Dear Dr. Robyn,
One of our children is a “glass half full” kind of a person– always looking on th sunny side of every situation. But our other child, unfortunately, always seems to have a rain cloud over his head– he’s just so negative! How can I help him to see things more positively?
—Gideon & Ruth G, London UK
Dear Gideon & Ruth,
As we know from years of research, optimism has enormous benefits for attitude and health. Fortunately, optimism can be taught and instilled in children.
Here are some tips you can start using right away:
Help them remember that failure is temporary:
When a project or activity goes wrong, help your children stay clear of absolutes like “I never get things right” or “This always happens.” Validate their feelings and help them to decipher what went wrong but also remind them that they’ve had many successes in their lives and they will have many more.
Nix the labels:
Stay clear of labeling your children “our negative child” or things of that nature. Labels can leave a child boxed in and can interfere with their self concept. Especially when labels carry a negative connotation, they can inadvertently encourage the behavior you are trying to extinguish. Children tend to live up to the expectations we set- so be careful not to create a selffulfilling prophesy!
Highlight the “silver lining”:
Many frustrating situations canbe seen in a positive light if you look for it. For example, when a child is upset that he won’t know anyone at a new school, this could be an opportunity to make new friends. A rainy day may mean that your children can’t go outside to play but it can be a chance to bake with Dad or watch a movie that everybody has been waiting to see. Train your child to try and find the sunny side of a problem.
Refrain from over-praising:
Everything our children do is not “fantastic!” When we over-praise, we rob our children of genuine, well-deserved praise that comes when effort and results align. Real praise has real meaning. Undeserved praise feels empty– and can make children untrusting of all praise, when given.
Give credit when credit is due:
When your child has done something well, sincerely recognize and praise what helped them to get there. Was it their commitment? Character? Persistence? Let them know you noticed and are impressed!
Keep using these tips– it takes time to create a habit of optimism!
Here’s to your success!