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Questioner: Anonymous Subject: building optimism
Question: I have a 13 year old nephew and we are very close. He said something the other day that bothers me and I can’t get it out of my mind. My sister and her husband are divorced but they are amicable and both are active in the lives of X(13) and M(almost 12).
I was helping X with his homework and we were talking about his upcoming grades. He told me he had a test and I asked him how he did. He is an honor roll student (b average) and very conscientious. He is also sensitive and at times, introverted. He has a lot of friends and is very well liked.
He said the English teacher said the whole class did poorly on the test.
I said that he probably did well because his grades are good in that class. He said “No, I didn’t.” I told him to think positively and he said “I don’t like to think positively about anything.” I asked him why and he said “Because it always works out worse when I do.”
How can we build optimism in him?
Answer: Dear Anonymous, This sounds like a personality thing. Some people see the glass half full and we call them optimist and some people see the glass have empty and we call them pessimists. We choose to believe optimist have a better attitude in life.
How about looking at this in a different light. Optimist can become disillusioned by too many hits from life and pessimists can become very happy over small things which do go well. This is only true if you believe that the definition of either is looking on the bright side and expecting good things to happen to you. However the real definition of optimism is knowing no matter what happens their is something valuable which can be learned from the situation. Pessimism says no good can come from any situation.
I personally think we send the wrong message to children when we teach them to always look on the bright side as their is someing in life called REALITY. Sometimes situations in life just stink and there is no way to spin it differently however I can always look to see not a rainbow, instead what valuable lesson can I learn from the situation. This produces RESILIENT children rather than children who wear rose colored glasses. Your “sensitive” nephew sounds like he is probably very intuitive as well.
The challenge with these sensitive children is supportin them in admiring who they are and accepting themselves as they are, not in trying to change them as this only produces a feeling of I am not okay!
I believe your nephew is very fortunate to have you in his life to notice he is sensitive and to care so much about him that you would write to me!
You are a great resource to him!
M Kay Keller