Always Look On The Bright Side

How do you raise an optimistic child? DR RICHARD C. WOOLFSON offerspractical ways to help him see the silver lining in every cloud.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

How do you raise an optimistic child? DR RICHARD C. WOOLFSON offerspractical ways to help him see the silver lining in every cloud.

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Your kid’s optimism is easily dented. Even though he usually has a cheery outlook on life, one small crisis can send him plummeting into a state of despair.

Something as simple as not finding the right shirt to wear to a party, or not getting every craft activity right in class, can cause him to feel gloomy.

You would love for him to weather these minor storms but, at this age, his bright disposition fiuctuates constantly, depending heavily on what happens around him.

And since your child models much of his behaviour on yours, watching you optimistically cope with minor upsets in a positive way provides encouragement for him to do the same. Here are some scenarios to consider:

He doubts himself in school Your six-yearold pessimistically assures you that he is bound to fumble during show-and-tell tomorrow because he did not practise hard enough.

How you can help Treat him seriously when he reacts this way, and don’t dismiss his reaction as silly or immature – his lack of optimism is genuine. Remind him that he has done well in previous sessions. Tell him to try his best, and offer to practise with him the next time.

He is pessimistic about making friends at school Friendships are especially important at this age. He wants to have plenty of pals, but may have doubts about his ability to form new relationships.

How you can help Point out that he is wonderful, fun-loving and good company, and recall how easily he made friends when he first went to playschool or to music class. Keep him focused on his previous social successes.

When he feels good about himself, other children will want him as their friend.

He struggles to ride a bicycle Cycling is so easy… when you know how. But for a child trying to master this complex physical challenge, a few false starts can easily knock his confidence. He soon tells you he’ll never learn how to do this.

How you can help Explain that everybody takes time to master cycling, that all his pals have the same experience. Tell him firmly and confidently that he’ll master it eventually if he practises regularly, and that he should not worry about temporary slip-ups along the way. Encourage him to persist, even though his progress is slower than he had hoped.

He makes a silly mistake in front of the whole class He gave a wrong answer to the teacher’s question and everyone else had a good chuckle at his mistake. Now he says he is too embarrassed to speak out again.

How you can help Encourage him to see the funny side of this incident – humour is part of optimism, and if your child learns to laugh at himself and his catastrophes occasionally, he’ll be more resistant to knocks and disappointments.

Explain that even the smartest child in school has times when he makes blunders in front of others.

He has pre-performance jitters It’s soon time for him to appear in the preschool’s year-end concert and suddenly he tells you that he isn’t good enough. He begs you to allow him to call in sick so that he won’t have to perform.

How you can help Don’t even wait for that to happen.

Keep his optimism high right from the start by ensuring he prepares properly for his performance. He needs to take control, by attending all the classes, listening to the teacher and practising the dances regularly. If he does all that, he will remain optimistic.

"Encourage him to see the funny side of his giving the wrong answer in class. If your child learns to laugh at himself, he’ ll be more resistant to knocks and disappointments."