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The Optimistic Child: A Proven Program to Safeguard Children Against Depression and Build Lifelong Resilience

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  812 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
In The Optimistic Child, Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman offers parents, teachers, and coaches a well-validated program to prevent depression in children. In a thirty-year study, Seligman and his colleagues discovered the link between pessimism -- dwelling on the most catastrophic cause of any setback -- and depression. Seligman shows adults how to teach children the skills of o ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 17th 2007 by Mariner Books (first published 1995)
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Oct 06, 2011 Russell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've avoided writing my review on this for a couple of reasons. First, because I wanted to try out what I learned. I wanted to examine my own behavior, give my kids the assessment, and then observe and implement some simple practices outlined in the book. Second, I've avoided writing a review because I've felt it to be a daunting task. Given that it's been several months since my initial reading and I've had time to really think about the overall book, it's time to just spit out my thoughts.

I lo
Jane Lebak
Mar 10, 2012 Jane Lebak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
This book cured my depression. I'd suffered depression from age 16 until about age 28, including postpartum depression; I picked it up so I could eventually help my two-year-old but realized shortly that he was far too young to do the exercises. I did them for myself anyhow, then set the book aside to come back to in about five years.

When I came back to this book five years later, I'd no longer been suffering from depression. Even after my second baby died at two hours old, I suffered grief but
Nov 28, 2011 Polly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Polly by: Caroline
I just found my notes on this book, so I will add them here:

The clearer the rules and limits parents set, the higher the child's self-esteem. "Masterful action is the crucible in which optimism is forged" (at pre-school age). Children make a habit of persisting in the face of challenges and overcoming obstacles. At school age, the way the child thinks-- especially about failure--is critical. They develop theories of what they can do to turn failure into success...the underpinnings of basic optim
May 28, 2014 Breck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Apparently the author, Martin Seligman, is sort of the authority on this subject. I've heard his name come up now and again in reference to the subject. There is an adult version called Learned Optimism. I initially picked this up to help my daughter, a pretty smart kid, who was going through a bit of a pessimistic streak, but I knew I needed it as well. And I benefited from it a lot, but I've tried to pass on some of the principles to her. What I like best about Seligman is the optimism he teac ...more
Sep 02, 2008 Johnny rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Richard Williams
Recommended to Johnny by: President of my College
Shelves: psychology
Although I teach young adults and no longer have any children at home, I believe this is a profound and useful book for people like me who ride the "Hero-to-Zero" Rollercoaster. The bulk of the book is on developing an optimistic mindset, but by this, the author does not mean the blithe positive thinking and meaningless platitudes of the self-esteem and unconditional praise movements.

Indeed, this clinical psychologist and former APA president takes the "self-esteem" ideas of (particularly) Cali
Nov 05, 2013 Milka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book may not be so helpful if you have very young children but is definitely worth the read if you have tweens or teens. Seligman clearly marks the differences between seeing the glass half empty and the one half full. This book not only contains a lot of research data but also a ton of valuable concrete examples of what children can go through and how they handle it. Seligman shows what a parent should or shouldn't say in some situations, and provides a lot of tools to help children become ...more
Jon Cox
May 09, 2011 Jon Cox rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I must admit, the message is very convincing to me, and the amount of research summarized is impressive. Seligman is the genius who came up with the concept of Learned Helplessness, and then turned it around and looked at Learned Optimism. I think every parent would do well to read this book and learn from it.

