My kids are too young to realize it yet, but we live in a pretty negative world. We, as adults, are pessimistic about everything these days. From the weather to politics, to the state of the economy, everything is going for a big steamy poop. Just about everything we consume, from our food and drink to our choice of a TV show, is bad for us. Even the majority of music coming out these days is garbage. In short, everything sucks.
So how the heck are we supposed to raise our kids to be positive?
I know what we’ll do: we can give everyone a medal for participation. That will keep everyone positive, right? Not so much. All that does is grow a generation of spoiled, entitled wuss bags who don’t know how to deal with defeat.
So what’s a parent to do?
In my opinion, the best way to teach positivity is to teach failure. Now I’m not talking about breaking a kid’s spirit with a constant barrage of losing endeavors. I’m talking about teaching a kid that, even if you lose or don’t succeed at something, it doesn’t need change who you are and it doesn’t change your potential to succeed in the future.
Just think of old Charlie Brown. His team lost every baseball game they played. But the start of every outing, he went in thinking “today was the day we finally win.” Positivity despite adversity. It’s the same idea as the adage “Life goes on.” I don’t want my kids to put too much stock into losing a little league game. It’s just a game. As adults, we seem to put too much stock in kids sports these days. Every wants their kid to have that extra edge. I just want my kids to have fun and enjoy playing whatever it is they want to play.
Then there’s positive reinforcement. Now my four-year-old needs a push to try some things. Sometimes a big push. Getting my son on a bike this year, even with training wheels, was a challenge. If it were up to him, he still never would have sat on that seat. We had to force him on to the seat. Once he was on it, we used an obnoxious amount of encouragement and positive reinforcement. He hated us for doing it, but once he saw that he could do it himself, it was hard to get him off the bike. It was the same thing with the pool. Swimming lessons were a nightmare. Who knew a three-year-old could scream bloody murder for 25 minutes straight, six weeks in a row? But I think he saw that we stayed positive about it, and about swimming in general. Now, it’s hard to get him out of the pool.
So maybe that’s the other trick to raising a positive child; to lead by example. Kids are more observant than we like to think. If my kids see my wife coming home and talking about how she thinks she’s doing a terrible job at work, how is that going to affect their confidence when they go to school? They’re probably going to start thinking the same way about themselves. As I write about this, I’m thinking of more and more ways that I’m negative about things around the house. It’s going to be a difficult mindset to change, but if I want my kids to be positive, I’m going to have to do the same.
So here goes. Dinner will not suck tonight (even if it actually tastes like dog food).