As a parent, watching your child struggle at something can be difficult. Seeing him or her fail can be devastating. Optimism allows you, as a parent, to find the positives in struggle and failure. Your child will experience both many times, and you have the job of cultivating an atmosphere where positives can be found in negatives. Setbacks can provide invaluable insight into the situation and the person. If setbacks or failures are seen as disasters, your children will lose hope when these invariably occur.
You want your children to know and understand how to positively make use of the setbacks and failures in their lives. Your child might benefit if you read with them the autobiography of a famous person. Choose someone in a field that interests your child. Successful, accomplished people rarely, if ever, have a life of continual stair-step-progress. Most have a life punctuated by spectacular failures, each of which taught them an important lesson they were able to use to eventually achieve success.
You must be your child’s and your family’s cheerleader. Often, you can more easily motivate those members of the family you are closer to and identify with. You may have a harder time connecting with the withdrawn child, or the child who is opposite of your personality. To be able to communicate a vision of a positive future, you must have established lines of communication with all family members. If you do not, you will need to spend time establishing or restoring those communication lines, which are really the lifelines of your relationship.
Take a moment to get a journal, and write out a blessing for each family member. What positives do you see in their future? Now, how can you strengthen and nurture those positives? Be honest about any family members with whom you’re having difficulty relating. What is the source of the difficulty? Is it a personality trait in that person, and one that you might have yourself? What are three positive steps you can take to improve your communication and relationship with that person? Remember, you must not only believe in the positive future of that person; you also need to communicate that belief in a way that is meaningful and accepted.
Next, write down what your definition of “success” would be for each person’s life. Find a quiet moment with each of them, and ask what his or her definition of success is. For smaller children, you might frame the question as to what sorts of things make them feel happy or really good about themselves. For older children who understand the concept of success, ask the question, and communicate your desire to know their definition. This isn’t a time to share your definition, but rather to listen. Now, compare the two definitions. In most cases, you will see areas of difference.
You can help your child understand and appreciate success. Depending upon the age of your child, his or her definition of success may seem shallow—winning a game, growing older, or physical beauty. But with their definition, you can find hints of nascent needs and desires. The child who views success as winning a game may have a higher need for acknowledgement and recognition. The child who views success as growing older may be going through an awkward stage of life or view an older sibling as a role model. The child who views physical beauty as success may harbor feelings of inferiority due to a perceived lack of physical attractiveness. Your job is to help your child understand the true meaning of success; it is also very much a time to listen to your child tell you what success means to him or her. In this way, you can begin the process of integrating your, and your child’s, definitions together to help your child soar.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 29 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.