Raising an Optimistic Child
The Wiz was going to blog about this, as she recommended the book to me, but it seems that she got sidetracked (read: BlOGGERSLACKER!). She was reading the book _The Optimistic Child_, by Martin E. P. Seligman, and she and I were discussing it. Basically, this book claims to have the answers to safeguard children against depression and build lifelong resilience and optimism. Sounds pretty good to me. And I'm totally up for shelling out a coupla bucks if it will make me a perfect parent, no matter how ludicrous the claim. So, I bought it after my discussion with The Wiz. And I'm about 1/3 of the way into it (read: PROCRASTINATING FROM UNPACKING). I would highly recommend it to any parent or parent to be, and I want to share some of the more interesting parts I've read so far. There is more to it than this, but basically he says that everybody has a certain explanatory pattern about why and how things happen to them, and how pervavise the events are in their lives. A pessimist will tell you that every good thing that happened to them was because of something or somebody else, not because of something he did, but that every bad thing happened as a direct result of his actions, and that those bad things will always happen, i.e., a permanent condition. Pessimistic attitude: I got that promotion because the other guy they wanted left, but it won't take them long to see I'm not really good enough for the job. There was that one time when I made a mistake--I always screw things up! In comparison, an optimist thinks that bad things happen because things were stacked against them, and that good things happen because he worked hard and is talented, and that bad things are only setbacks, temporary obstacles that can ultimately be conquered. Optimistic attitude: Wow, I finally got that promotion after all my hard work! I didn't get it before because nobody was noticing me, but the boss finally figured out I am an asset. Of course, there was that one time I made a mistake, but I figured out the problem and got it resolved. It wasn't easy, but I did it. How does this translate into good parenting? Well, most kids will learn their explanatory behaviors from their parents. That's right--our kids will learn optimism or pessimism from us. And they learn not only from what we say about ourselves in front of them, (i.e, I'm always such a mess! I never do anything right!) but also what we tell them about themselves. Kind of a scary thought, isn't it? There is also some interesting stuff about familiar self-esteem talk we do with kids, and how often it isn't effective. Kids apparantly don't like to be told they did a good job when they know darn well they totally sucked. It makes them feel humiliated, not understood, and undermines their confidence and trust in the adult's perception and praise. Hmmm...another interesting thought. Any educators or parents have any experience with that? There is an interesting chart in the book about how to criticize preschoolers. I'd like to share that with you now: (and remember, the pessimistic way is the wrong way!) Permanent/Pessimistic: "What's wrong with you? You are always such a monster!" "I asked you to pick up your toys. Why don't you ever do what I ask?" Changeable, Temporary/Optimistic "You are really misbehaving today, I don't like it at all" "I asked you to pick up your toys. Why didn't you do what I asked today?" Global/Pessimistic "You've got your mother's knack when it comes to sports. I'm horrible too." "She never likes to play with other kids. She's so shy." Specific/Optimistic "You've got to learn to keep your eye on the ball." "Sometimes she has a hard time joining a group of kids." Internal and General/Passive and Pessimistic "You're not athletic." "Another C? I guess you're not an A student." Internal and Behavioral/ Active and Optimistic "You have to work harder on watching the ball meet the bat" "Another C? You need to spend more time on your studies." Sometimes the differences are subtle, but they are there. This list, and others like it, have made me really stop and think what I am doing or not doing to my child when I talk to him. Also, this kind of paradigm shift actually seems to be quite easy to do, once you get the hang of it, so I actually don't feel overwhelmed when thinking about how I can apply this to my parenting. I realize I make permanent statements about myself in front of J all the time. The other day, I forgot some tickets I needed, and I said, out loud, "I'm always such an idiot! I always forget important stuff." Such a little thing, and yet it says that I feel it is a permanent condition that I forget stuff. And I already hear J saying things like, "I'm not good at computer games. I can't do it." So my attitude is affecting him. But I really think we can change it, that it's not too late. After all, I'm trying to be optimistic! :) And I do recommend the book. It follows along some of the same lines of another favorite parenting book _Between Parent and Child_, by Heim Gringott. (I think I spelled that right!) With all of the parenting advice out there, it's nice to see two books actually talking about the same thing. Any other optimistic thoughts?