If you’ve been part of the crowd that moans, “How can anyone be hopeful when the world in general, and my section of it in particular, are such a mess?”—ditch your membership in that crowd today. For one thing, it’s not doing your health or motivation any good. For another, optimism has little to do with things going “right”: if positive thinking depended on positive circumstances, there would be no miserable spoiled brats and no successful reform movements. And finally, pessimistic adults set a bad example for the next generation—and we all want that generation to grow up believing in and working for a better future.
The following tips will help you influence your own children to become positive-minded, optimistic world-changers:
- Besides setting them the best example you can, be careful not to discourage their natural optimism, even when their dreams sound wild enough to make you nervous. The worst thing that can happen is that they’ll modify the more impossible parts as they go—and still achieve far more than they would have on a typical “safe” life path.
- Encourage them to develop their natural passions and talents. Help them find opportunities that utilize their strongest gifts. In areas they aren’t naturally inclined toward, be content with their learning the true essentials. Never make a big deal of pushing for top scores in every subject: it probably won’t improve the scores anyway, and it reinforces the toxic idea that imperfect people are doomed to live unloved.
- Emphasize that life is about teamwork, not about competition. You have a head start if you already know better than to demand that your children excel in everything: the logical next step is joining others whose skills work in combination with yours to get a job done. As a wise man wrote centuries ago, “If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? … How strange [and ineffective] a body would be if it had only one part!” (1 Corinthians 12:17, 19, New Living Translation of the Bible). And how clumsy a body would be if its legs competed to be first to every destination!
- Make a game of scrubbing negative talk from your household’s vocabulary: every “I can’t” or “Nothing ever goes right” means the speaker has to scoop everyone else’s ice cream at lunch, or perform a crazy stunt for the family. To make it even more fun (and keep the game going after the “don’t complain” habit kicks in), include the complementary rule that whoever makes the most positive statements each day, gets a prize such as the “seat of honor” at dinner.
- To make it clear that “the good outweighs the bad,” give your kids five sincere compliments for every correction. They’ll grow up beaming with confidence in their—and the world’s—positive potential!
Blessings to parents and children of all ages!