Raising a Hopeful Child

Raising a Hopeful Child, p.2

These days, however, it can seem that hope itself is under assault. The terrifying events of September 11 certainly contributed to children's perception that the world is beyond their control and that of the adults on whom they depend. At home, 40% to 50% of children born this year are likely to experience their parents' divorce before they reach their 18th birthday. In schools, many children face or fear violence. On-screen, heroes are portrayed taking control through violent means -- greatly limiting the pathways for action that young viewers learn, notes C.R. Snyder, Ph.D., a pioneer in hope research and professor of clinical psychology at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

But there is good news. Hope is basically learned, says Dr. Snyder, who is also the author of The Psychology of Hope: You Can Get There From Here. And as parents, we can encourage our children to think positively. In fact, you're probably already doing so. Yesterday, when your toddler climbed two steps by herself and you encouraged her to try two more, then another, until she could make it to the landing all by herself, you were the coach of the Junior Hope League.

The New Thinking in Psychology

Hope is a relatively recent subject of research. For many years, psychologists focused on people's weaknesses and problems -- on what was wrong, not what was right. According to Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., a leader in the positive psychology movement and author of Learned Optimism, modern psychology has become "too preoccupied with repairing damage when our focus should be on building strength and resilience, especially in children."

His team also measured hope in nearly 400 fourth- through sixth-graders in Edmond, OK, then tracked their test scores in reading and math. The results: Children with more hope learned more.

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