Developing Optimism, Teaching Children the Value of Positive Thinking by Barb Rumson, Grades 4-6.  [In the UK that would translate to between ages roughly 9 to 12].  My copy is from Fearon Teacher Aids

As a die in the wood pessimist and skeptic, it’s hardly surprising to find that one of my children is also a pessimist.

Many might say that character and personality differences are beneficial for the world at large, humanity as a whole.  I think it would be deathly dull if we all thought the same way.  However, there comes a point where pessimism drops over to the dark side.  Here, pessimism is more than mere grumpiness.  Anxiety and stress conspire to drag some people down and a dollop of optimism may prove a great antidote.  While they’re young, we parents are here to mop up the misery, but how much better for them if were able to  teach them coping mechanisms to use themselves.  For us it’s a question of coaching, coaxing and practice.  I suspect some personality traits are immutable but I would like to give them the best possible chance of a brighter future.

Since I know very little about psychology I needed a guide and this book has proved to be just the ticket.  Not only that, it’s cheap.  Barb Rumson provides a practical  approach which can be adapted to meet the needs of children like mine.  So if a child’s reading age doesn’t match, I can simplify the language but give the same underlying message.

The book is made up of 12 lessons, designed for classroom use.   It begins with a short story  about two children demonstrating two very different personalities – ‘are you an optimist or a pessimist?’   Some of the exercises are designed for group activities, but the main meat of the material can be used independently.  Although you could follow each lesson sequentially, some lessons are more on target for a particular child.

I particularly liked the true/false questions, fifteen in all, on page 35.  This gives a snapshot of a child’s perspective and outlook on life in general.  This makes a great starting point to have an objective view of where a child is emotionally.  It may be that you’ll be surprised just how positive they are, and it also flags particular areas to work on, like self esteem.

I also like the activities that follow the lesson and help reinforce the message.  We have to pick and choose between these as most fall into the ‘less preferred’ category rather than the ‘fun’ category, although quite often there is a math or science option rather than the language/social science/arts/crafts option.

Meanwhile if anyone comes across a book, a very large one, on the subject:- strategies to defeat the negative voice in your head– that would be a great help.  Inner dialogue seems to have a strangle hold right now and I expect this is an area that lots of us are working on now that our children are growing older.

By the by, my chum Barbara over at TherExtras is hosting a book giveaway so head on over and make a comment to win.

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22 Things a Woman Must Know


–  If she loves a man with Asperger’s Syndrome by Rudy Simone.  Foreword by Maxine Aston

Now there’s a title that just slips of the tongue.  This book has been sculling around the house for more than 18 months in part because I didn’t feel I could really do it justice.  I do not know any young men, or even older men, with Asperger Syndrome.  All I know about, is autism, straight and complicated, and even then I would only ever claim to know a little bit about some aspects of autism.

Additionally, since I am an older woman in a long term partnership, I’m not qualified to consider early romantic emotions—can’t remember that far back.  So that’s why it’s sat there all this while.

Then, just the other day, we experienced something new.

I walked my youngest son away from his class room.  He was, as is quite common, railing at the world, his fists in the air, punching at the skies about all the many injustices of this world.

He was very loud.

People, other mums and dads and children in both directions, were privy to his opinions screamed to the clouds on high.  It’s hard to use your ‘inside’ voice when you have just escaped to the outside, so I thought it best to head for the car at high speed, and beat a hasty retreat.  I confirmed my sympathies with his plight—yes, backpacks on wheels may well be the work of the devil, but people are free to make their own choices and we must be careful not to hurt their feelings.

He seemed not to have noticed the two delightful little girls walking in front of us with the wheelie backpacks—pink.  Nor did he notice their shy glances back at him, the giggles, the smiles.  We gathered together at the curbside to cross the road.  He pogoed on the spot.  They watched.  Marching over the road,  stiff-legged Mario style, it was clear he would not let up any time soon.  His curses, Spongebob mode, continued to flow.  The girls stopped at their car and waved goodbye to my son, saying ‘see you tomorrow.’  Then he noticed them and when prompted, managed a reply.

It was a timely reminder.

Is my son about to have a relationship?

I doubt it.

Is he likely to have one in the future?

Undoubtedly.  I’ll deal with that in time as well or badly as any other parent.  But what about the person he forms a relationship with, if she happens to be a woman?  Would this book help her?  Should I give it to her now so she can read up in advance?

So with that rubric, lets see.

Reading this book reminded me of Cosmopolitan Magazine when I was a teen: straightforward, easy to understand language, brief and always with a positive spin at the end of each chapter which Rudy titled – on a positive note.  For those paragraphs alone, I would give her a good score card, and many of them made me howl with laughter.

I also enjoyed the paragraphs labeled ‘his words,’ which are comments by AS men about the subject of the chapter.  I don’t know if they’re quotes from real [anonymous] people, but I suspect they are.

Number 19 is a good example:- you will never change him, even if you can successfully change his behavior.

His words:-  “Asperger’s is just another thing like restless leg syndrome.”

Then Rudy writes:- “The very things that drive you nuts might be inherently intertwined with the things that are most beguiling.”

Now isn’t that the truth.  I wouldn’t necessarily agree with all that is written here but it is nonetheless valid, interesting and thought provoking.

And lastly, the illustrations by Emma Rios are, of course, quite simply  delightful.

Available from JKP and Amazon.

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The new fashion fiend

Generally, clothing of any kind has been largely superfluous to our lifestyle. Originally, the only thing that mattered was texture.  Anything else was immaterial. But recently, priorities have changed.

“I can’t wear that one–it makes me look fat.”

“This one’s jolly don’t you think?”

“I can’t wear that one– it makes me look ugly.”

“This one’s nice and soft, here, feel it.”

“That one makes me look like a dork.  I want this one.”

“No dear. You can’t wear that one–it’s ripped.”


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