Dear RezilientKidz Team,
Our family has really appreciated all your articles which provide creative ways to strengthen the 40 Developmental Assets in our home. One of the things you suggested we focus on is encouraging a positive attitude in our kids. I understand how all of the Assets you highlight can affect how others might respond and relate to my child, but why is a positive attitude significant?
In discussing the power of a positive attitude, one of my favorite quotes by Epictetus suggests that “it’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters.” A great example of this can be found in a remarkable story about nineteenth-century violinist, Niccolo Paganini. The gifted musician was performing a challenging piece before a packed house when suddenly one of the strings on his violin snapped. Unfazed, the virtuoso played on, improvising beautifully. Soon, however, a second string popped, followed by a third. With only one string remaining, the master performer completed the difficult piece and brought down the house.
Struggles and disappointments are an inevitable part of life. We need to help our kids discover how a positive perspective affects not only how they react to challenges – but how others react to them. That’s because a positive attitude impacts and colors the way we view others. Unlike a negative attitude which is generally rooted in a self-centered focus, a positive outlook allows us to see beyond our own troubles and recognize others’ needs. This frees us to approach others with empathy and to offer kindness and encouragement. These are qualities of healthy relationships, and most of us – children included — are drawn to people who demonstrate them.
A positive attitude also fosters hope, fun, friendship, and contentment. It’s vital that we not only model but that we also look for opportunities to strengthen Asset #40: Positive View of Personal Future, in the life of our children. Unlike the rotting, nasty smell of a negative attitude, a positive spirit attracts folks like the aroma of hot, fresh pizza. It’s a place kids want to be and the kind of person with whom they’d like to be friends. Just ask any kid who’s watched Winnie the Pooh – would they rather hang out with Tigger — or Eeyore?
If your children need more practice on how to “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative,” one of the best things you can do is model a positive attitude yourself. As you go through the day together, make a point to frequently express thankfulness – even for simple things like a roof over your head and food on the table. Demonstrate gratitude in your relationships with your spouse, children, family, friends, and co-workers. This helps cultivate the others-centered focus I mentioned earlier.
You can also actively reinforce your children’s behavior. When they say anything positive or display even the slightest bit of enthusiasm, you should smile, praise, and let them know how much you appreciate their upbeat attitude. You could even establish a reward system by putting a star chart on the refrigerator door and adding a sticker every time they say or do something that brightens the day. Once a goal has been reached, you can celebrate as a family with ice cream, pizza, or some other activity that you all enjoy.