How to Promote a Positive Attitude in Kids

How to Promote a Positive Attitude in Kids

We can’t make everything peachy or perfect, but we help kids keep a bright outlook.

By Lorraine Allen

Having a positive attitude is a great thing: it can help us stay upbeat even when things are not going our way; it enables us move forward when we’re stuck in a rut; it makes life more fun; and it’s good for our physical health too, because it can reduce stress.

While some people seem like they were born with smiles on their faces, others might need a little encouragement to look on the bright side. Lately, my own kid's been a bit of a Debbie Downer about many things, so I've done some research and discovered a few ways to encourage a more positive attitude. They just take a little practice. Here are several easy tips you can use if your kids need a little positivity boost:

1. At the end of every day, at dinnertime or bedtime, for example, have each member of the family share the three best things about his or her day.

2. Read kids stories and give them age-appropriate books with positive messages and characters, suggests Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., in his book Playful Parenting. Discuss these together as a family and ask questions such as: How did a character’s outlook shape the story? How would the outcome have been different if he or she focused only on the negative aspects of his or her situation? How did staying positive help him or her succeed?

3. Encourage kids to point out something positive or nice about another person every day, and model this positive behavior by doing it yourself, to them and/or in front of them.

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4. Encourage kids to use their talents daily, to build on their strengths, and gain self-confidence and self-worth—both strong positive emotions.


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5. Play music at home and in the car that’s upbeat or calming. Multiple recent studies published in The Journal of Positive Psychology suggest that music has a direct effect on mood and outlook, and can help start or end a day on a happy note.

6. When kids express a strong negative reaction to something, have them reframe it in a positive way, suggests Karen Jacobson, a therapist in New York City. If your child says, “My day was horrible,” ask him how it could have been better instead, then help him set a plan to make tomorrow less difficult. Or, if a child says, “I hate” someone or something, ask her how that person or thing might change for the better, in her eyes. Let her come up with her own, fresh positive view, even if it’s an imaginary one. “We can’t control everything in life, but we can change our perspective,” with a little effort and support, says Jacobson.

6. Encourage kids to keep a gratitude journal, in which they write down (or draw, for younger kids,) things that bring them joy, and things they are thankful for. Studies led by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, show that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression—promoting a more positive view on life overall.

How do you help your kids maintain a positive outlook?

Lorraine is a freelance parenting, health and food writer, and she shares her cooking adventures and family recipes at

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