NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Raising Positive Kids

Raising Positive Kids


          The challenges of growing up can make it tough for kids to keep a positive attitude. Parents may criticize excessively or siblings tease a bit much. Schools are competitive or too busy and kids may get lost in the crowd. Peers can be pushy, petty, or pressuring at times. Neighborhoods can unfriendly or even unsafe.

          All these demands help explain why depression is the number one mental health problem in America. Some kids who feel discouraged, afraid, or isolated may drop out of school, escape through drugs and alcohol, or fall in with friends who take pride in bullying, crimes, or sex. Other children push themselves even harder to reach impossible standards, while showing their families smiling faces and jovial attitude.

          Overall, 55 percent of middle school and high school students feel little personal power or self-esteem and 30 percent are not optimistic about their futures. Optimism is an attitude of hope and confidence expressed in positive risk-taking and constructive relationships. The way a person explains life’s ups and downs has a powerful effect on confidence and future success.  Some people seem to see the sunshine, others the dark clouds.  

          Optimism and pessimism can be seen in three areas:

• Permanence: How long is triumph or trouble likely to last?

• Pervasiveness: How much does one event predict the rest of your life?

• Personalization: How much good or bad is caused by something you did (or didn’t do) or how much is “just how things are”?

          Optimists view troubles as temporary and success as a result of skills or personality traits. They are people who believe bad events are just circumstantial and won’t continue to affect them. “You can accept accidents and do something about mistakes” is an optimist’s motto.  Those individuals who see good times as part of a positive pattern created by personal abilities can keep their self-confidence even when troubles return.

          Believing that causes and consequences of bad events are permanent often leads a person to give up. Recognizing that sometimes things just happen that way or resolving to do better next time keeps a child focused on possibilities rather than problems.

          Ways to Encourage Optimism in Children

-          Avoid negative generalizations (“You never…you’ll always…”)

-          Help a child discover his or her talents

-          Have patience and teach self- discipline for improving weaknesses

-          Affirm feelings, but help the child challenge negative interpretations

-           Help your child notice and be proud of their unique personality and abilities

-         Celebrate accomplishments and emphasize learning from mistakes

-          Help a child see self-improvement rather than compare himself or herself to others

-          Spend your free time with your children to affirm their worth beyond accomplishments-

-         Thank a child for doing something special


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