Optimistic Child Martin Seligman
Optimistic Child Martin Seligman: This book is fascinating, even if you do not have or work with children. This is a book which adults can read and sit back in shock at how easily your world view back can be traced back to the one so dearly held as children. For the parent, the information Seligman has provided in this book is invaluable. For an adult who was once a child, it’s a way to look closely at how you act in, and react to, the world now.
The epidemic of depression in America strikes 30% of all children. Now Martin E. P. Seligman, the best-selling author of Learned Optimism, and his colleagues offer parents and educators a program clinically proven to cut that risk in half. With this startling new research, parents can teach children to apply optimism skills that can curb depression, boost school performance, and improve physical health.
These skills provide children with the resilience they need to approach the teenage years and adulthood with confidence. Over the last thirty years the self-esteem movement has infiltrated American homes and classrooms with the credo that supplying positive feedback, regardless of the quality of performance, will make children feel better about themselves. But in this era of raising our children to feel good, the hard truth is that they have never been more depressed.
By teaching children skills of optimism, it is possible to “immunize” or safeguard them against episodes of depression. This concept is at the core of The Optimistic Child Martin Seligman
The Big Ideas!
- Pessimistic children are at a much higher risk of becoming depressed than optimistic children.
- In numerous long-term studies, Seligman and colleagues discovered a linkbetween pessimism or dwelling on the most catastrophic causes of any adversity and depression.
- Optimism is not only a tendency with which some are born, it is also a learned skill. Even those who are naturally pessimistic in nature can master the skill of optimism.
- Studies indicate people are far more depressed now than just 100 years ago.
- Seligman and colleagues show adults how to teach children the skills of optimism with specific skills and exercises.
- Optimism can help children thwart depression, achieve more in school, and improve physical health.
- In adults, pessimism can be a significant barrier, not only to mental wellness, but also to overall life satisfaction.
- When people face adversity, the narrative they use to explain the adversity is known as an “explanatory style.” Explanatory styles can be categorized as optimistic or pessimistic based on three different dimensions (more info below).
Optimistic Child Martin Seligman: Improving Optimism
How can a parent or teacher provide youth with the skills to stave off depression? If you are thinking it has something to do with self-esteem, Seligman would disagree. In fact, he blasts the self-esteem movement and its encouragement to make children simply ”feel good” about themselves. False praise may lead to pessimism as children perceive the insincerity of parents and teachers. Seligman posits, “In order for your child to experience mastery, it is necessary for him to fail, to feel bad, and try again repeatedly until success occurs. None of these steps can be circumvented. Failure and feeling bad are necessary building blocks for ultimate success and feeling good.”
One of the primary ways to help your child become more optimistic is to help change their explanatory style. What’s an explanatory style? When someone faces an adversity, the way they explain that event to themselves and others is known as an explanatory style. These narratives are evaluated around three dimensions.
Optimistic Child Martin Seligman: Narratives
- Permanent vs. Temporary: Events either change across time or remain stable.
- Pervasive vs. Specific: Events are universal or specific to a particular domain.
- Personal vs. Impersonal: Causes of an event are within oneself or outside of oneself.
Optimistic Child Martin Seligman: Explanatory Style
Someone with an optimistic explanatory style would characterize an adversity as temporary, specific, and impersonal. The pessimist, on the other hand, sees adversity as permanent, pervasive, and personal. As an example, a child who fails a test in school may internally believe “I’m a loser.” Clearly, this is largely pessimistic point of view as it is enduring and can be applied to nearly any domain of life. Conversely, the optimistic child who has failed a test will tend to think in ways that can be shaped, maintaining control over one’s destiny, as it were. The optimistic child will say “I failed this test because I didn’t study enough.” This explanation is specific and leaves doors open for improvement and change.
In addition explanatory styles, the book delves into other skills such as learning about link between thoughts, feelings, and actions; catching and evaluating thoughts; creating alternative thoughts; and keeping things in perspective to name a few. Studies developed by Seligman and his team in Philadelphia-area schools, skills such as these can reduce the risk of depression, improve academic performance, and boost physical health in children.
Optimistic Child Martin Seligman Quotes
Raising children, I realized, is more than fixing what is wrong with them. It is about identifying and amplifying their strengths and virtues, and helping them find the niche where they can live these positive traits to the fullest.”
“Optimism will not make the problems disappear. On the contrary, it allows your child to get to the root of the problem so that she can focus on correcting the situation.”
This book is superbly practical! It goes well beyond theory into actionable exercises for both adults and children. Not only can these exercises help increase optimism, they help one maintain hope during the most trying life experiences. Keep this in mind-if you’re more of a half empty person when you start reading this book, at the very least, your glass will look very different when you’re done.
Optimistic Child Martin Seligman Actionable Exercises
1. Identify your own explanatory style. One of the primary ways to help your child and yourself to become more optimistic is to increase your awareness of your own explanatory style. Next time you face an adversity, log your internal and external explanation of the events. Evaluate these thoughts against the three facets of explanatory styles to see if you tend to lean toward an optimistic or pessimistic mindset.
2. Teach your youthling about explanatory styles. Open conversations with your child about how they perceive themselves, how they perceive difficult and challenging situations and how they resolve problems give you a comprehensive picture of their worldview.
3. Teach your youthlings about the link between thoughts-actions. The automatic ideas which pop into your mind are what most consistently cause your reactions or to feel and behave in certain ways.
4. Remember that optimism is a skill. This awareness can change the way you view the world. Optimism is the embodiment of engagement with the world whereas pessimism is a loss of opportunity.
Optimistic Child Martin Seligman Book Reviews by Amazon Customers
April 1, 2018Format: Paperback Verified Purchase of Optimistic Child Martin SeligmanEnjoyed this book immensely. It is some heavy (but important) reading in the beginning, e.g. about the prevalence of childhood depression, but very practical and interesting after that. Basically, I found it to be a "how to for countering the damage done by the previous few decades of false self esteem building" message. There has been a growing emphasis on building self esteem, but at the same time growing childhood depression rates. "Optimistic" in this book does not mean foolishly-positive-glass-half-full type of feelings. It means developing a healthy, realistic, and resilient way of looking at the world and oneself.These are skills and attitudes that are developed by junior high school. Although perhaps more beneficial for parents of older children, I found that it did help change my behavior a little with my toddler. There are some nice example pages that give scripts of things you might say to your child (from toddlers up through teens) that I found particularly helpful. E.g. how to criticize or discipline while helping to raise an optimistically resilient child. I will reread it several times in the coming years, I am sure. There is a depression screening tool for children included in one chapter. The book even helped provide some insight for myself into my own mental health.5 people found this helpfulJoyzer
June 4, 2017Format: Paperback Verified Purchase of Optimistic Child Martin SeligmanMy son is a bit too young for this now. But I have some concepts now of how to guide him out of the negativity that is so pervasive in my family. I have been working to lay a groundwork to break the cycle that I see developing in him as well. I have bought a few other books as well, mainly to work on myself. Figured I would need to practice what I preach, and to provide a good example. Breaking the negativity cycle is hard, but this is a good first step, I think.8 people found this helpful
January 1, 2018
Format: Audible Audiobook Verified Purchase of Optimistic Child Martin SeligmanI wish I had known this book earlier. My son had depression recently. So much of the book makes perfect sense to me as a father who's going through hell. With the current mental disorder epidemic, I think every parent should read this book. The key take-away is: optimism is a choice. It does not change facts. But it changes how you feel about and deal with them.
7 people found this helpful