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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