It is believed that children are by nature optimists: inquisitive, active, seeking new discoveries and achievements. But in fact, children, like adults, are optimists and pessimists. It’s just that it is easier and more convenient to communicate with the first adults, but the second ones are little studied. Expert “O!” Psychologist Anna Skavitina in an open dialogue with a collective image of the mother of a child-pessimist answered the most interesting questions on this topic.
- I would like my child to be an optimist, that everything was easy for him, that he would see the good in everything, and he constantly aches and that makes us all deprived. Is it possible to retrain him or is it just necessary to live with such a pessimist?
- Are you sure that being a pessimist is definitely bad?
- For example, it turned out that children with high scores in optimism tests are less likely to go to university.
- Does it happen? Probably, they hope at random, right?
- Yes, for example. It is easier for many people to communicate with optimists, optimists themselves believe that “good always triumphs over evil” and seems to inspire this belief in others. It is this sense, by the way, that Leibniz put into the term “optimism” in the 18th century, inventing the name of a certain kind of thinking. But the word "pessimist" appeared about 100 years later from Schopenhauer, and meant that for a person suffering, sadness and sadness outweigh pleasure and happiness. That is, an optimist is about thinking, and pessimism is about the emotional aspect. It turns out that optimism and pessimism are not antonyms, as is commonly believed by many. And you can even be a pessimist and optimist at the same time. Or in some areas an optimist, and in others a pessimist. Many research psychologists adhere to the concept that optimism and pessimism are not black and white or day and night, but different human characteristics.
- That is, we do not need to change anything in the child’s life, but do we need to get used to it?
- Not certainly in that way. The last decades the theme of optimism and the positive aspects of human life is becoming increasingly relevant: how to feel happy, how to achieve success, self-realization, personal growth. Many parents want to convert their children into optimists, the literary image of Polianna has become a symbol of happy overcoming obstacles. In American psychology, there was even a separate area of “positive psychology,” the founder of which was M. Saligman, who devoted his whole life to the study of optimism. With the help of re-educating all people into optimists, one could try to solve the problem of preventing depression, experiencing stress, developing motivation, perseverance, and achieving great success in sports.
Anthropologist Tiger, in his book Optimism: A Biology of Hope, believes that optimism is one of our most adaptive characteristics acquired through natural selection. Optimism or pessimism occurs when people begin to anticipate, think about the future. But people can imagine terrible events in the future, including their own death. Evolutionarily, a mechanism should have arisen that does not allow fear to paralyze a person, and this mechanism, according to L. Tiger, is optimism. It turns out that optimism is a congenital, inherited characteristic inherent in all people in one way or another. This is our way to survive, to cope with the nightmares of the world.
We are all innate optimists, because we do not occupy our head every second with thoughts about the horrors of this life. But a look at optimism, as a panacea for all misfortunes, which is propagated in popular psychological articles, especially American ones, leads to unrealistic expectations and subsequently to even greater disappointments, as well as to the suppression of negative experiences, restriction of the expression of negative ideas, and also harm to many people who feel somehow “wrong” because of their “wrong” feelings. Negative emotions and thoughts have the right to exist, one American professor of psychology Barbara Held even published a book called “Stop smiling, start grumbling!”
In today's achievement-oriented world, it is assumed that an optimistic person is confidently moving towards his goal, and a pessimist doubts that he can achieve something. There is a lot of truth in this. That is, talking about optimism or pessimism, we are talking about self-reliance, about the value of a goal for this person. Optimists, facing obstacles, break through, and pessimists often surrender under various pretexts: I can’t cope, I don’t really want to, it’s not mine at all.
- That is, it is possible to say that pessimists are not self-confident people?
- Yes, it can be so. In the American study, Princeton Pen, they studied the influence of optimism and pessimism on the success of educational activities. First, they found that poor performance of the child is often combined with depression, and the main risk factors are the pessimistic style of explaining what is happening and adverse life events, such as constant family scandals, divorces, instability in life. It is difficult for children to break out of the circle: depression, pessimistic style of explaining what is happening, deterioration in school, increased depression. That is, often constantly pessimistic children are children in adverse life circumstances and / or with depression.
Do you think your child’s pessimism affects studying?
- Yes, it affects, how else! It is difficult for him to do much, as he is not sure that he will cope.
