• Optimist vs Pessimist in Parenting

    I am getting rid of books. I have just run out of space. I am going through my early childhood parenting books and I re-read the highlights and take notes before they go the book club.

    I did this one:

    How to Raise a Child with a High EQ
    By Lawrence E. Shapiro, Ph.D.

    A number of years ago EQ –Emotional Quotient was all the rage. Your emotions were more important than intelligence.  I think an intelligent person would realize emotions are important and vice-versa but that’s for another time.

    If you have seen me for an ‘auto-immune’ disease you may remember I asked more about your emotions than the ‘illnesses’. Emotions are Chemicals and more Chemicals and a whole lot of other things, like electrical impulses. But the point is if a person mostly has the same emotion to events that normally would have a varied emotional response. Then they will have too much of a certain emotional chemistry.

    That’s when things go bad. Those chemicals of emotions require raw materials that your body has to make from things you eat, well actually things you absorb from things you eat, well actually things your body converts things to from things you absorbed. Which requires you to have a good variety of internal chemistry in order to convert them.

    However I digress. What follows is taken mostly verbatim from Dr Shapiro’s book with comments from me. It does apply to any age and not just parenting.

    I personally struggle with being pessimistic. There is research indicating some people are born pessimistic. I don’t know about that but I do know like all behaviors a person can alter theirs.

    Optimism is more than just positive thinking. It is a habit of positive thinking. “a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and expect the most favorable outcome.”

    This of course would need to be accompanied by appropriate actions.

    Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is where you buy a car and start seeing that car everywhere. I think of it like training to be optimistic and working towards that goal. With time and practice my brain (your brain) can develop a bias that in a blink of an eye it will choose to release chemicals (emotions and actions) that lead us towards more positive outcomes. Don’t worry bad things will still happen. It’s not magic, sometimes life has bad events.

    Optimistic vs Pessimistic people.

    A big difference between each type of person is how they explain the causes of both good and bad events.

    The optimist believes that positive, happy events are explained by things that are permanent (they will keep happening over time) and are pervasive (they will keep happening in different situations). The optimist also takes the appropriate responsibility for making good things happen. If something bad happens, they see it as a temporary and specific to that situation and they are realistic about whether they have caused the bad event.

    The pessimist thinks in opposite terms: Good events are temporary, bad events are permanent. Good events are the result of luck and bad events are more predictable. The pessimist also makes mistakes in assigning blame. They will tend to either blame themselves for everything bad that happens or blame everyone else.

    What happens in life is a combination of several somewhat controllable, uncontrollable and random influences. But what people focus on tends to grow. Do you focus on it’s all just bad luck. Or do you focus on getting better at what you are trying to do?

    A pessimist may also be predisposed to ‘catastrophizing.’ While being prepared for the worst case scenario can be appropriate in dire circumstances, it is not appropriate in day to day life. The child who cries and sulks because they did not make the basketball team or their parents won’t let them pierce their ears are deliberately distorting the significance of these events and synchronizing their emotional response to their distortion rather than reality. If you respond to your child’s pessimistic view of the world rather than the logical one, you may reinforce their tendency to view events as bleakly as possible.

    Optimism is NOT cheerleading. It is a positive and realistic way of looking at a problem. Everyone will have a wide array of challenges (problems/opportunities) in life. How you approach them can and will alter how your brain and body deal with them. Being in an attitude of “I can win/survive/strive in this situation”  has a lot more options than, “I am going to fail, why try?”

    Sometimes you, your child, friend, family…. Need professional help. Counseling, psychology, medications, supplements. My wish is it never gets that far along. When we start with our children and model and coach emotional wellness it can have a life time of positive effects.

    I have a friend that I am sure if he saw his house on fire, he’d pull out marshmallows and start roasting them and singing. He really just sees the sunny side of life. He’s been through a lot of tough stuff and yet he is predominately positive. Me not so much, but I continue to work on it as seeing him over the years. It’s a better way to be.

    Be Well,
    Ward Willison
    Kelowna Acupuncture & Other Natural Therapies