Teaching children to be positive
How to teach your child to be positive.
Research shows that optimistic parents raise optimistic children. When you are optimistic, you are modelling this world view for your children.
Thoughts are not automatic drives like eating and sleeping. Thoughts can be controlled. Feelings, on the other hand, are difficult to control. But once acknowledged, it is thoughts that help us to come to terms with and deal with our difficult feelings. If you tell yourself that you are not going to worry about something unless it actually happens, then you are using your thoughts to control your feelings.
The first step in developing an optimistic world view is to develop awareness of your feelings and control of your thoughts. You can choose to see the positive or negative connotations of situations. When you choose to focus on the positive, you are strengthening your “optimistic muscles”.
Often children generalise and dramatise difficult situations. You have to specifically help your children to see difficulties as temporary. Instead of “I can never do anything right” rather suggest “It’s frustrating when things go wrong. Today was not your day”.
When children make a negative assumption about themselves and then confirm it repeatedly, they are strengthening a “pessimistic muscle” or pathway in the brain. This does not mean we should pretend – there is definitely a grain of truth in certain situations.
When your daughter says, “I will never be good at maths," she is not pretending – she probably does struggle. But she can choose to see it as a challenge or give up. This is within the domain of her control. Help her to reframe the difficulties as a challenge rather than a permanent feature of her potential.
Before the age of around 9, children struggle to think about thinking. But if your child is old enough you can help her to see that she can choose her thoughts. Pass on to your children that just as there are healthy and unhealthy foods for our bodies, so too are there are healthy and unhealthy thoughts for our minds. We can choose which ones we want and making the healthy choice will empower our children for years to come.