teach your child to be an optimist

How to live with HOPE in a world where things go wrong.

When things go wrong what kind of story does your child tell themselves?

You might have a child who is an external processor, and you might hear them say things like:

"This always happens to me!"

"I'm never going to be good at anything!"

"I'm the worst, its all my fault!"

Your child may be an internal processor, in which case you may not even know that they are thinking this.

Either way, this type of thinking is glass half empty kinda vibe.

Consider the long-term effects of thinking this way.

Thoughts become beliefs.

Beliefs effect behaviour, which in turn effects the results we get.

traits of the pessimist

According to Martin Seligman, founder of the field of positive psychology, people with a pessimistic outlook tend to see situations through the lens of the 3 P's:

  • PERMANENT: the bad situation will last forever
  • PERVASIVE: the bad situation affects all other areas of their life
  • PERSONAL: it's all their fault

The phrases above a examples of this.

And if they are the words that your child is expressing, then they are the beliefs that your child is internalising.

why is this a problem?

Our ability to bounce back when things go wrong is one of the keys to success.

And as you can see from the diagram below, life rarely goes to plan.

And if your child has a pessimistic outlook:

  • they are often defeated before they even start, after all why bother if you are probably going to fail anyway?
  • why would they bother to persevere in the face of challenges?
  • why be brave, why pick themselves up after a failure?
  • what's the point of making strong decisions if they aren't hopeful of a positive outcome?

so what do you do instead?

You need to teach them to have HOPE.

HOPE is the mindset of the optimist.

HOPE is the fuel that will help your child to overcome the challenges and setbacks they will face.

HOPE will help them to be BRAVE and to PERSEVERE.

what is hope?

It's not just blindly expecting things to go well.

Nor is it about pretending everything is awesome when it clearly isn't.

These are examples of blind optimism.

The difference between blind optimism and HOPE is, with HOPE you have reasons to believe things will be OK.

Instead you are HOPEFUL because you have a plan and the ability to try and make it so.

HOPE is rooted in reality, not fantasy.

great, so how do you teach hope?

You need to help your child change the way that they think.

The 3 P's are an instinctive reaction, which means that they are a learned program of the unconscious mind.

The answer therefore, is to train the brain to run another program.

So instead of instinctively thinking through the lens of the 3 P's, it thinks something different.


Here's the program we train our kids to run.

Whenever something bad has happened the first step of the new program is to STOP and remember this fact:

Everything passes.

No matter how awful and difficult the situation might be right now, just like everything else...


what this does

'STOP' is a literal instruction to the brain.

It serves to interrupt the old thought pattern.

It creates some mental space, room for thoughts other than the 3 P's.

THIS TOO WILL PASS, helps your brain to be calm.

A calm is brain is creative and resourceful, it's a space where solutions can be thought of.

If you are angry, sad, or irritable, it's very difficult to think creatively and to come up with solutions to the problem.


The 123 bit, is all about moving forward, about finding HOPE.

HOPE means a strategy, a plan.

So, we think of:

ONE POSITIVE thing that has happened as a result of this experience.

TWO THINGS YOU LEARNED from this experience.


what this does

STOP123 takes you from HOPELESS to HOPEFUL (see diagram below)

Applying STOP123 helps you to move on from difficult situations quickly.

Thinking of ONE POSITIVE thing forces you to look at the situation differently and it changes how you feel about what happened. This puts you in an open and receptive state,

TWO THINGS YOU LEARNED helps you see that although it might have been a difficult experience, you still learned something from it.

THREE helps you to think creatively. It lays down potential solutions for the future brain to use a s a resource.

It teaches your child that there is always a way round a situation or a problem.

Three ideas also exercises the creative muscle, your brain has to work hard.

It's also an empowering exercise, it teaches your child that they always have choices, and that their choices influence their outcomes= great fro interior locus of control and self-motivation.

try it now...

Take a difficult or challenging situation from your past.

Write down what happened (facts only) and do the 123.

STOP might not be necessary as the situation will already have passed.

But you can 123 it.

how do you make it the new default program?

Simple, just like you learn anything... by repetition.

How do you repeat it?

Poster. See below.

Your conscious thoughts, when repeated often enough, become your unconscious thinking.

Just as when you first learned to drive, at first you had to think through each and every gear change, pedal press, and indication.

Now, you don't even think about it.

when and how to use it

It's a tool you can use at any time.

If at any moment you are feeling upset or down about something USE IT.

Or if you are reflecting upon a bad day, USE IT.

I like this idea of a story.

The internal dialogue is the story that your child is telling themselves.

They may not say those words outloud, they might just think them.

Maybe you do too.

If these words are your internal dialogue they become your beliefs and affect how you think and behave.

How you think and behave affects your results.

the best me that I can be

Your child is a unique blend of skills, strengths and passions. 

However, to be successful (at whatever they choose), they need to develop 6 key strengths.


Through a mixture of lessons, activities & challenges your child will learn:

  • how to start each day with the ZEST needed to tackle the challenges and obstacles they face in pursuit of their goals
  • to develop a HOPEFUL attitude so that they can be positive about themselves, their life, their effort and their outcomes
  • to develop SELF-REGULATION by focusing only on what they can control and making the right decision: what to DO/THINK/SAY next
  • the 3-steps needed to be able to think CREATIVELY so they can solve the problems & challenges they face
  • to embrace failure rather than fear it, and to develop their BRAVERY by learning to feel the fear and do it anyway 
  • the 3-step process that underpins all PERSEVERANCE: 1) finding their true purpose; 2) goal setting; 3) making progress 

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