Above everything else we all want our children to be happy. And a big part of this is being able to have a positive attitude and to focus more on the good stuff than the bad.
Research is proving that having a sunnier outlook about life as a child can pave the way to becoming a happier adult. And that’s something every parent wants for their kids.
There are plenty of ways to encourage your child to look on the bright side and develop a positive attitude that can set them on the right path.
Here’s our top 8 skills for encouraging positive thinking kids:
Be a positive role model
As a parent you are your child’s first and most important role model. If you model a positive outlook, there’s a good chance that they will learn how to do so too.
Through your everyday chats you can show them how to tackle problems in a positive way.
How to look on the bright side of any situation.
And how to turn a sticky mess into something positive.
If you need help with some positive thinking vibes yourself, there are some great tracks and meditations out there that you can pop on before bed. Just a few minutes can make a big difference to how we all approach everyday life.
By trying to always look on the bright side and be more positive in front of your child it can help you too. Positive vibes all round.
Read books which send a positive message
Reading books which have a positive and inspiring message can be a great way to share this mindset with your child.
We love books like:
The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas, which explores big feelings your child might go through.
The Magic Is Inside You by Cathy Domoney, which is a story with a powerful message and has tips to help your child have a greater self esteem.
The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside, which teaches your child to talk about their worries and notice that they become lighter as they share them.
How are you feeling today? By Molly Potter. A book which helps children express their feelings and find practical ways to deal with them.
Teach them how to deal with their emotions
Nobody can be happy and upbeat all the time and there will always be days when your child wobbles or feels sad or down. Show them that it is OK to feel whatever they are feeling.
Acknowledge their feelings
Be there with them when they are cross or sad or frustrated or anxious. Acknowledge and normalise it by saying something as simple as ‘I understand you’re feeling really cross right now’. And let them know this feeling will pass.
With very little kids you can even teach them to imagine their big feelings as a big black cloud. Then as they calm down they can imagine it drifting away.
Talk through the problem
When they’ve moved on from these feelings, you could then encourage them to talk through the ‘problem’. To see if anything can be learned and what positive ways they could use to handle it if it arose again.
Get extra help if they need it
It should be mentioned that older children can have bigger problems that can leave to a general feeling of anxiety.
If your child struggles to get past feeling anxious or down then it’s important to talk to them and to keep checking in on how they are feeling.
Get help if and when you feel they need it. A counsellor will listen to your child. They will teach them techniques to cope with big feelings so that they don’t consume them.
And these skills could benefit them in later life.
Go the Danish Way and ‘reframe’ the bad stuff
Positive thinking doesn’t always mean brushing away the negative. If you can teach your child to reframe the bad stuff then it can help them develop resilience and a more positive outlook.
Perhaps they had a fall out with their friend? Help them brainstorm what they can do to make things better.
If they say they hate school then encourage them to talk about what they do like – art, lunchtimes, helping shy kids at playtimes, liking the nice teaching assistant – and encourage them to look more on the good things in their day than the bad.
The Danes are consistently voted in polls as being the happiest people in the world and reframing is a big part of their culture. They often look at life in a more positive way.
For example, for Danes, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Genius!
And they pass this positive attitude onto their kids. The underlying skill is to teach their kids to look for the good in the bad.
So when your child says they’re rubbish at maths then you can help them reframe this.
Help them see that maths is something they find tricky but they are working hard to do their best at. They’re not ‘bad at maths’ but they need to put a bit more effort to understand maths and when they do the accomplishment will be all the greater because of it.
There will be times when your child says things like ‘I can’t do anything. No one cares. Everything is terrible. I am terrible at everything’.
They speak in absolutes and have almost given up before they have begun.
Tamar Chansky, a clinical psychologist, describes these negative emotions as a ‘knee-jerk reaction of the mind’.
She reminds parents to listen to what their children say and remind them that what they are feeling is an absolute.
It’s an extreme and an exaggeration.
A good example Chanksy gives is this one:
Say two kids are at an ice cream shop and their rocky road slips off the cone. One exclaims, “It wasn’t on right, so it fell. I want another one.” The other child says, “Why does this always happen to me? This store always does it wrong. Everything’s ruined. This is the worst day of my life.
The first child is optimistic. He sees the problem but doesn’t catastrophise and comes up with a solution.
The second dwells on the negative and takes what is a random occurrence personally.
As a parent we know that a dropped ice cream is no big deal. Yes – it’s annoying, but it’s not the end of the world.
Every chance you can get to pass this message onto your child will hold them in good stead into facing what life throws at them with a more positive attitude.
Reflect on the good times
Find a time in the day for you both to think of the happy and positive things in your child’s day or week and to share them together.
This can be as simple as asking your child to tell you what the best thing or the funniest thing that happened in their day over teatime. Or you can ask them before bed what their favourite bit of the day was. In this way you can teach them to reflect on the good rather than dwell on the bad.
A really simple but effective way to focus on the good bits is to make a Happiness Jar.
Find a pretty jar (or decorate a simple glass jar) and regularly sit down with your child and write out happy thing that have happened on little slips of paper to pop inside. They can be the big things (like a great grade, achievement or experience they had) to the little things (like having fun feeding the ducks in the sunshine).
The best thing about the Happiness Jar is that you and your child can regularly tip out all the little slips of paper, read back all the happy moments and live the positive experience all over again.
Find ways for them to shine in things they enjoy
If you can find a sport or hobby that your child really loves then it can increase their confidence and their positivity.
They don’t have to be the very best at what they do but if you can encourage them by finding a class or group to join, doing something that they’re good at, it can do wonders for their confidence.
Cheer them on along the way and soon they’ll realise that they can shine.
Have fun and be silly
Whenever you can, create a fun and happy environment at home. Find plenty of ways for you and your child to laugh, play and be silly.
Whether it’s watching a funny movie, dancing in the living room or playing silly games.
A house filled with fun and laughter goes a long way to instilling a positive attitude in your child.
We all want our kids to be happy. And what we teach them and show them as they grow up can play an important role in shaping their outlook on life.
So try these skills to think on the bright side together!