What is Optimism? A Quick Guide for Parents.
Optimism describes a habit of thinking. A child who thinks that bad events are caused by temporary things (such as their mood) and that good events are caused by permanent things (such as being someone who always works hard) has an optimistic way of thinking.
In his brilliant book, The Optimistic Child, Dr Martin Seligman gives several examples of this way of thinking. Two examples given are: the pessimistic thought of “I only won the spelling bee because this time I practiced” versus the optimistic thought of “I won because I am a hard worker and I study”; and another - the pessimistic thought of “I was voted captain because other kids wanted to do something nice for me” versus the optimistic thought “I was voted captain because the other kids like me.”
Why Should Parents Teach Children Optimism?
As children go through their teenage years, they are at increasing risk of depression. Unsurprisingly, when children become depressed, their schoolwork and their relationships suffer. Research in schools has indicated that by teaching children how to dispute and change pessimistic ways of thinking, it is less likely that they will suffer from depression.
Other research into optimism indicates that people with an optimistic thinking style are generally more persistent; they try harder and try again in the face of failure. Optimistic children tend to achieve more at school, and do better at work and even in sport. Health has also been shown to be generally worse in people with a pessimistic approach to life.
Parents play an important role in modeling optimism. Childrens’ thinking styles are influenced by the way parents explain the causes of events to them. Remember that parents are also battling the influence of messages from the media, teaches, coaches and peers. As Martin Seligman so succinctly puts it: (When you are pleased or unhappy) “Your explanatory style is on display and your child is listening intently”.
How Can Parents Teach Optimism?
Parents can teach their children the skill of optimism by firstly raising their own awareness of their explanatory style. A good place to start is to read books by Martin Seligman such as Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness. By teaching children to think about events in an optimistic way and also teaching them social skills and problem-solving skills, parents can make an important difference to their child’s emotional health and relationship.
What Do You Think?
What do you think about the importance of this skill? You can contribute and discuss your ideas by making a comment below.
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