Raising An Optimist

When life gets tough, we all want our children to pull themselves together and keep going. You want them to believe that things can get better. Encouraging optimism comes with numerous benefits including better mental and physical well-being, a greater sense of purpose and satisfaction in life, as well as a better ability to cope with the stresses of life.

Plus, let’s be honest, raising optimistic children improves their chances of having a healthy social life. After all, no one likes a Negative Nancy.

But how do you go about raising an optimist?

Put these seven tips into practice and watch the positive benefits extend to the rest of your household.

Wait before reacting

When your child is trying to sound out a new word or taking a long time to fit a piece into a puzzle, it’s easy to quickly intervene. But letting your child try to solve things without your help will boost their sense of accomplishment and also make them more optimistic about what they can do in the future.

Foster an attitude of gratitude

You can help your children become more optimistic by making gratitude a habit in your home. To start, encourage everyone daily to share one good thing that happened or that they were grateful for. This shows them to naturally look for the silver lining in every experience.

Confront negative self-talk

The problem with negative self-talk is that when you hear it, you believe it, and then you act as if it were true. You can teach your child the three-step NED process. N = Notice: notice the negative self-talk. E = Externalise: Treat it as if it were said by an external person whose mission in life is to make you miserable. D = Dispute: Dispute it in the same way you would an external person.

Model Optimism

Your view of the world and your prospects within it communicates itself to your child daily. Do you say things like “We’ll never find a parking space! I knew this would happen!”? Maybe next time, try saying “I know we’ll find a parking space soon!”.

Quit complaining

The more you complain about money problems or a tough day at work, the more likely it is that your children will learn to do the same thing. Instead, try mentioning things that go right; “I finished a big project at work today,” or “I had the nicest encounter at the shop today”.

Embrace the struggle

A single setback such as when your child pains over a worksheet and exclaim in irritation, “I’m bad at math!”, may just be enough for them to concoct a permanent sense of their shortcomings: “I’m not smart.” “I stink at tennis.” “I can’t draw.” To prevent those types of conclusions, try to change your child’s perspective. Help them to reframe their thoughts more positively. “New sports are hard to learn at first,” or “I know you can’t tell time yet, but you will,” or “I had a tough time when I started learning subtraction too”.

Cultivate optimistic thinking

“I am a victim here” VS “There are actions I could or can take to change the situation”.

“Everything always goes wrong” VS “There are specific reasons something happened”.

“Bad things just happen to me” VS “Sometimes I can affect the factors which can make the outcome better, but sometimes I can’t affect those reasons, but that means they are not my fault”.

Maybe most important, help your child to see that they aren’t powerless in any negative situation. The most important question to ask when confronted with misfortune or negativity is: “Is it possible that there are some ways you could change the outcome with some personal effort on your part?”

Lizaan Spangenberg
Biolink Attention Training Head Office