Having said that, the book itself could have used a little bit of editor's crafting. The writing was fine, but the introduction and review of the research lasts way too long. I found mysel
Kressel Housman
Nov 10, 2008 Kressel Housman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents
Like all psychology books that appeal to me, this book cited real research, had a self-help angle, and wasn't dry reading. I very much liked the author's step-by-step ways to challenge pessimism, so much so that I'll probably look into his other book Learned Optimism. But this book was specifically written for parents with exercises and stories that we're supposed to do with our kids. He tested them out on a group of school kids as part of his research, and while I'm sure they were successful in ...more
Erika Hope Spencer
This book is fascinating. Yes, I'm reading it for my son, but generally speaking it discusses how feeling that you have some power over your situation, can alter things, can overcome things, mixed with the actual accomplishment of this at least part of the time (which requires learning how to bounce back after rejection/failure) leads to an overall belief in yourself and in a fulfilling life that you can make for yourself if you don't get discouraged. Still, I absolutely believe that inborn tend ...more
Dec 12, 2012 Myridian is currently reading it
Shelves: psychology, parenting
Perhaps it is unfair for me to apply the same criteria to this book as I would to something more scholarly, but Seligman's discussion of the increasing prevalence of depression among children was pretty unsatisfactory. He discounts the likely affect of the decreased stigma for acknowledging depression. He also ignores strong cross cultural research that indicates that societies with a high achievement focus and communal values also have high rates of depression and suicide among pre-teen and tee ...more
Frank Lawler
Apr 06, 2015 Frank Lawler rated it it was ok
Most of the meat of this book could be reduced to a twenty page pamphlet. The rest of it feels filled with anecdotes about the progress of his research assistants. Seligman seems more concerned about the resumes and achievements of his staff than about actual practical information for parents. Who is the target audience for this book? Clinicians looking for case studies? Grad students? Professional colleagues? Any of these would be a better fit than readers looking for help with children with a ...more
May 21, 2010 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: family, gave-up-on
I couldn't get through it. It didn't seem like it was written to be a practical guide to raising happy kids, which is what I thought it was when I bought it.
Mar 20, 2017 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think Dr. Seligman would have preferred a different title - perhaps "How to immunize your child against depression", or "The Not-Pessimistic Child". He argues that optimists do better in life, so at some level it is easy to want your kid to be optimistic. But by his definition of optimism and pessimism, both are inconsistent, treating good and bad experiences differently. That inconsistency can lead to depression if it is pessimism, but seems relatively harmless if it is optimism.

All that to s
Jun 22, 2017 Emilio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Gran ayuda para un padre o educador en su afán por criar niños felices hoy en día! Es una guía para la vida
Feb 24, 2016 Jose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Optimistic Child is the follow-up to Martin Seligman's bestseller Learned Optimism.

With Learned Optimism Seligman became the pioneer of the Positive Psychology movement. This movement shifted its focus from talk therapy, which focuses on giving patients psychological air to discuss past trauma, to giving patients tools to overcome psychological obstacles.

Seligman doesn't invalidate the benefits of talk therapy. He's only offering another tool.

Although I could have read Learned Optimism fi
Rebekah Sheppard
Really detailed, too much for me; I would do better with salient points highlighted with end of chapter tables bullet pointing major points.

Two key take away:

Page 45 - "Children need to fail. The need to feel sad, anxious and angry. When we impulsively protect our children from failure, we deprive them of learning the 606 (rebounding an coping) skills. When they encounter obstacles, if we leap in to bolster self-esteem, to soften the blows and to distract them with congratulatory ebullience, we
Jun 13, 2008 Suzanne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: parenting
The author repeats his findings about optimism and it became mind-numbing after a while. I found myself saying out loud while reading the first half of the book: "I get it. I GET it!!"

I stopped reading this book halfway through, when the book asks you to spend time practicing optimism yourself, then practicing optimism with your children. Time went by, and I forgot I had it on my shelf. I finally finished it. The target age for this book is school children and my children are rather young (4 yea
I've read a fair number of child-development/parenting books. And a fair number of books about depressions, etc. This book addresses the issue of helping children develop a more positive outlook on life, that would, in turn, decrease their susceptibility to depression and other psychological difficulties.
In some ways, the approach discussed here is similar to cognitive therapy approaches in terms of modifying self-talk and positive-negative thought ratios,etc. But it actually had a few new ideas
Tiana Nairn
Nov 23, 2015 Tiana Nairn rated it it was amazing
I have read many parenting books and there are very few that I recommend - but this will certainly be one of them.

The information and approaches detailed in this book have been developed from extensive research rather than self-nominated 'expert parenting' advice and it shows. Also, the care that Seligman and his colleagues have for the wellbeing of young adults shines through.

