Positivity is positively positive

So why have negative feelings?

Inherently we know that everything is better when our kids are feeling positive. They enjoy themselves more. They get along with others. Life feels manageable. Yet our brains are wired to favor negativity. Our kids remember negative events better than positive ones.

The ability to remember negative events helps our kids survive and avoid danger. But it also gives them a distorted understanding of reality. We need to teach our children how to overcome this biological condition.

Positive emotions make us resilient

There is incredible research about the benefits of positivity. People with a positive inclination are healthier. They have lower levels of stress-related hormones and have higher levels of growth and bond related hormones. They have lower blood pressure, fewer pains, fewer colds, and better sleep. And they’ve even been shown to have faster recoveries from negative emotions (both heart rate and stress hormones). These may be the reasons people with a positive attitude live up to 10 years longer.

Positive people also are better set up to manage their lives. Positivity brings with it an open mind and increased creativity. They are better able to come up with solutions and see the big picture. Additionally, positive people are more inclined to connect with others. These skills help positive people build stronger social connections and make better decisions. It may be why they have longer lasting marriages.

Most importantly, positivity helps us with the hard times in life. Positive people still experience negative emotions. But it is the positive emotions that help us recover. Depression is affected more by positive emotions than by removing negative emotions. Resilience is built by positive emotions.

What kind of positive emotions?

Positivity comes in many forms. According to Barbara Fredrickson, positivity includes joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love. Culture dictates which positive emotions we want to feel. Americans love the high-intensity positive emotions such as being elated. East Asians prefer low-intensity positive emotions such as serenity and peacefulness.

Positive beliefs impact other people (positively)

Giving children a positive self-identity works. In one experiment, children were asked to keep the classroom clean. In another room, the teacher and principle labeled the kids as ‘people who did not litter’. The children were also told how nice and clean the room was. After two weeks all children received a small wrapped gift. In the standard classroom, 70% of the children littered. In the positive classroom, only 15% did. That’s a big difference.

Telling teachers kids are special works. In another experiment, scientists randomly chose some children to be ‘Bloomers’. They told the teacher these children were very smart and asked them not to tell the children or parents. The teachers were asked (and tried) to treat everyone the same. Yet the Bloomers scored higher on an IQ test than the rest of the class. The research found that this positive label affected the teaching. Teachers challenged Bloomers with more difficult material. They helped the Bloomers when they made mistakes. The teachers thought the children were better and so helped them to become so.

Increasing positive parent-child interactions works. Another experiment looked at parent interactions with 3 & 9-month-old babies. The scientists examined face-to-face exchanges. They tracked how many positive emotions were shared. Then they looked at how the babies behaved at age 2. They found that the positive interactions helped the babies regulate their own emotions. Plus, it created gentler children.
All of these experiments showed how positive interactions can change children’s behaviour.

Positivity in life

The reality is that life isn’t always positive. And that’s ok. Here’s what the science says about utilizing the benefits of positive emotions.

  1. Your child will feel many emotions. Complex, mixed feelings are normal.
  2. We need to teach our children to allow themselves to feel their negative emotions. Blocking negative feelings is worse for their health than feeling them.
  3. It is more important to build positive feelings into her life than to try to prevent negative ones. The negative experiences build resilience. The positive emotions erase the negative impacts of the negative emotions.
  4. The duration of the positive emotion is important. It is more important than the depth of the emotion.

Building positivity

There are many excellent ways to increase positive feelings in your child’s life. And as we know, positivity builds stronger relationships and increases resilience. This is a key pillar of raising strong, confident kids.

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