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Raising Resilient and Optimistic Children

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Presentation on theme: "Raising Resilient and Optimistic Children"— Presentation transcript:

1 Raising Resilient and Optimistic Children
Abby Medcalf, PhD New Bridge Foundation Berkeley, CA Private Practice

2 Overview Background Optimism vs. Pessimism Raising Optimistic Kids
Growth vs. Fixed Mindset Practical Tips and Tools

3 Evolution of Feeling Negative
Natural selection likely favored growth of negative emotions as life saving innovation Fight to the death = extreme negative emotions Those ancestors who felt negative emotions strongest likely fought and fled the best, and passed on relevant genes

4 Evolution of Feeling Positive
Positive emotions have grand purpose in evolution They broaden intellectual, physical, & social resources, building up reserves for when a threat or opportunity presents itself When in positive mood, people like us better and friendship, love, & coalitions cement Mental set is expansive, tolerant and creative; open to new ideas and experience

5 Heritable or Changeable
High heritability does NOT equal unchangeable Traits like height and weight don’t change much Pessimism and fearfulness are very changeable

6 Pessimists are…. 8X more likely to become depressed when bad events happen Do worse at school and sports Have less demanding jobs than their talents warrant Have worse physical health and shorter lives Have rockier interpersonal relations Lose American Presidential elections to their more optimistic opponents.

7 When we’re unhappy, we…. Become distrustful Turn inward
Focus defensively on our own needs Looking out for number one is more characteristic of sadness than of well-being

8 Optimists Have better health and live longer
Happy people are half as likely to die or become disabled as unhappy folks Better health habits, lower blood pressure, feistier immune systems More productive with higher income Endure pain better and take more health and safety precautions Display more empathy and willing to donate more time and money Make approx. 4X more money

9 When kids are happy they are….
Less self-focused, like others more, and want to share good things Less likely to use drugs or alcohol abusively and wait longer before even trying drugs and alcohol Less likely to have unprotected sex and wait longer to engage in sexual activity beyond “petting” More altruistic, overall

10 Martin Seligman, Explanatory Styles and the “Three P’s”
Mechanics of Optimism Martin Seligman, Explanatory Styles and the “Three P’s”

11 Explanatory Styles We are constantly talking to ourselves; this is our internal dialogue We are always interpreting events; both positive and negative Seligman identified 3 primary elements of explanatory style: The Three P’s

12 Permanence Permanent versus Temporary
People who believe good events have permanent causes are more Optimistic than people who believe they have temporary causes Optimists explain good events to themselves in terms of permanent causes: traits, abilities, always Pessimists name transient causes: moods, efforts, sometimes

13 Permanence I’m always lucky It’s my lucky day I’m talented I try hard
I ask my kid to do things when he’s absorbed in a video game It’s my lucky day I try hard My kid never listens

14 Pervasiveness Specific vs. Universal
Do we think the results of this one event apply to everything in our lives, or just that episode? I get toothpaste on my shirt in the morning. Is my whole day ruined, or do I just change my shirt?

15 Pervasiveness Do you catastrophize and generalize?
All trainings suck versus this training sucks Homework is a waste of time versus this particular assignment, in this particular class, is not helpful

16 Hope Whether or not we have hope depends the first 2 P’s
Finding temporary and specific causes for misfortune is the art of hope Finding permanent and universal causes for bad stuff is the practice of despair

17 Hope “I’m stupid” versus “I’m a normal parent who missed some signs in my daughter” “Men are bad” versus “My husband was in a bad mood today” This is your most important score

18 Personalization People who believe they cause good things tend to like themselves better than people who believe good things come from other people or circumstances Locus of control: am I responsible for an event or was something outside of my control responsible?

19 Personalization People who blame external events do not lose self-esteem when bad things happen On the whole, they like themselves better than people who blame themselves “I have no talent at poker” versus “I have no luck at poker” “I’m insecure” versus “I grew up with parents who were neglectful and abusive and this impacts how I act”

20 Realism Optimism is not always a good thing: I like a pessimistic pilot Pessimists are not more realistic than optimists

21 California Education 1986: The State Task Force to Promote Self- Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility Academic failure, substance abuse, crime, poverty, violence, teen pregnancy, etc. all due to low self-esteem 1990:“Toward a State of Self-Esteem” No more red pencils Ribbons for everyone

22 Dr. Roy Baumeister Reviewed 15,000 scholarly articles written on self-esteem from ; found that only 200 had scientifically sound way to measure self esteem and outcomes Concluded that high self-esteem didn’t improve grades or career achievement, reduce alcohol/drug use, reduce sexual activity or violence among youth

23 The Optimistic Child Self-esteem is a feeling state (embarrassment, satisfaction, contentment), but these feelings are rooted in the success of our commerce with the world What a child does (mastery, persistence, overcoming frustration and boredom, meeting challenges) is at the core of self-esteem

24 Self-esteem is not shifted with affirmations, it’s changed with mastery

25 Self-Esteem Feelings of self-esteem and happiness develop as side effects of mastering challenges, working successfully, overcoming frustration and boredom and winning The feeling of self-esteem is a by- product of doing well.

