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
- Plan for best outcome
- Yes! Making optimism and upbeat confidence a lifelong habit.
Have a Go
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".
Are your kids naturally optimistic? Smarty certainly is :)
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