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

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  529 ratings  ·  78 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 January 1st 1995)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,549)
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Russell
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
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Polly
Nov 30, 2011 Polly rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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Jane Lebak
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
...more
Johnny
Sep 02, 2008 Johnny rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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Breck
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
Jon Cox
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
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Suzanne
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
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Kressel Housman
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
Milka
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
Erika
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
Myridian
Jan 15, 2013 Myridian is currently reading it
Shelves: parenting, psychology
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
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
...more
Lana
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
Megan
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
...more
EunBin
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
...more
Breeana
I always hoped my girls would never feel my depression or end up with having severe bouts of it. I hope I can put into play my own patterns and show my girls how to change things around. It's one of those books I keep amd reread sections.
Miko
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
Sandra McLeod
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
Nayla Caruso
This is an excellent, helpful book. It just doesn't happen to be a 'reading' book, it's more of a reference and a book of exercises. So it's leaving my reading queue to take the pressure off, though I have every intention of continuing to work through it.
Dana
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
Maggie Thatcher
Some really good insights.
Lynde
Sep 02, 2008 Lynde rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
...more
Hedlun
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.
Jennifer
As a person fighting depression for over twenty years and a mother of a young child, this book has been enlightening and has given me hope to raise a child that won't have to fight the same battle I am now. Read this book, even if you don't have a family history of depression, because it teaches you how to teach your child to avoid the path to depression...a path I believe is so easy to stumble upon in our society.
Heidi
I bought this book to get some ideas on how to help one of my children have a more positive outlook on life. I thought Seligman did a good job presenting how he developed his program for developing resilience and a positive outlook. It seems like it would be a great program to use in schools, etc; the question is how to do these exercises with a child in a manner that would seem natural...?
Marilee
I really loved this book. It is chalk full if a wide breadth of research covering a variety of ages. The messages are good for parents, educators, and all those who work with children. It isn't a quick read but rather one that you need to take bit by bit and really reflect the teachings to get the most out of it. As a parent and one that works with adolescents the principles are invaluable.
Lydia
This is a book I wouldn't mind owning...or you'd have to check it out multiple times from the library to really have the time to implement all the different "activities". But I got halfway through (doing the activities, etc) before I had to read ahead to the end. I'm interested in reading his one for adults (Learned Optimism).
Kerri
I liked this book. I think there is great power in the way we look at things, how we talk to ourselves, etc. However, I do feel that the blame for failure cannot always be passed onto others, just so we can remain optimistic. Sometimes we do "fail", but the point is to get back up and try again, knowing that eventually we can succeed.
Archana
A must read for anyone in education. However, Learned Optimism, also by Seligman, is designed specifically for adults. This book will not only change your perspective, but the way you experience adversities and hence manage the outcomes. I know it sounds self-help-y, but its 100% worth taking the chance on this one...
Michelle Alley
I will have to say this was a skim read for me. I wanted to pick up some helpful ways of dealing with children (my children) who are not always at resilient as I would hope them to be. I found many new ways of thinking and dealing with situations. I will know doubt keep this in my library of books to reference and share.
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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
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