Accentuating the Positive
Q: One of the things you suggested we focus on is encouraging a positive attitude in our kids. Why is a positive attitude so significant?
A: In discussing the power of a positive attitude, one of my favorite pastors and authors, Chuck Swindoll, suggests that “life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” Swindoll illustrates this point with a story about 19th-century violinist, Niccolo Paganini. The gifted musician was performing a challenging piece before a packed house when suddenly one of the strings on his violin snapped. Unfazed, the virtuoso played on, improvising beautifully. Soon, however, a second string popped, followed by a third. With only one string remaining, the master performer completed the difficult piece and brought down the house.
Struggles and disappointments are an inevitable part of life. We need to help our kids discover how a positive perspective affects not only how they react to challenges – but how others react to them.
That’s because a positive attitude impacts and colors the way we view others. Unlike a negative attitude, which is generally rooted in a self-centered focus, a positive outlook allows us to see beyond our own troubles and recognize others’ needs. This frees us to approach others with empathy and to offer kindness and encouragement. These are qualities of healthy relationships, and most of us – children included – are drawn to people who demonstrate them.
A positive attitude also fosters hope, fun, friendship, and contentment. Unlike the rotting, nasty smell of a negative attitude, a positive spirit attracts folks like the aroma of hot, fresh pizza. It’s a place kids want to be and the kind of person with whom they’d like to be friends. Just ask any kid who’s watched Winnie the Pooh – would they rather hang out with Tigger – or Eeyore?
If your children need more practice on how to “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative,” one of the best things you can do is model a positive attitude yourself. As you go through the day together, make a point to frequently express thankfulness – even for simple things like a roof over your head and food on the table. Demonstrate gratitude in your relationships with your spouse, children, family, friends, and co-workers. This helps cultivate the others-centered focus I mentioned earlier.
When they say something positive or display even the slightest bit of enthusiasm, recognize it and ask them how it feels to have the feeling that comes with a positive attitude? Is it freeing? Does it feel good? Do you think others like it? What do they feel? Help them recognize they have some control over their attitude and how they impact others. You could put a Lego/building block plate on the kitchen counter and use 30 Lego pieces. Each time your child recognizes or displays a positive attitude have him put a Lego piece building something. Once all the pieces have been used to build something, do something as a family to celebrate positivity being injected into the home and your child’s life. Talk about how a positive attitude can help build great memories and experiences. Learning to have a positive attitude regardless of what life brings creates a resilient and relational person.
A positive attitude adjustment will not only make for a better experience for your children, but your whole family will reap the benefits throughout the entire year.