In my office, I often work with families who have children or adolescents who appear constantly unhappy. They complain, whine and find themselves the incessant “victim” despite being smart, healthy and living a good life. Many of these children are on the path to depressive thinking and relative misery while living in the reality of a fortunate life and a great future in front of them.
While pessimism does not inevitably lead to dreadful outcomes, such negativity does come with a cost. Research shows that pessimism narrows our thinking, makes our judgments lean toward the harsh and makes us less open to new opportunities. We are less creative, and not as healthy. And, of course, NOT very happy. Pessimism does not feel good on the inside. So, how do we help them?
The quick start guide to more optimism at home
1. Today (right now) abandon your own complaining and negativity.
We all know this. Whenever I broach this topic, heads are nodding in affirmation. But here’s the real problem: It’s like we all know we should exercise almost every day, but most of us do not. So, we know something in our heads, but we haven’t translated that “knowledge” to real action.
I would argue that we don’t really “know it” until it becomes evident in our actions and daily life. So, let’s then be clear. This first step toward optimism is about a change you begin today.
You stop complaining. Whether it’s the traffic, the neighbor, the boss or the cost of groceries. With this, we stop complaining about teachers, educational curriculum and coaches. We end it today, but only if you are committed to optimism in your home.
This is simple: You can’t model complaining and pessimism, and end up with optimism.
2. Stop all nagging, negotiating and arguing.
If your system for parenting is incessant nagging, just be clear: You have no system. This is a frequent train wreck getting ready to happen. Why? Because the nagging inevitably ends in negotiations and arguments.
The whole thing is negative and just breeds pessimism and complaints. First, it’s you nagging and complaining about the kids not doing what they should, and later, the kids complaining about you. And then eventually, they learn to nag you to get what they want.
Please resolve to come up with a better plan. For today, decide to stop all nagging and arguing with your children.
3. Starve everything that smells of pessimism coming from your family.
What do I mean by this? Become attuned to anything that is a repeated habit of complaining, whining and finding oneself the victim. These are the core seeds of a pessimistic life, and you can shape whether these prosper or die.
So, starve it all. View yourself as the magic watering tool, and you can either feed these negative tendencies with your comments and energy, or you can starve them. When your children complain or become negative, walk away. Don’t argue. Walk away. Repeat incessantly.
If we can do this, we now open the door for change.
4. Start absorbing optimistic materials and modeling optimism.
This is a critical part. If you are changing your habit of thought for you and your children, it will be important to start absorbing optimistic materials. This will not be the nightly news or the latest Netflix series. Find books, Podcasts and programming that are positive and uplifting. Listen and watch comedies. Learn about Ted Talks and integrate these into your nightly discussions. Laugh more and find more reasons to laugh.
Then, build the lessons you learn into your daily discussions. Start noticing how some event that appears negative often inevitably can lead to a positive outcome IF WE SEARCH for it. This is the key and it becomes almost effortless once we have abandoned our interest in the pessimistic side of things.
While this is certainly not the full solution, these habit changes will serve you and your family. Don’t wait for a perfect understanding. Take what you understand, start today and allow mastery to build with time. You can do it! All it takes is applying these actions each day and noticing that you will inevitably get better and better at it.
Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit www.TerrificParenting.com.