How do I teach my kids about optimism?

by / Jul 29, 2022


This interview is from A Kids Book About: The Podcast, with host Matthew Winner and author of A Kids Book About Optimism, Meir Kay. It has been lightly edited for clarity.  



What is optimism? 


Optimism for me is hope. It's confidence about the future of a successful outcome, whatever that may be, successful for you. But it's about having hope and having joy and confidence that whatever may happen, we'll be good.

Oh my word I have been waiting to share this conversation with you, because it’s one that centers on hope, and positive outlook, and a belief that, accepting whatever challenges are in front of us, things will turn out alright. And if they don’t, we’ll keep pushing forward until they do.  


People always told me, “Meir, you always seem like a happy kid or optimistic kid or positive kid.”


And I'm blessed to say that as a kid, it seemed natural to me. It just seemed very natural. It was sort of the household that I grew up in thankfully. And my parents had a certain outlook towards life that they passed onto me to always look for the good. Look for what's possible. Perhaps something is now challenging or tough, but it'll change. 


You know, just like our thoughts and feelings never see the same as always a constant change. So, too, right now, in the very moment we're going through something there's always a change and we could look at it and even help. You know, there's a saying in the book: “Think good and it'll be good.” If we actually truly put in that effort, we think about it, and we plan for it. We manifest it. We bring that down into this actual reality, like, “Yes, this could happen. This could happen. This could happen. It will happen.”  We really have a power that we could help shift and look at the world in a more optimistic way.  



It’s not as simple as just choosing to have a positive attitude or a negative one. It’s not as basic as choosing to trust that people have good intentions or they don’t. It’s a bit deeper than that. 


The way someone shows optimism is by the way they carry themselves, by the way they use their words. Sometimes they don't have to use words, but just by their energy that they put out into the world. Whether it's standing a little bit taller or smiling a bit more or having an encouraging word. 

Sometimes optimism does not necessarily mean that right now in this very moment things are going well.


However, it's having the idea that it's going to get better. Things will heal, you know? In the book I use the example where I broke my arm and in that moment, I couldn't just say, oh yeah, everything is great. No, I love playing sports and running around and using my arm to its full capacity, but it was broken. 


So I was sad and it hurt, but I was optimistic. I knew that it's going to heal. It'll get better. And throughout this time with the journey of having my broken arm, I'll have stories to tell. And it even was a great way to make some friends in class because they were able to come over and sign my cast.


So even within those sad moments, I was optimistic that we'll get better and also looked at things in a way that would find new opportunities to blossom and grow and find new opportunities to make friends and build better connections.  




I feel like this brings up a question. If there are times when we can choose whether we approach something new or challenging with an optimistic attitude or not, why wouldn’t you choose to be positive and hopeful about the way something could go?


So for me growing up, it was something that came naturally to me. As I grew older into my teens and early adult years, it took a lot more work. And now today, it takes work. 


In the book we talk about tools and there are ways for us to keep on sharpening our tools and to stay engaged with an optimistic point of view. Naturally as humans, I think we are a lot more fear-based. We get scared and it's a way of survival. 


You may think, “I don't want to feel these ways. Why would I want to feel fearful?” Well, it's just really a way for us to feel safe. For example, public speaking can be very scary.


So we were telling ourselves, “Oh I'm afraid of public speaking. I would rather not share my voice and go up in front of my classes, share my opinion, because I may be embarrassed. I may fumble on a word. They may laugh at me.”  


But what we're really doing, [is] engaging with this opportunity to share with [others] who we are and what our thoughts are or what our feelings are. And that's really a big, big thing for us to do. But our body, sometimes our mind, tells us, you know what, it's better not to share that because you may mess up, may make a mistake. So let's keep quiet, stay in the corner. And that's where fear keeps us small. 


It sometimes will keep our expectations or our goals from being let down. 


So it's like, “You know, what, why should I dream big? Because I may not get there. So let me just think small and let me think the worst thing will happen and so I won't be disappointed”.  But you know what? If we shift our mindset and we think “what's the best that could happen?”. Where we think about the same energy we're putting towards the things that may not go right, we could think about, “Wow, these things actually could go, right!” 


It's the same type of thoughts. It's the same type of energy. So, you know what, why not think that way and create a successful outcome through our way of thinking, talking and behaving?...


One of the tools that I talk about in A Kids Book About Optimism is to surround yourself with optimistic people and it's like you're around a friend, even [if they are] a stranger.


You know, you could feel if they're a happy person or a welcoming person; they want to talk to you or they want to keep quiet. That's energy! 


We're not saying words, but we're feeling something. And it's never great to, deny ourselves our feelings, whatever you're feeling. It's true. Our body’s sending us signals. Our body is talking to us. 






The opposite of optimism is pessimism. If an optimist is someone with a positive outlook on how things may go in a given situation, a pessimist might have a negative outlook.


I think to be a pessimist is a natural way of keeping ourselves comforted or keeping yourself safe from outcomes that we don't know. We want to control everything. We want to know how things are going to be. And we sometimes attach expectations or goals of how we want these things to end up. It’s scary not to know like, Oh my God, what's the future going to be? I don't know.


So, a way for us to deal with that is [to think], “Okay. You know what? I'm going to keep my expectations, my goals, on a lower way. Or I'm going to not allow myself to feel joyous or feel happy or feel optimistic because I'm afraid that I'll be let down.” And who wants to feel bad?


So I wouldn't say that feeling pessimistic is a bad thing, but I think it's a start to realize there's another way. So I think a way of looking at life through a pessimistic viewpoint through those sort of glasses is a way people could, you could live through life. 


I think there's also a more joyous way to look at life without using more energy, even perhaps less energy. And that could be through [being] optimistic. By having hope and having confidence, whatever the future may be, I may not have control over it but I have control over the way I see things. I don't have to leave control over what happens to me, you know? But what I do have control over is how I react to those things. And I've found [that] through my experience having an optimistic point of view, my life has been a lot happier and a lot more peaceful.  




Each week on A Kids Book About: The Podcast, we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. This week we spoke with Meir Kay, the author of A Kids Book About Optimism