Teaching positivity—positive thinking—to children is important but should not lead to showering them with unmerited praise, and encouraging them to avoid competition so they will not experience loss. If praise is insincere, and children are not allowed to compete and lose, they can develop unrealistic expectations about life and won’t learn how to deal with disappointment and failure. Parents, teachers, and coaches must learn where to draw the line.
Amazing Benefits Come From Positive Thinking
Parents should work to instill positive thinking in their children, which is not a refusal to look at or accept the negative aspects of their lives and experiences; it is the mind-set of being convinced that actions can be taken to create positive changes in their lives. To teach a child to think positively will bring about amazing benefits that will help empower a child throughout his life. Studies show that a positive approach to life will:
- Enhance physical health
- maintain a healthy blood pressure
- boost the immune system
- decrease the chances of cardiovascular disease
- Enhance mental and emotional health
- reduce stress levels
- lessen the risk of depression
- provide a coping mechanism for dealing with failure and disappointment
You can instill positivity in children even if they do not have natural “sunny” dispositions:
- Be a positive thinker and encourage them to spend time with other positive thinkers.
- Frequently point out the beauties of nature that can calm the spirit and delight the mind.
- Encourage a love of music, both listening and/or performing.
- Teach them the joy of playing games for fun and/or competitively.
- Praise them and compliment them.
- At the end of each day, ask them to tell you what made them happy or to describe the best part of their day. Share what made you feel grateful and happy, too.
Sharing positive attitudes, words, and praise encourages children to be positive and helps improve their self-confidence and happiness.
Lavishing Unwarranted Praise is Harmful
There is a difference between positive thinking and telling children they are really good and successful at everything they do, even when they have done poorly. This attitude of “everyone is a winner,” “let’s not keep score,” “let’s not give grades,” “let’s hand every participant a medal,” and “no child should experience losing” produces adults who can’t handle any kind of loss. This “everyone is a winner” environment teaches children that losing is a disgrace, and gives them no opportunity to process disappointment.
Allow your child to lose and explain the positives of losing:
- Losing is useful because it is part of the learning process and teaches children what they must work on to improve.
- You are proud of your child for having taken a shot at something and tried his best.
- If your child didn’t try his best, point out that trying harder next time may bring success and will help him improve but you always love him regardless of his success or failure.
- All top-notch competitors in sports, school, music, art, etc., lose over and over on their way to the top, and never give up. The key is to learn from mistakes and not to feel more than a passing disappointment about not achieving a goal.
Teach Your Child Coping Skills
Adults who think positively and know how to handle loss were praised honestly as children and taught how to learn from losing. They learned:
- to work on their skills and to analyze what they needed to do to improve
- the very important lesson that the “best team” or the “best” at anything, or “trying harder” doesn’t necessarily produce a win and that’s okay
- empathy is developed by experiencing what it feels like to lose
- self-control and the social skills of winning gracefully and losing with dignity need to be developed
- losing doesn’t destroy the fun of playing or competing
- there is an element of luck involved in life that must be accepted—hence the sayings, “Better luck next time” and “May the best team win”
Let your child cry or express his disappointment if he loses. Remind him that there is always room for improvement—if that is what is needed—or good luck may be on his side next time—if that is what is needed, and you are proud of him and happy that he made an effort. Your child needs to learn that losing is acceptable to you and should be to him.
It is important to praise your child regularly, but make sure it is honest praise and not a hollow tribute that leads a child to believe nothing better can be achieved, there is no reason to try harder, and it is unfair for him to lose. Self-confidence is built by being complemented on effort, win or lose, and children should learn to accept compliments and learn to complement others. Remember that honest praise is positivity that empowers children for life.
Do you agree that losing teaches children valuable lessons?
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