Raising an Optimistic Child Can Be Good for All Concerned

Raising an optimistic child not only benefits the child—who is less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression—but your whole family and the larger community. Optimism comes from confidence and confident children are more likely to try again after a setback and to be willing to do their share.

The most effective way parents can promote optimism in a child derives from your responsibility as a role model. In most cases, children will act as they see you act. If one missed promotion causes you to despair at ever having a successful career, your child is more likely to feel that one missed kick eliminates soccer forever. If you don’t try to overcome setbacks, why should your children?

Learning to Master Situations

Redirecting situations from disappointment to enjoyment:

Even 3 to 5 year olds can, with your help, exert some control. For example:

  • If your daughter is upset because she couldn’t go to the beach, play water games with her in the backyard.
  • If your son is mad because his favorite television show was pre-empted, read a story with him.

Involve your child in activities that offer an opportunity to master new skills and contribute to family life, such as helping to feed the pets or clean the garage. This builds a child’s faith in his or her own ability and a can-do attitude. Role-playing, with the child getting to play the mother, father, or teacher, also teaches social mastery.

Accentuate the Positive

  • Be alert to even small improvements in your child’s skills.
  • Praise good behavior much more than you scold your child for poor behavior.
  • Don’t demand perfection.
  • Applaud the effort and remind your child not to give up hope; some very worthwhile accomplishments come only after long, hard work.

Avoid frequent use of negative words like no, don’t, stop

  • Overgeneralizing by using words like always, never, nobody, or everyone can cause a child to believe that change is impossible.

Use humor and laughter

  • If you can’t get in to see a popular movie, talk about some of the funny situations you encountered on line.
  • Tell jokes about what would be the world’s longest line.
  • Be silly. It’s only a movie!

As your child ages, you may need to tone down excessive optimism or feelings of invulnerability to teach your child to avoid risky behavior. Try to keep a positive approach that emphasizes the possible.

Contact

Jackie Dickerson
Administrative Assistant
jjd44@cornell.edu
315-684-3001

Last updated September 16, 2016