- Here, we already see one difficulty with which it is quite possible to do something, right?
- Probably. But still the child is in adverse conditions, as you call it, because we constantly fight with him, and two years ago there was a divorce from his father. But it seemed to me that this had no effect on him.
- Yes, it is difficult to admit the influence of divorce or family scandals on the child, because then we have to deal with their unpleasant experiences.
- Are all pessimists children of depression or life difficulties?
- No, not all. It turns out that people with increased anxiety have “defensive pessimism” - a strategy of psychological defense. They unknowingly reduce their expectations from future events in order to be less disappointed in the aftermath of a failure, although in the past they have had a completely successful experience and normal results. And this strategy is a winning one for them! They are not worse than optimists cope with all sorts of tasks, do not give up attempts to achieve success, try to start time after time in case of failure. Anxious people who do not use such a strategy cope with various tasks worse.
“Oh, defensive pessimism is about me!” I understood, I cope with my anxiety so much!
- Considering optimists and pessimists, it is important for us to think about the strengths and weaknesses of their abilities: optimists are more persistent, more easily cope with failures, but often underestimate risk factors and overestimate their strength.
Pessimists are prudent, analytical, attentive to details. They are effective in professions where it is necessary to evaluate all risk factors. In some specialties, people with a pessimistic style of explaining events turn out to be more successful and in demand, for example, among lawyers, financial directors, and accountants. Thus, optimists and pessimists can be effective in their area of expertise.
- Tell me, and if someone is so lucky that the child is an optimist, can you relax and no longer educate?
- If your child is an optimist, then, of course, you need to pay more attention to teaching risk miscalculations, thoughts about calculations, considering the different consequences of events.
- And if the child is a pessimist? Can I make it a little more optimistic? About what you need to check for depression, to work with a psychologist and about the adoption and change of our life situation, I already understood. Are there any special methods that influence the pessimistic way of thinking?
- Of course there is. M. Seligman wrote a whole book, How to Learn Optimism. You can try to master it yourself first, and then teach your child the strategies of NMPOA: H - trouble, M - opinion, P - consequence, O-discussion, A - activation. Applying this strategy first:
we identify the trouble that causes negative experiences,
we look for opinions connected with it and discuss the consequences to which these opinions lead.
Realizing these elements, we begin a discussion of the troubles with ourselves, aimed at replacing our own negative opinions with other, more positive ones that correspond to the optimistic style of explanation.
after positive opinions can be added to negative opinions, a person should become more active, supporting his new ways of explaining. That is, you can do something small that will fix this style of thinking.
Another method of developing optimism is personal self-efficacy training. The purpose of this procedure is to develop individual skills and abilities, the formation of private types of competence (for example, training perseverance or communication skills). The psychologist gives a person the opportunity to experience the experience of successfully overcoming difficulties, on the basis of which he forms a positive level of optimism. But often as a result, there is also an improvement in relations in school, with teachers and children, in the family.
- Tell me, please, does genetics really not affect the birth of pessimists and optimists?
- It affects, and how! In twin studies (this is when the twins, due to circumstances, are brought up together or separately and look at how different factors have influenced them), it is shown that high optimism scores are transmitted along with temperament. But with age, optimism can both decrease and increase, which means that we can at least partially affect the genetically defined characteristics of our children.
- I understand, there is something to work on.
Read other articles by Anna Skavitina on "Oh!"
Popularly about psychology for moms and dads
I want to know for comparison and moral guidelines - how do you cope with small whiners and melancholics, which any trifle can move to tears, which are sure in advance that everything will be bad?
I understand that pessimism needs to refute with a constant smile and insist that everything will be fine, and then pay attention to the successes and advantages, but here are constant tears for any reason and whining - how do you deal with this?
I personally sometimes do not have the strength and I say that as long as he whimpers, I will neither play nor talk with him. I can just turn around and go into another room, explaining the reason. In response, a boy (4 years old) is trying to hold back his tears and guards - I no longer cry. On the one hand, it is overcoming oneself, and on the other hand, it crushes, pushes into itself, what could be the path to neurosis. What to do? And I’m already tired of myself, and my husband complains, and I worry that it will be difficult for the boy to communicate with other people if he does not learn to restrain himself and is the same whimper.
He has enough good emotions in life, love, encouragement and caress too. just a character like that. How do you behave if you have the same child?