It is not so much what happens in life that is as important as how a person feels about it. Positive thoughts create positive results, enter Optimism.
There is an ancient story about a farmer. He worked his land with the help of his only son using a single horse he owned. One day they horse escaped from the barn and ran away. The farmer’s friends said to him, “Oh what bad luck! How will you be able to farm without your horse?” The farmer replied, “Good luck or bad luck, one never knows.”
The farmer’s son went to look for the lost horse and soon returned with it and a second wild horse he found. The farmer’s friends said to him, “Oh what good luck! Now you will have two horses for your farm.” The farmer replied, “Good luck or bad luck, one never knows.”
When the farmer’s son tried to ride the wild horse, he fell off and his leg was broken making him unable to work. The farmer’s friends said to him, “Oh what bad luck! How will you be able to farm without the help of your son?” The farmer replied, “Good luck or bad luck, one never knows.”
Then war broke out in the country and all the young men were forced to join the army, except for the farmer’s son because of his broken leg. The farmer’s friends said to him, “Oh what good luck! You will not lose your only son to war.” The farmer replied, “Good luck or bad luck, one never knows.”
What Does Optimistic Mean?
The optimism definition means to have positive thought in spite of circumstances or challenges one may encounter. As in the example of the farmer, whether something is good or bad is not always apparent and depends on what happens next.
Another farmer was very mean to his son, yet his son always remained optimistic in spite of this. On Christmas Day instead of giving his son a gift, he forced him to work and clean up the barn. When the son entered the barn, he saw a huge pile of horse manure to clean up. He jumped right in and started enthusiastically cleaning up the manure. His father was amazed and asked him, “How can you be so happy to clean up such a mess?” The boy replied, “With this much manure, there must be a pony in here somewhere!”
That story is funny, yet it shows how it is possible to remain optimistic even in difficult circumstances. An optimist follows an optimistic definition of interpreting things that sees the world in a positive light. Another famous example of optimism is seeing a glass of water that contains half a glass of water as being half-full instead of half-empty. One is able define optimistic viewpoints by avoiding negative attitudes or perspectives. The person who sees the glass as half-empty is the opposite of an optimist. People who see only the negatives in everything are pessimists.
Life Orientation Test
The Life Orientation Test (LOT) was first devised by Carver and Scheier in 1985 and then revised. The revised test is the LOT-R version. It is a simple test consisting of only a few statements. How a person responds to those statements gives an indication of the level of optimism they possess.
A person is optimistic when they strongly agree with statements similar to these:
- I expect the best, when things are not certain.
- More good things happen than bad things.
- Things will be better in the future.
A person is pessimistic, which is the opposite of being optimistic, when they strongly agree with statements such as these:
- Everything always goes wrong for me.
- Nothing ever works out
- I do not expect anything good to happen.
Optimists always have an attitude of gratitude. If they have a flat tire and can safely change it, they are happy the puncture did not cause a serious car accident.
Children are heavily influenced by the attitudes of their parents, especially in the early formative years when their personality is developing. There is a tremendous advantage in maintaining an optimistic attitude. According to Aha! Parenting, optimists live longer, get sick less frequently, have better quality relationships, have fewer problems with depression, and are more successful.
A belief in the possibilities of success helps make success more likely. At the same time, it is useful to have an optimistic response to failure. Being optimistic is a sign of having good emotional intelligence. How we handle frustration and respond to adversity determines our inner strength of character.
It helps to maintain strong self-esteem in spite of facing rejection or upset. For younger children, parents set the tone by serving as a good example. When a child does poorly in school, such as getting a low score on a test or a bad grade, good parenting is jumping in to help with enthusiasm for studying together and maintaining a “I know you can do it” attitude.
About Health gives some excellent tips on how to develop optimism in your children. They recommend having fun with it and making a game out of it.
The Missing Sock Game
While doing the laundry, ask young children to help match up the socks. Take one sock and hide it in the middle of the dried laundry so the young child has a successful discovery, when they find the matching one. While they are hunting for the missing sock, say things like “I know you can find it,” and when they do, delight in their success.
Healthy Ways to Deal with Disappointment
Having successful experiences is a way to create a feeling of positive possibilities. Nevertheless, optimism is much more than gratification from instant success. An optimistic attitude allows children to persevere when facing challenges.
Validation of negative feelings of disappointment is followed by questioning the situation to see how it can be looked at by using a different perspective. It is important to process the emotions, not deny them, but then suggest alternative ways to look at the situation and things that can be done to improve it.
Avoid Negative Talk
Labeling children with a negative descriptions is a sure way to make it become a part of their identity. Aha! Parenting recommends confronting negative self-talk as well. This is done by a three-step process, which is the acronym of NED: 1) Notice the negative self-talk; 2) Externalize it, and then; 3) Dispute it. This process works the same for adults as it does for children.
Here is an example:
1) A parents notices a child when they say, “I am no good at math.”
2) Externalize this comment by pretending another person who just wants to make the child feel bad about themselves says it. It may be helpful to call this imaginary person “NED.”
3) Dispute the accusation of not being good at math in the same way as one would not allow another person to make a false accusation.
Once this process is understood, it allows actions to be taken that refute the concept, such as studying more math, or getting extra help from parents, tutors, other students, or teachers.
According to Real Simple, it is beneficial to encourage positive thinking in children, so they develop skills useful over their lifetime to deal with challenge. Optimists see challenges as temporary, see minor problems instead of major ones, and do not have negative thoughts about what the future holds in store for them.
Good wise sayings to remember for adults and to teach children include:
- This too shall pass.
- Past results do not create future events.
- Accept what is, then change what can be changed.
- Be the solution, not the problem.
- Stay in the present moment, because the past is gone and the future is not here yet.
Greater Good offers information from the book by Martin Seligman, entitled “The Optimistic Child.” It is easy to see the difference by comparing a pessimistic attitude with an optimistic one. Pessimistic thinking is permanent, pervasive, and personal. Optimistic thinking is temporary, specific, and impersonal.
A real-life example is when a child stumbles and falls. The pessimist thinks they are stupid, clumsy, and always tripping, which is a permanent, pervasive, personality trait. The optimistic child thinks someone should repair the cracked sidewalk that made the child trip. Therefore, the cause was temporary, specific to the situation, and impersonal. It had nothing whatsoever to do with some permanent character defect in the child. Both pessimistic and optimistic perspectives are self-reinforcing. That is why it is so important to encourage optimism in children.
Optimists International is a global organization for both adults and youth from elementary school through high school that has over 80,000 members in around 2,900 clubs in more than thirty-five countries. They work to bring out the best in children who are encouraged to join the Junior Optimists League. Each member believes in the Optimist’s Creed, which provides hope and a positive vision for the future. It is a great organization to join and highly recommended for helping to parent an optimistic child.