The book soundly describes and breaks down the key features of different thinking styles and their potential influence o
Apr 21, 2016 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My experience with insight meditation has convinced me that if I can examine what I think and expose the fallacies I believe and act from, I am more able to respond in better fashion to the troubles of life. This book is a manual in how to instill such self-examination early in life and to change thoughts so as to have a sunnier outlook and response. I am reading his other book, "Learned Optimism" and liking it as well. There is a lot of discussion in both books about scientific exploration of t ...more
Jul 28, 2014 E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I chose this book because I thought it would pertain the most to my life. I have suffered from low self-esteem and therefore am a pessimist.

This book did not fully help me increase my self-esteem, but it did give me essential tips and thoughts to consider. I was able to reflect back to my childhood and mull over on how my mother raised me. I mostly agreed with the author's theories/opinions on optimism and did enjoy the book better than I thought I would.
I think this book is great for parents an
Sandra McLeod
Jan 20, 2011 Sandra McLeod rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I liked the sound principles discussed and demonstrated in this book, and I was relieved to see that we are moving away from the Self-Esteem Movement where individuals were praised regardless of their behavior. Under those circumstances, praise becomes meaningless and children move toward an attitude of entitlement. For the last decade the term "consequence" has been considered to be politically incorrect, but there are consequences to everything we do--either positive consequences or negative c ...more
Feb 28, 2011 Miko rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this as part of professional development for work. It's a bit dry, but interesting. A few nuggets I got out of it is that self-esteem building isn't as good as specific praise. This went hand in hand with another article I read recently that just telling your kids they are really smart can actually cause them to give up on things that they aren't automatically good at, versus praising your kid's effort at a task will encourage them to try things that wouldn't have and try harder. Also, he ...more
Mar 09, 2010 Dana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm on a parenting book kick right now...I highly recommend this book. It's premise: that it is never too early to start teaching your child resilience and a positive outlook. His critical point -- that too many parents focus on boosting their children's self-esteem through unearned praise. Instead, Seligman suggests, parents should be encouraging their child to earn praise through hard work, acquiring useful skills, and persevering. Pride is the key to optimism, he argues, not being told you ca ...more
Jan 29, 2008 Lynde rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents
Recommended to Lynde by: bookstore shelving.
i just reread this book b/c it has been so long. i really like his ideas. implementing is going to be rather difficult due to age (for now) as well as the depth and length of each theory. his methods of experimentation seemed reasonable, however the longitudinal studies seem rather scattered. i suppose that rather normal.
anyway, it has helped my own pessimistic brain see a flip side of thinking, which is probably the BEST thing you can do for your kids...set a good example. hopefully it will ru
Aug 22, 2014 Lana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book, the author explains what optimism really is and what is not. It is not perceiving a glass as half full instead of half empty and it is not an attitude of "Every day things get better and better", it is instead a matter of critically evaluating one's look at the world. The author provides very valuable techniques that all parents should keep in mind on a daily basis - things most people do not ever think about but can have a lasting impression on how your children interpret the worl ...more
Apr 01, 2010 Hedlun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having had some training in cognitive behavioral therapy, this was a lot of review. But it was reassuring in that it confirmed some of my views and parental practices. Basically, we do our children no favors by protecting them from everything and rewarding everything they do. We need to let them develop problem solving skills and learn how to deal with failure and disappointment. Hard to face, but true.
It's a shame that this book is older and doesn't have an update, since some of the info has changed, but it is the one of Seligman's books that has "how to's" about helping children be optimistic. His newest one, "Flourish," describes a lot more research that has validated his methods and theories.
Chris Mcmanaman
It is a good refresher on how to criticize your children. What is good (specifics) vs. what is bad (generalizations).

My son scored off the charts I don't see any point in reading further. However, now I am scared I will screw him up. I score on the opposite side of the optimism/pessimism scale.
Wendy Palmer
Sep 01, 2010 Wendy Palmer rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, non-fiction
I thought it'd be fun to just go ahead and skip all the baby parenting books and read ones I won't be able to use for a few years...this is a practical and science-based method of encouraging your child to be optimistic (not in a Pollyanna way, more in a I-can-cope-with-adversity way). It also some tips for the early years.
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Seligman is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology in the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Psychology. He was previously the Director of the Clinical Training Program in the department. Seligman was elected President of the American Psychological Association by the widest margin in its history and served in that capacity during the 1998 term.[4] He is the founding editor-in-chief ...more
More about Martin E.P. Seligman...

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