The Optimistic Child

A proven program to safeguard children against depression and build lifelong resilience by Martin E.P. Siligman, Ph.D.,


I’m not here to argue with the premise of this book as that kind of review is available elsewhere.  Instead, I’m going to attempt to see whether the strategies contained within this book might be applicable to children such as ours.


First up, the mainstream population is also on a spectrum and therefore the success of failure of such an approach is probably equally as problematical, but our children present in a different order of magnitude.  Their opinions, behavior and way of life as so deeply ingrained as to be part of them, integral.  In many ways, to extract the elements which we [some of us] believe are unhelpful, is to destroy that which is the essence of the child.  Sounds like gobbledegook?  Let me give you an example.  Take perfectionism.  You know what it is, I don’t need to explain it.  You also now how it ‘presents’ in your particular child.  I would hazard a guess that it is, in some realms at least, all pervasive, all encompassing and impossible to eradicate no matter how disabling the net result.  The anguish, stress and anxiety caused by the ‘less than perfect’  falls off the end of the Richter scale.

So, after all the numerous strategies we have all been using since day one, how might this book have an impact?

Well, for one thing, around here, we have greater powers of speech and self expression, so we have a better understanding of the difficulties our children experience.  They are bigger, older and grow in tolerance as they master elements of flexibility.


So why bother?  We’ve tried something like this before with no particular impact.  There are always infinite variations on a theme and no magic bullet.  How is this any different from its fellows?  Will it work?

Who knows, but isn’t it worth chipping away – not at the foundations necessarily but at the core from where so much of the negativity flows from.

I’m doubtful if it’s possible to change some children from pessimists to optimists, but I’m hopeful that it is possible to teach people strategies that may help prevent hitting self destruct.  For instance, in view of the degree of impulsivity common is so many of our children, if it were possible to help them, in a moment of despair, to pause, reflect for a moment, rethink their options and make better choices…if not now, then in the future, with practice, so there’s just a chance that when we’re not around to coach them they’ll be able to retrieve some of those strategies.  Certainly gets my vote.

And you’re right, in a way.  I won’t sell you the package, merely differentiate the choice.  Think of it as a refresher course.  Maybe it wasn’t ineffective 6 months ago, or two years ago, but maybe now, at this stage of their development its worth having another go.  Reading about strategies, thought processes and practicing the work sheets [adapted and modified for a better fit] might galvanize new growth and inspire burst of productivity, after all  we’re all just a work in progress, aren’t we?

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