Kids need to be optimistic
There can be confusion about the power of optimism. The confusion comes from a lack of understanding of what optimism really is – it’s essentially the belief that one can take any bad situation and make it better. Don’t confuse it with magical thinking or unrealistic optimism (like relying on winning the lottery to solve money problems). And contrast it with pessimism, or the tendency to focus on every negative nuance in a situation as a way of not taking action. Optimism simply means knowing you have choices on how to handle bad things and looking for the little things to improve on the bad. Optimists handle surgery better than pessimists simply because they will follow their post-surgery instructions to the letter in the spirit of promoting their most optimal recovery. That’s a powerful thing, and kids should learn the utility of realistic optimism. Having trouble learning to ride a bike? Find the smallest next step to master and work on that – not think that you have to nail it next time you hop on the seat. Having trouble making friends at a new school? Break it down into ways of approaching kids you don’t know and taking time to find little opportunities to develop familiarity. Optimism applies to any life situation – and parents who function as optimists provide a model for their kids that serve them well. And optimism is, eventually, part of the secret sauce that breeds independence because kids will know that they can handle setbacks and take hard knocks and not get beaten down to the point that they just want to give up and come home when things aren’t working out.
April 07, 2020