Don’t you just love optimism? It’s the feeling that rejuvenates you after first feeling stuck in life. Largely a learned behavior, it gives you hope in your world. When you make optimism your “normal,” you catapult yourself into lively, exciting, desirable relationships and situations. Teaching your child to habitually be optimistic helps him or her excel in life.
As parents, perhaps beyond our conscious awareness, we subconsciously model optimism or pessimism to our children. When we complain instead of change our thoughts and behaviors to ones that embrace the value of new possibilities, we teach pessimism. Conversely, after being in an unpleasant situation and then optimistically recovering, we model optimism.
Feeling hopeful strengthens us to keep moving forward in life. Others who see us optimistically deal with life may try to convince us that we’re crazy. But actually, we are simply choosing to be in a better mental world than that of a pessimist who stays stuck in inaction. Ah, to be optimistic means to see things in a completely different way than many people see it.
Example of Modeling Optimism To My Son
I remember one time my son Jason, five years old at the time, got a simple optimism lesson. As a result of the learning opportunity, he gained inner strength to forge courageously forward in life. Repeating the message of focusing on possibilities, he learned to make the best of challenging situations throughout his brief life. Being optimistic for many is counter-intuitive with all the negativity in the world. It takes practice, but it is well worth it in the long run.
Habitually choosing to be the most optimistic we could be, we successfully battled Jason’s rare birth disorder until his passing at age twelve. As a family, we chose to focus on finding optimistic outcomes in life. My husband and I still do that. Being optimistic about how we can thrive, we experience the best possible outcomes even during life’s greatest of challenges.
During this one situation, Jason reluctantly yielded to and accepted me assigning him to vacuum his room. Once he recognized and agreed the task would need to be done by him, he quietly disappeared into his bedroom. He quickly exited his room and went to the closet where we stored the vacuum. Grabbing its handle, he optimistically wheeled the machine into his room.
He loved Star Wars and fantasized being Luke Skywalker. So, instead of being bored vacuuming the carpet in his room, he adopted the role of Luke. He wasn’t vacuuming. Instead he imagined landing on Tatooine in his spacecraft. His mission was to gather planetary soil samples using his SMMC-253 Roving Sample Extractor (i.e. vacuum cleaner.)
Getting to work, he planned to extract the necessary planet surface samples quickly. Other missions like playing outside awaited his attention. He began his mission task by wheeling his Roving Sample Extractor (or RSE as we called it) over various places in his room. Vrooom! hummed the machine efficiently cleaning the high traffic area alongside his bed. The mission went smoothly but then, disaster struck.
A space monster’s star shaped magic coins (i.e. a foreign objects) were inadvertently drawn up into the RSE by its powerful suction. Bouncing around inside the SMMC-253’s suction chamber, the coins pierced the relative peace of the room’s surroundings. Fearing the RSE might explode at any moment, Luke (aka Jason) skedaddled out of his bedroom. Using The Force, he intuitively searched for me. He located me in the kitchen.
“What’s wrong, Jase, I mean Luke?”
“In my bedroom…it’s a monster! I’m not going back in there alone!”
“I see. Well, let’s use The Force and go investigate.”
Walking a couple of steps behind me down the hall back to his bedroom, Jason felt wary of entering his room at all. He obviously wasn’t very optimistic things were pleasant in his room. I quickly turned the vacuum cleaner off. I unplugged it and turned it over on its side to see what Luke had extracted into it during this vacuuming mission.
I held up a tiny plastic object…a red Lite Brite bulb. I motioned to Jason to come back into his bedroom and showed him the object.
“Lite Brite.” he said. “Not a monster.”
“Nope, no monster.”
“I don’t want to vacuum anymore today.”
“Okay. That’s fine. You still need to take your shower…”
“My shower! I don’t want to take a shower, Mommy.”
“I see. Well, the vacuuming still needs to be done. I tell you what, let’s switch jobs. I’m cleaning out the oven. You do that and I’ll vacuum.”
“I don’t want to do that, either.”
“Then finishing the vacuuming it is for you! Good choice.”
“But Mommy, what if the same thing happens again?”
“What would Luke Skywalker do?”
“Use his light saber on it?”
“How would using the light saber on the vacuum cleaner keep stuff from being sucked up into the vacuum?”
“You know what I do when I feel afraid, Jase, I mean Luke… I pray. I ask God to protect me from harm. Want to do that?”
So, we prayed together and asked God to give Jason courage, strength and protection to finish the vacuuming. After we finished the prayer, Jason felt empowered.
The Result of Modeling An Optimistic Attitude
How do I know Jason felt empowered using optimism? His behavior changed.
After I left his room, he switched the vacuum cleaner back on. Guess what? He sucked up another Lite Brite. Being braver this time, the clackity-clack of the Lite Brite bulb bouncing around inside the vacuum only mildly scared him.
This time he took command of his mind, optimistically knowing what to do to improve things. He quickly turned off the vacuum and said a prayer. Then, he unplugged it, removed the hard piece of plastic, and returned the vacuum to its correct vertical position again. He plugged it back in and resumed vacuuming.
Having worked through how to face and conquer his fear of being attacked by magic pointy coins, Jason, I mean Luke, optimistically and successfully completed the rest of this mission. Embracing the value of optimism and thinking in possibilities that could favor him, Jason conquered fear. In our family, we simply choose to find the possible in what may initially seem impossible.
Now, I challenge you to go forth and model the optimistic way of life to your own children. May the Optimistic Force be with you!