends to be self-fulfilling prophecy. "I told you I wouldn't get a kick in the game. What was the point of me even turning up?" Such comments just reinforce pessimism and these feelings of hopelessness lead to helplessness.

To promote optimism in your children try the following four strategies:

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."

The beauty about developing optimism is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, which makes it such a powerful success strategy.

Michael Grose is Australia's leading parenting educator. He is the author of six books and gives over 100 presentations a year and appears regularly on television, radio and in print.

For further ideas to help you raise happy children and resilient teenagers visit http://www.parentingideas.com.au. . While you are there subscribe to Happy Kids newsletter and receive a free report Seven ways to beat sibling rivalry.


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