April 25, 2004

Teaching Optimism

Optimism can be learned, and it can be taught. Here is an excerpt from The Optimistic Child: A Proven Program to Safeguard Children Against Depression and Build Lifelong Resilience, by Martin E. P. Seligman:

Optimistic children explain good events to themselves in terms of permanent causes. They point to traits and abilities that they will always have, like being hard-working, likable, or lovable. They use "always" when they describe the causes of good events. Pessimists think in terms of transient causes. "I was in a good mood," or "I practiced hard this time." Their explanations of good events are qualified with the words, "sometimes" and "today," and they often use the past tense and limit it to time only ("I practiced hard this time."). When children who believe their successes have permanent causes do well, they will try even harder next time. Children who see temporary reasons for good events may give up even when they succeed, believing the success was a fluke.

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