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Teaching Happiness Through Role Modeling

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In his recent book “The Optimistic Child,” psychologist Martin Seligman points to the importance of strong role models in children’s lives. He argues that this is especially important when it comes to personal outlooks on life. He says that parents who display optimism are more likely to have children who are themselves optimistic.

An optimistic outlook serves us in every area of life. Approaching situations from a “glass half full” perspective leads to a greater ability to cope with adversity, higher levels of energy and a general increase of happiness. When we are predisposed to seeing things in a positive light it is harder to be knocked off course than when we start from a place of negativity or even neutrality.

Children are keen observers and quick learners. They inherentlyinternalize and imitate the behavior they observe. Parents should be especially careful of the actions they take (even everyday actions) and the things they say when children are watching or listening.

Role Modeling With A Positive Outlook

The goal should be demonstrating not only a positive outlook, but a measure of flexibility as well. No one can control everything in life and things don’t always go our way. Being able to adapt and problem solve as opposed to throwing one’s arms up or raising one’s voice demonstrates to children a better way to act.

While we can’t always influence the outcome of a situation as much as we would like, we are able to influence our own attitude. By approaching things from a place of “where can I help” as opposed to “look what went wrong” we are setting ourselves up for better outcomes. At the very least, we enable ourselves to be happier no matter what the outcome.

Parents: Make an effort to talk things out in view of your children. Run through the options and come to a calm, rational decision. It can even be good to involve them to some degree. By actively demonstrating an optimistic attitude, desire to cope and ability to work through problems children will begin to learn to deal with life in a healthier way.

Teens: Do you ever get so frustrated that you just don’t know how to deal with a situation? How did you react, and what was the outcome? Think of some people in your life that you admire. Try to recall a time that they dealt with something that didn’t go their way. Some of the greatest influences in our lives are not the people who had everything go their way, but those who faced adversity and still came out the other end.

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