Thursday, May 5, 2016

If you are a parent, there is probably nothing that you want more than a happy and a healthy child. We all want our children to approach life with optimistic attitude. But is there something we can do to raise optimistic and resilient children?
How to raise happy and optimistic kids

Raising Optimistic Children

I first read Raising an Optimistic Child by Bob Murray when Smarty was about 3 and reread it again when she was about 8, because I remembered vaguely that there were some good points in this book and I wanted to revisit them. I remembered on the second read what I did not like about the book back then. It has a clear dislike of any childcare arrangements for young children other than stay-at-home parents, which kind of implies that children given to child care are doomed for life. Also, for half of the book I kept thinking, Gee, I am so glad I am not depressed, because it appears that no child can grow to be a well-adjusted member of society if he/she is growing with a depressed caregiver. 
However, the chapter that I found most interesting personally was about optimistic parenting skills. The authors introduced the five keys to an optimistic outlook, which are best learned early. They promote a sense of mastery and competence by taking on realistic challenges, succeeding and persevering. In order to instill this sense of mastery in children, the book introduces the following principles of HAPPY parenting:
  • Have a go
  • Accept both success and failure
  • Practice
  • Plan for best outcome
  • Yes! Making optimism and upbeat confidence a lifelong habit.

Have a Go

Our kids grow through new challenges, and therefore we should always encourage them to try new things. Do you happen to have conservative kids who resist learning something new? Daddy Geek has an excellent advice on how parents can encourage kids to get out of their comfort zone.

Accept Success and Failure

Failure has been in the news a lot lately - the importance of normalizing failure to promote growth mindset and importance of looking at mistakes as learning opportunities. There is no better time to learn to accept failure as in early childhood where failures are usually insignificant in the grand scheme of things. This is why I happily let Smarty experience failure with her science fair project this year.


Practice makes better! This is something that I keep repeating to my daughter. Luckily, she already understands the value of practice after seeing improvement in things that do not come naturally to her - her tennis swing, her trumpet sounds, her singing. How to get your child to practice article on PBS has a great advice to encourage your child to practice anything - replacing hard "practice for 30 minutes" guidelines with more rewarding and meaningful practice daily goals. 

Plan for the Best Outcome

Goal setting is an important principle about raising optimistic and confident kids. Even if not every goal can be reached, the process of setting goals and making progress towards them is empowering. We practice setting short term and long term goals at home, and it's very gratifying to see joy in my daughter's face when she reaches some of her goals.


Most of us start our lives with an optimistic mindset - curious and willing to test our boundaries. But soon we learn that important word, "No!" which sets boundaries to our exploits. I don't agree in parenting without "No". In fact, I consider myself a strict parent. However, I also believe in the power of saying, "Yes" to our children as often as possible to encourage their independence, curiosity, and creativity. Abundant Mama has a great post about amazing power for us and our children in this short word, "yes". 

Your Turn

Are your kids naturally optimistic? Smarty certainly is :) 
Principles of happy parenting - raising optimistic and resilient kids

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Have a Go « Teaching Young Children said...

[...] 27, 2009 The first principle outlined in HAPPY Parenting is called Have a Go. Basically, it means that we have to give our children the right mixture of [...]

Accepting Success and Failure « Teaching Young Children said...

[...] 29, 2009 After picnic kick-off I am returning to the Principles of Happy Parenting. The second principle for raising an optimistic child is teaching our children to accept both [...]

Practice and Perseverance « Teaching Young Children said...

[...] 31, 2009 The first P in HAPPY parenting principles stands for Practice and Perseverance. I was hoping that it invalidates my previous [...]

Kristiana said...

well i'm screwed then...or Soren is since i suffer from depresson. that sucks. LOL

teachingyoungchildren said...

I know - that's my main beef about this book - sometimes it sounds more like advertising for their other book about overcoming depression. Sheesh!

Kristiana said...

maybe I should buy their other book instead and just read about this one for free ha ha

The Wonder Years said...

I have spent some amount of time being a bit depressed after having 3 kids in 3.5 years. It was hard being a SAHM after working in my science career for 12 years and then unexpectedly getting pregnant with baby #3 two months after quitting my job. It was a rough adjustment for a long time. I think, for my highly sensitive middle daughter, she really picked up on my feelings. It was hard to be optimistic, especially since life changed so much for me and we (my husband and I) hadn't really planned on so much change in so little time.

As far as the early attachment issues go, it's something that made a whole lot of sense to us in raising our children (and it was completely opposite to what my mother did and suggested I do). When they were infants and toddlers, my kids had extreme separation anxiety and stranger anxiety from an early age. We didn't force them into their cribs with CIO methods (not that we didn't try) and we didn't force them into "getting over" their anxieties. We fed them when they were hungry, played with them when they were bored, comforted them when they were sad.

For us, things got gradually became less hands-on attachment parenting over time for 2 of our children. Because normally, it doesn't take long before the child is secure enough to start needing less parental support. For one of my daughters, that has not been the case. She actually needed more support the older she got.

What I discovered was that, for her, she had formed huge insecurities based on a developmental asynchrony in her brain - she was cognitively very advanced, but emotionally very immature. Attachment parenting is the one of the main things that has helped fix things and not made them worse. When I tried to force her to not need me so much, that's when I had worse problems with her.

Being slightly depressed and majorly overwhelmed with 3 kids made it difficult for me to attachment parent for a while. I think, for her, being as sensitive as she was, the period of time between 2.5 (when my third daughter was born) and 4.5 (when I finally got a diagnosis for her), actually changed the outlook for her for a while. The more I pushed her away, the more she needed me and the more anxieties she developed because of it.

I blame myself for a part of her selective mutism (severe social anxiety that caused her not to speak in certain settings, like preschool), but I also am proud to report that I found out early enough that I was on the wrong path with her and we've both changed so much in the past year with the right support and getting back to attachment parenting her. A lot of damage
has been repaired and for that I'm grateful.

At any rate, I just wanted to let you know my personal experience with attachment parenting. For most kids, you can get by with different parenting techniques, but for highly sensitive kids like mine, building self-esteem and confidence through attachment parenting and positive discipline techniques, really is the best way to go.

Getting to “Yes” « Teaching Young Children said...

[...] 6, 2009 I am finally finishing the Principles of Happy Parenting. Y stands for “Getting to Yes!”. Yes, I can swing by myself! Yes, I can wear big girl [...]

Attachment Parenting vs… What? « Teaching Young Children said...

[...] 14, 2009 A couple ago, I made some remarks regarding attachment parenting in my post on Raising an Optimistic Child book that an esteemed author of The Wonder Years replied in her comment. I thought that I will [...]

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

I love that photo of Smarty practicing trumpet!

Ticia said...

I still love that picture of Smarty playing her trumpet.