As parents, we want to raise optimistic kids who view the world with the glass half full. Not only does it make them more enjoyable to be around, but kids with a positive outlook generally perform better overall, particularly academically. This style of optimistic thinking doesn’t protect kids from getting angry (that’s normal), rather it focuses on helping your kids to see the good in even perceived negative situations, thinking about the future and how they can better themselves in the long run.
Simple Tips to Raise Optimistic Kids
Use positive language. The way we speak to our kids, and the kind of praise we use, really sets them up for the way they will perceive a situation. For example, after losing a baseball game say “you worked really hard in that game, I can’t wait to see you try again next week!”. This takes a negative occurrence and highlights the positive, giving hope for the future. Focusing on what goes right rather than what went wrong goes a long way.
Avoid common negative quips like “we are always running late” or “you never pay attention to me”. Instead, simply take a deep breath and keep it in.
Talk about the bad. It’s ok to talk about the bad stuff that happens, this gives us an opportunity to recognize it, and then also see that it isn’t all that happened. Often there is some ‘good’ to find, and discussing this helps us put it all into perspective. When my kids come home from school, I ask them to tell me one bad thing and one good thing that happened. Sometimes there is no bad, other days, they have something to say. We talk about it and process it, and then focus on the positive.
Reframe negative thoughts. When I was in college I heard Dr. Amen speak regarding negative thoughts. This has always stuck with me and is something I work hard at with my kids. It is so natural for us to engage in negative self-talk (most days as a mom I go through this myself). There are three steps to stopping this kind of self-talk, identifying it, processing it and then talking back!
If you hear your child say “I’m not good at that”, help him/her rephrase that negative talk. Discuss why your child feels that way, and talk about how you can think about it differently.
Give kids the opportunity to prove their worth. Let your kids feel like they are important contributors to the family dynamic. Believe it or not, kids actually enjoy doing chores. Allow them to help and set them up for success by giving them age appropriate responsibilities. You can monitor this with the use of checklists as reinforcement as well.
Take risks. Allowing your kids to take risks like climbing a low tree or going up the slide helps them see that things usually turn out ok in the end. (Granted, there are times that things happen, but more often than not, things really are alright). Kids who engage in ‘good risk‘ identify the risk, are aware of potential dangers, and think and evaluate their actions. Allowing our kids to work through this process encourages them to think and act independently and creatively, and they become really good at predicting these outcomes.
If you have a cautious child who is risk-averse, you can help them work through this with you. Together, you can determine that worries and fears or anxieties about not bring ‘good enough’ should not keep you from trying something new. After a while, they will be able to accomplish this through process on their own. Find your balance between hovering and giving space, trusting your kids that they can make good decisions on their own.
Give Your Kids a Positive Outlook
In paying attention to the kind of positive language that you use with your own kids, along with substantial praise beyond “good job” you raise optimistic kids. Have conversations about negative occurrences and focus on what that means for the future. Your kids will learn to think about what happens in their lives as potential for positives in the future, and will benefit greatly from this kind of positive outlook on life.