Raising Children with Optimistic Mindsets
Why should you encourage your child to become an optimist? Well, would you rather have it be the other way around? Pessimism is a dangerous habit that can ultimately consume an individual's mind with the disastrous consequences that you'd expect a negative mindset to bring: depressive moods, withdrawal, underachievement and eventually poor physical health.
Children who develop an optimistic outlook on life are more equipped to analyze their failures, have a stronger sense of self-discipline and are more resilient in that they bounce back whenever they face the obstacles that life may throw their way.
Parents significantly influence their children's thinking styles. Hence, there are essential rules that parents must adhere to, should they want to encourage healthy mental habits in their children.
How Parents Can Assist
Step 1: Be a "model citizen" and practise what you preach. Believe it or not, your children observe you just as much as you do them. How you lead your life and interact with other individuals influences them to follow suit. After all, you are an authoritative figure in their lives.
Look at incorporating positive thinking in your everyday challenges. This does not happen overnight, but all it takes is making small changes gradually. With practice, you'll begin to notice a shift in your thinking which will be of benefit to you as well as your children.
Step 2: Make your child aware that their thoughts can affect how they feel. You can do this by saying aloud how your thoughts about afflictions stir up negative feelings.
For example, if you are driving your child to soccer practice and a bus cuts ahead of you, verbalize the connection between your thoughts and how you're feeling in that moment. Say something like "I wonder why I feel so irritated; I guess I was saying to myself: 'Now we're going to be late because the bus in front of me is moving so slowly. He shouldn't drive so recklessly during rush hour. How irresponsible.'"
Step 3: Teach your child to 'catch' their thoughts in the spur of the moment. This helps them learn to identify intrusive thoughts that cross their minds during stressful situations. They'll learn problem solving skills that teach them to think about their thinking.
For instance, if your child got a bad grade, ask: "What did you say to yourself once you saw how you performed?"
Step 4: Teach your child how to assess automatic thoughts. This means acknowledging that the things you say to yourself are not necessarily accurate.
For instance, once he received his test back, your child may feel like a failure, as if he's not as intelligent as other kids. Many of these critiques may not be accurate, but they are 'automatic' in that circumstance.
Step 5: Instruct your child on how to come up with more rational self-explanations when things go wrong and use them to challenge their automatic thought process. Part of this involves looking for proof to the contrary (e.g. previous academic achievements, success in other life areas, etc.).
Another tip to encourage optimistic thinking is to lessen the severity of the situation – that is – help your child see that the unfortunate event may not be as bad as they imagined. Few things in life are as disastrous as we fear, yet we tend to over-exaggerate.