26 So, it’s not encouraging children to feel good, but teaching children the skills of doing well

27 Depression Until the 1960s depression was a fairly unusual condition, typically reported in middle-aged women Currently, this is considered the “common cold” of mental illness with depression being diagnosed in junior high school or earlier. People born after the “feeling-good” era and self-esteem movement are suffering depression at about 10X the rate of people born in the first third of the century

28 But, Why? Change from an “achieving” to a “feel- good” society: Happiness and high self-esteem are the new goals instead of achieving

29 Michael Jordan Cut from his high school varsity team.
He wasn’t recruited by the college he wanted (North Carolina State). He wasn’t drafted by the first two NBA teams that could have chosen him. When he was cut in high school his mother told him to go back and discipline himself.

30 And that is why I succeed.”
“I’ve missed more than shots in my career. I’ve lost over 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life…

31 Answer this…. Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t change very much. You can learn new things, but you can’t really change how intelligent you are. No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit. You can always substantially change how intelligent you are. Is your answer the same if you substitute “artistic talent” or “sports ability” for “intelligence”?

32 “Drawing with the Right Side of Your Brain,” Betty Edwards


34 It’s in the Genes Neuroscientist, Gilbert Gottlieb: not only do genes and environment cooperate as we develop, but genes require input from the environment to work properly. Intelligence guru, Robert Sternberg: the major factor in whether people achieve expertise “is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement.” Each person has a unique genetic endowment as we start with different temperaments and aptitudes, but experience, training, personal effort take them the rest of the way.

35 Malcolm Gladwell “People prize natural endowment over earned ability. Deep down, we revere the naturals.”

36 Carol Dweck


38 Fixed Mindset Your abilities are carved in stone.
Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser? Risk and effort might show your inadequacies. Effort is bad. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort (geniuses don’t have to try hard). Always want to succeed (and on the first try).

39 Fixed Mindset Setbacks are traumatic.
This mindset gives you no way to overcome failure. Students with fixed mindset have higher rates of depression because they ruminate over their problems and setbacks and believe they are incompetent or unworthy. Students with fixed mindset told Dweck that their main goal in school – aside from looking smart – was to exert as little effort as possible.


41 Growth Mindset The hand your dealt is just a starting point for development. Effort is good. It’s what makes you smart or talented. Everyone can change and grow through application and experience. Passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it; even (especially) when it’s not going well.

42 Growth Mindset Success is about stretching.
Don’t just seek challenges, they thrive on them. Failure still a painful experience, but it doesn’t define. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with and learned from. Success is in doing you best, in learning and improving. Setbacks are motivating, informative, a wake-up call.

43 Dweck’s Research Studied effects of praise on students at 20 NYC schools over 10 years. Kid takes puzzle IQ test (simple) and told kid score and gave one line of praise. Some praised for their intelligence (‘You must be smart at this”). Some praised for their effort (“You must have worked really hard”). Why one line? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were.”

44 Next, students given choice of test
Choice #1: more difficult test than first, but students told they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. Choice #2: easy test, like the first one.

45 Guess what happened? Of those praised for their effort, 90% chose the harder set of puzzles Of those praised for their intelligence, 71% chose the easy test The “smart” kids took the cop out

46 But, Why? “When we praise children for their intelligence, we tell them that this is the name of the game: look smart, don’t risk making mistakes, and avoid the risk of embarrassment.”

47 Next round, test is 2 yrs ahead of their grade level
Everyone failed. BUT, those praised for effort on first test assumed they simply hadn’t focused hard enough on this test; they got very involved and tried multiple solutions. Those praised as smart, assumed their failure was evidence that they weren’t really smart at all. They were miserable.

48 It gets worse… After the artificially induced “failure,” students given test as easy as first one Praised for effort students significantly improved on 1st score (about 30%) Praised for intelligence students did worse than they had at the beginning (about 20%)

49 Dweck Concludes “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable they can control…they come to see themselves as in control of their success…Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of their control, and provides no good recipe for responding to failure.”

50 Yes, your kid too Repeating experiments found this effect of praise on performance held true for students of every socioeconomic class, boys, girls, ethnicity, and every age group, (even pre-schoolers).

51 Wrong Praise Can Lead to…
Frequently-praised children get more competitive and more interested in tearing others down. They often become entitled and feel they shouldn’t have to work for things. Develop a fixed mindset. Are often more pessimistic.

52 Mindset at School “The growth mindset and this way of thinking is critical because it reframes mistakes and failure as a natural part of the change and growth process. Students need to perceive falling down as learning, not failing. Teachers and coaches need to model this consistently.”


54 Growth Mindset Tips Focus on the process, not the kid
Focus on effort, not outcome When giving negative feedback use the word “yet” so it gives kids a time perspective Give positive feedback or rewards for mistakes and thinking outside the box

55 Brainology Get the Monthly newsletter: signup/mailing-list.aspx Gain new ideas and tips on how to cultivate a growth mindset environment, Access educators' and parent's stories on how they implemented growth mindset practice and what the impact has been, Keep up-to-date with growth mindset research.

56 Coach John Wooden Did I win? Did I lose? Those are the wrong questions. The correct question is: Did I make my best effort? If so, you may be outscored, but you will never lose.”

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