“We get to decide what we believe, we get to choose how we feel.”
This is a lesson that takes a lifetime to learn. Teaching our children to guide their thoughts according to how they feel empowers them. It lets them realize that when bad things happen, they have a choice on how to respond as opposed to just being a victim of circumstance. Optimism offers more than a sunny disposition, it is carrying your own weather. Confidence, hope, faith–be it a loud affirmation or a soft whisper–it is knowing that your life is supposed to feel good to you. Who wouldn’t benefit from that? Here are seven things you can do as a parent to raise positive thinkers.
Open and end the day with “Thank you”. It could be through a prayer you say aloud or during your talk at meal times. Ask your children to think of as many things to be thankful for, like a good night’s sleep, their soft bed, warm water to bathe in, food to eat, toys to play with, Mommy, Daddy, siblings, the chance to go to school, clothes on their back, their amazing bodies, etc. If they learn nothing else from you, nothing other than gratefulness for life, you have still taught them enough.
Believe that this wonderful little human that you’ve been blessed with is here on this planet, with you, for a purpose. It is not your job to find out what that purpose is but your child’s. Children know what they want and they believe they can have anything… until grown-ups tell them otherwise. Your job is to not crush their dreams. Goal-setting is a roadmap to those dreams. Give your child enough data to decide what he or she wants. Being inspired, getting motivated, having something to look forward to, to move toward, to work for, to fail at, and then to achieve in spite of setbacks–that is optimism in action.
When your children are old enough, for as short as fifteen minutes a day, have them sit quietly with you in a comfortable room, eyes shut, and tell them to just focus on their breathing. Model the behavior. Set the alarm. Do it again tomorrow. Until they get used to it. This might seem silly at first but it is such a powerful practice–better than any nap that the both of you can take! Nothing can bother you as much as your own mind. Quieting the mind, the external noise, and everything else allows you to listen from within. We have so many gadgets these days to distract us from ourselves. This is simply unplugging and letting us be.
We’ve all seen that viral video of the little girl pepping herself in front of the bathroom mirror proclaiming “I can do anything good!” and all the things she likes–“I like my Dad, I like my cousins, I like my house, I like my outfits, I like my mom!” These are affirmations–positive, repetitive “exercises” for the mind. We all have a running commentary in our heads, and it is the same with our children. Is that narrator positive or negative? Affirmations let you dictate the script.
Studies have confirmed time and again the correlation between physical activity and mental health. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins and endorphins make you happy! Even if we’re guilty of not getting enough of it ourselves, children with their boundless energy NEED exercise. No amount of screen time can make up for an hour of actual playtime. Let your kids kick ball or swim, sign them up for dance or karate, or have them walk the dog or even just do zumba with you through Youtube in your living room.
Let your kids pursue music, the arts, or writing. As much as children need a physical outlet, the arts provide an emotional one. Have them dabble with a lot of things until something clicks. You’ll know when it does. With society putting a lot of emphasis on academics, we’ve been conditioned to believe that painting or singing is nice but not as important. “What kind of a job will you get out of that? It’s a waste of time and money,” they say. Listen to your kid, not society. Society isn’t raising them, you are.
Speak life to your children, compliment them to their face, lavish them with affection, laugh with them, and play with them because in a few short years, they won’t remember what you bought them and neither will you. But the positive experiences you shared, those are what make a happy childhood. There is no training to become a parent, which is kind of silly considering you get training to qualify for any other job. You’re responsible for the psychological, physical, emotional well-being of this person. Give it your best shot. Begin and end with love.