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Tips for Raising an Optimistic Child

by Jessica Parnell | Jan 12, 2015 | 4 min read

There are times in our life when we are hit with the unexpected, when our load and challenges cloud every aspect of our day. An unexpected death, negative medical diagnosis, struggles with parenting, or just the winter blues can get us down. And that cloud often covers our entire family because, whether we like it or not, our attitude impacts our family, for better or worse.

When life seems to be dealing your family one blow after another, it’s easy to let pessimism get the better of you. Before we know it the cloud has become a permanent weather pattern. However, you might not be realizing that your negative outlook is influencing your child from an early age. Growing evidence suggests that a depressed, negative parent can lead a child down the path of self-doubt, low self-esteem, and depression later in life.

We all want our children to have faith and believe that things can get better, to have hope during dark times. And this New Year is just the time to look on the bright side. Being optimistic doesn’t just give you a friendlier demeanor, recent research has shown that optimists — people who believe they can achieve success — are more able to do so. In fact, optimists also get fewer illnesses, have longer relationships, and live longer.

So if you’re kicking off your homeschool brand spanking new in 2015, here’s some tips to ensure that you keep optimism top of mind for your child!

Optimism Must Start at Home

As your child’s first teacher, it’s your job to maintain a healthy and optimistic atmosphere in your home. Be a role model for your children both as a teacher and a parent. Show them how to think and live optimistically in school and in life, regardless of what struggles may come. Set examples by discussing life’s challenges, developing healthy coping skills, and reacting to positive and negative situations with an optimistic outlook.

Always Look for the Bright Side

Demonstrate having a bright outlook on tough situations that you and your child encounter on a daily basis. Acknowledge your child’s feelings and then discuss how to choose to focus on the positive rather than dwelling on the negative. It’s important for your children to not give up or get discouraged when a situation results in a way they did not anticipate. So, be sure to actively and intentionally talk about staying positive daily.

Does this mean you can never have a bad day or show weakness during a trial? Absolutely not! Our children need to see us process pain and disappointment and choose to stay optimistic despite the season. In life, nothing’s perfect and the best way we can prepare our children to face and overcome trials as adults is to model it for them while they are children.

Confront Pessimism

Don’t let your child get caught up in their pessimistic thoughts, teach them to confront them. Point out cynicism when you hear it to let your child know they made a cynical comment. But, be prepared for them to catch you in negative patterns and help you to stay positive as well. You can even establish a secret code — like tugging on your ear — to alert one another about a negative or cynical reactions in public.

The goal is to discourage pessimism by making your child more aware of the cynicism they use and hear around them every day. Teach them to identify it, understand it, and turn away from it towards more positive thoughts.

Listen to Your Child’s Problems

Listen to how your child describes themselves. The words they choose to use are vital for their future self-confidence, so pay attention! We have outlawed superlatives like “always” and “never” in our home so that we can remain realistic about our abilities and character. For instance, if your child makes a negative statement about themselves that describes a permanent trait (“I’m so stupid”, “I’ll never get this right”), encourage them with counter examples that aren’t so set in stone. I say “No one is always anything!” or “Never say never in my house, please!”

But most importantly, be there to comfort your child during the tough times, and show them how to overcome their issues in a positive manner that ends with an optimistic view.

Learn How to Handle Success

Don’t try to always boost up your child’s disappointments, you’ll be left fighting an uphill battle. Rather, notice and encourage effort. It’s important to give credit when due and praise your children’s success. Don’t get too caught up focusing on the negatives, but do teach them how to approach and handle those situations too. Put less emphasis on the outcome and more on their willingness to take the risk.

Teach Patience

Patience is the key to optimism. Show your child how to remain patient in any situation, wait for a positive change, and even how to react humorously when needed, as you wait for the struggle to subside. You can start this early on in their childhood by requiring your child to wait and regain some self-control before you fulfill a request.

The best method I’ve found to teach patience to my children is through purposeful delays. For example, this strategy is great to use when your child must have some new toy, or book, or gizmo right now. By waiting until their birthday or special event or allowing them to save their own money, you can teach them they can wait for the things that matter.

Optimism is a mindset; a way of thinking that can change the course of our lives and those of our children. It’s so much more than an attitude, optimism is a way of looking at challenges, failures, and setbacks in ways that increase one’s own hope and persistence. Optimism is confidence that one can take on challenges, cope with what the world dishes out, and come out the other end with head held high.

Don’t let your child get swept up in an epidemic of pessimism. It’s vital to your child’s self-confidence that they learn to stay positive, dream big, and be patient enough to realize them.


Jessica Parnell
Hello everyone! I’m Jessica Parnell — mom, homeschool evaluator, teacher, and CEO of Bridgeway Academy. In my 20+ years of experience as a homeschool mom and evaluator, I have had the privilege of meeting homeschoolers that take a variety of approaches to their education. It is their many stories and successes that inspire me in my own homeschooling and I love to pass on the knowledge that I have gained from them to other homeschooling families. The one constant that always remains true is that there’s no such thing as a “cookie cutter child.” Each child is fearfully and wonderfully made and as a result, learns and functions differently. It’s our job to ensure that we’re raising each child to fulfill their individual purpose and when we can teach in a way that inspires them, we are on our way to homeschool success. When I’m not writing or teaching my children, I like to ski, write and participate in triathlons. I graduated from Kutztown University with a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Masters in English and I am currently pursuing a degree in Neuroleadership.
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