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Help your child succeed with positive psychology

Positive psychology focuses on the positive events and influences in life, an individual’s strengths rather than weaknesses, and building the good in life instead of repairing the bad

Positive psychology is the new mantra for leading happy and fulfilling lives. Coined and propounded by Dr. Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, positive psychology focuses on positive events and influences in life, a person’s strengths rather than weaknesses, and building the good in life instead of repairing the bad. It’s a scientific discipline and should not be confused with positive thinking, positive affirmation or similar self-help mantras.

According to Dr. Martin Seligman, following his PERMA model helps individuals achieve psychological well-being and happiness.

PERMA MODEL TO HAPPINESS

P — Positive Emotions. Develop a mindset which focuses on positive emotions such as joy, satisfaction, pride, etc. This can be done through mindfulness training and adopting an attitude of gratitude. Writing a daily journal of at least three things that made you happy that day is a great way to develop this mindset.

E — Engagement. Activities that fully engage and fill us with positive emotions and elevate one’s sense of well-being, and help us find calm, focus, and joy. Choose a career, hobby, sports, or activity that attracts full engagement.

R — (Positive) Relationships. Homo sapiens are social creatures. Interact with people around you with an attitude of adding value to their lives. Soon you will discover that they are also adding value to your life.

M — Meaning. Wealth and fortune are not the only determinants of success and happiness. Living a meaningful life requires dedicating yourself to a vocation or cause greater than earning money. Focus and introspect on how the job you do every day helps others. This will give you a sense of meaning and purpose to life.

A — Accomplishment. Dr. Seligman believes it’s difficult to live a full life and attain true happiness unless you are working towards improving yourself and achieve goals. Celebrating the small victories in life such as winning a contract, having your child win a race or helping an underprivileged child, will enable you to experience a feeling of accomplishment.

Positive psychology for children

You can incorporate the PERMA model into your parenting style to raise confident and happy children with strong emotional intelligence.

As a starting point, focus on building your child’s innate strengths instead of focusing on improving her weaknesses. Set high expectations and reward her with praise if she achieves her goals. But if she fails, don’t criticise her. Instead give her constructive feedback on ways and means to improve. All praise or feedback should be authentic and specific to the task at hand. For instance, instead of saying “you are so intelligent,” its advisable to say “this math exercise was difficult, but I’m glad you worked hard to solve it”.

If your child confesses to getting into a fight in school or stealing from a friend, listen in a non-judgmental way and encourage her to make it up to the person she hurt.

By helping children focus on their strengths and nurturing what is best within themselves to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play, we can empower them to become dependent on themselves rather than others.

(Ahkil Sahani is managing director of the Mumbai-based Shahani Group and chairman of Global Discovery Schools)

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