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Home » Books, Toddler

How to have Optimistic Kids

Submitted by on Sunday, 8 March 20092 Comments

In his book, Learned Optimism:  How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, author Dr. Martin Seligman describes three important benefits that optimistic kids can enjoy:  better health, greater academic and extracurricular performance, and the motivation to keep on trying when times get tough.  Optimists have stronger immune systems, and live longer and happier lives.

laughingoncouchAlthough genetics plays a partial role in determining whether our kids will see the glass as half full or half empty, there is evidence that we parents can help our kids grow up to be optimists.  We just have to help them to look on the bright side of life as we raise them.

Personally, I always try to be optimistic and focus on the positive with my kids.  Now that Smarty Pants is almost 3 yrs old, I can see that it is starting to rub off on him.  For example, if he hurts himself, he usually says, “Its gonna be better soon.”  And he often positively exclaims, “I’m a big boy” and “I’m getting bigger and bigger everyday.”

Hungry for more?  Here are some ideas on how we can get our kids (and ourselves) thinking optimistically:

  1. Let your own optimism shine: Let’s say you are going on a playdate with Junior.  Before you go, talk about it optimistically.  For example, you can say, “It is going to be fun.”  Or,  if you are going grocery shopping with him, you can say, “We’re going to buy lots of good stuff to eat!”
  2. Be the Little Engine that Could: Come up with an encouraging sentence, (like the Little Engine’s “I think I can, I think I can” or Obama’s “Yes we can!”) and use it repeatedly with your child during tough times (like when you are walking up a hill, or on the final stretch of a long walk, or standing waiting in line at Disney World).
  3. Be adventurous, and try new things: Try new foods or new places.  If your new experiences were great, all the better – focus on that.  If the new thing didn’t turn out to be as good as you were hoping, still try and find something positive about the experience, and if you can’t do that, at least focus on what you learned from it all.
  4. Be optimistic with your explanations for shortcomings: Realistically, your kids are learning and can’t yet do everything that they would like to.  But you can still help them to be positive.  If your child says, “I can’t write because I’m dumb,” turn it around to be, “I can’t write yet, but I will be able to soon if I practise some more!”
  5. Take note of improvements: If you notice improvements in your child, whether it be improvements in behaviour, improvements at school, or even with helping out around the house, let her know about it.  Tell her how much you notice she has improved.
  6. Build their skills: Teach your children that they can do anything they want to if they put their minds to it.  Find out what skills your child is interested in building (e.g. dancing, playing an instrument, playing a sport, reading, writing, etc.) and help him to practice and build that skill.
  7. Help them to focus on he positive events of the day: I’ve read about an idea called the “three good things” game.  It is simple.  Before going to bed, reflect with your child on three good things that happened during the day and how you felt about them.  You can even anticipate three good things that will happen tomorrow.  Now that’s what I call an optimistic game!

With a little positive thinking and encouragement in her early years, maybe your child too will grow up to lead group of proud supporters shouting, “Yes we can!”

Here are a few children’s books with an optimistic outlook, worth reading with your child.  Check ‘em out:

1.  When Pigs Fly (Valerie Coulman) – A book about Ralph, a determined cow who wants a bicycle, who triumphs over naysayers.

2.  The Little Engine that Could (Watty Piper) – The classic about the train that climbed a mountain that others wouldn’t attempt, to deliver toys to good children.

3.  Little Liam Eagle (Nancy McGrath) – A young eagle bravely soars past his fears with his parents’ encouragement.

4.  Stitches (Kevin Morrison) – Stitches, a baseball, dreams of the big leagues – but a stitching defect sends him down another path to his dreams.

Hope you enjoy!  And if you have any further ideas on optimistic kids, please share them here by leaving a comment!

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2 Comments »

  • Scott says:

    Thanks for that!
    One of the things I love about children is their constant ebullience- the way they are by nature optimists (generally!). It isn’t hard to get a child enthusiastic about life- they tend to get carried away by seemingly insignificant things, but you are right- reading good books will help them get a better idea of the world beyond the house they live in.
    Great post!

    Scott’s last blog post..Scorch marks on the ceiling

  • Head Jammer says:

    Thanks Scott, I appreciate your comment, and you are absolutely right, we have to foster that natural optimism and keep encouraging it, and even let it rub off on us!

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