How to raise an optimist

Show your child the brighter side to help him/her grow up happy and independent

mom teaching chess to her sonAugmenting your child's optimism quotient may seem like a daunting task to many. But you will be surprised to know that it is the trivialities that need to be paid heed to, for developing your offspring into an optimistic individual. Things which may appear paltry to you may actually make a huge difference to the way your child looks at life. Read on to see how you can successfully help your children look at the brighter side of life.

Physical aspects

Ensure a disciplined daily routine

"Discipline in daily routine will make life smoother and less complicated for your child," says Reena Saxena, a Delhi-based counsellor. Picture a child who has to get up early in the morning for school. She gets home tired and takes a siesta. Then she wakes up groggy knowing quite well that she is left with just enough time to study and finish her daily chores. The thought that she cannot play with her friends leaves her upset and frustrated at having wasted a precious day.

Frustration breeds depression and can never encourage a child to look at the brighter side of life.

With the fast life that kids face these days, a proper schedule has to be worked out for them, which includes all their activities and still leaves time for themselves.

Make time for play

Physical activities are important for your child's muscle development and also for her brain. "The expansion of the brain leads to all-round development of your child," says Saxena. For instance, when your child gets involved in a game, she is forced to take quick decisions, use her common sense and work together with a team. Her focus also improves. All this, in addition to a physically active lifestyle, gives her a fair surge of endorphins and serotonins which are happiness-boosters.

An enhancement in self-confidence and self-esteem makes your child a positive person.

Give them responsibility

small girl trying to tie her lace"Right from the beginning, allow your child to do small things that help her experience her capabilities," says Saxena. Even the smallest achievements are important for her self-esteem. Things like buttoning the shirt may be difficult for your child at age four, but given a little extra time and patience, she may be able to do it to near perfection.

Giving your child credit for these accomplishments makes her happy and more optimistic. If your child is old enough, give her the responsibility to keep her bed clean, polish her shoes and keep her school uniform ready for the next day. Praise her for efforts when you see consistency in these tasks.

Identify what your child is good at and let her do that more often. If you find that she draws well, put her in a drawing and painting class, display her work around the house, search the newspaper for any drawing competition in your city and encourage her to participate. When she is successful, her burgeoning confidence will lead her to think optimistically.

Psychological aspects

Show the sunny side

Teach your child to expect positive outcomes. If you show her the negative side of everything, this is what she will learn. If the teacher does not select her for the school play, don't say that the teacher is biased. Explain to her why the other child was preferred. Also, tell her that this is not the end of the world and that she would get a chance to participate in something else soon.

"If your child trains herself for positive self-talk and can replace negative thoughts with positive ones, she is sure to become a positive human being," says Sheena Misra Ghosh, consultant psychologist, AMRI Hospitals, Kolkata.

Assist in handling fear

Your child may have certain fears. A six- or seven-year-old may be afraid of the dark, a 10-year old may be scared of getting a scolding from the teacher, a 12-year-old may not want to lose a friend, while your teenager may be scared of examinations.

"A lot of these fears are created by parents themselves," says Ghosh. We tell our children that a cockroach can bite and an injection can hurt to scare them. This should never be done.

"To help your child get over her fears, take a step-by-step approach to de-sensitise her by showing her that what she is afraid of may not be so scary after all," adds Ghosh. "But never repudiate her fears and push her into believing that she is wrong to be frightened," asserts Ghosh. A child who can handle her fears is definitely more confident and optimistic about life.

Praise genuinely and offer constructive criticism

Praising your child when she is successful at a task encourages her to do well in the future as well.

"At the same time, the preamble to a negative remark should always be built with a positive comment on her work," notes Ghosh.

Saying, "Since you hemmed your kerchief so well the other day, I am sure that with a little practice you will learn to stitch a button properly" is better than saying, "You are hopeless when it comes to stitching a button." Constructive criticism can be a big confidence booster.

Help deal with failure

"If your child can understand that her failures are only stepping-stones to success, the disappointment associated with them will be short-lived," says Saxena. "To instil this in her, you should remember not take your child's failures as personal setbacks," she adds. So, whenever your child errs or doesn't do well, you must avoid getting into a blame-session with her [or yourself for that matter]. Show her ways of improvement instead and remind her of areas where she did well despite having made mistakes.

Encourage independent thinking

Give your child a chance to take independent decisions. It is harmless to let a six-year-old decide what she wants to wear for a party or a let a 10-year-old choose the brand of her bicycle for herself.

"As long as the decision doesn't pose a health hazard or is damaging in some other way, it will only help her gain confidence by improving her decision making skills," says Saxena. And this does lead to more success and optimism.

Spiritual aspects

Faith in God

When your child faces hardships, having faith helps her know that there is someone above who will take care of her and untangle the mess. Prayer has the power to keep one going during tough times. The habit of looking up to someone above and seeking His guidance in times of distress has to be formed right from the beginning.

Finally, it makes a lot of difference to your child how you look at life. A parent who is pessimistic and always expects the worst to happen cannot expect the child to be optimistic.

So, while you are still thinking about how you can use the above ideas with your child, why not incorporate some in your life as well?

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