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The Optimistic Child

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,046 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Despite the increased focus on self-esteem over the past three decades, depression in children has continued to grow, now affecting a quarter of all kids today. To combat this trend, Dr. Seligman began the Penn Depression Prevention Project, the first long term study aimed at 8 to 12 year olds. His findings were revolutionary, proving that children can be against ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 2nd 1996 by ReganBooks (first published 1995)
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Oct 06, 2011 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.

Jane Lebak
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it liked it
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
Sep 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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)
May 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Nov 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Kressel Housman
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Dec 12, 2012 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Frank Lawler
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 rated it it was ok
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.
Mary Richardson
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In 1997, our oldest son was 9 with a prickly personality beginning to manifest itself. He always seemed so negative that I was worried about him being on the road to depression and problems with friends. I happened upon this book and I cannot tell you how it totally changed my perception of our son. We were so worried about his ability to take direction, make good choices, think before he would act and as he seemed to just crash through life - instituting consequences would have him just digging ...more
Reid Mccormick
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-science
I had a great childhood. I wasn’t completely spoiled but all my physical and emotional needs were met. I can’t recall any tragic moments or horrible moments. By all objective measures, I had it pretty good.

So it surprises me when I notice that my default status is pessimism. In college I dealt with some depression, but I bounced backed from that relatively easily and I definitely built up some good resilience. But no matter what I do or where I am at, I can never seem to shake off this
AnaMaria Rivera
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good book, not just for researchers but even more oriented to parents, based on decades of applied research.

"Love, affection, warmth, and ebullience should all be delivered unconditionally. The more of these, the more positive the atmosphere, and the more secure your child will be. The more secure he is, the more he will explore and find mastery. But praise is an altogether different matter. Praise your child contingent on a success, not just to make him feel better. Wait until he fits the
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this book very helpful in understanding what does on the mind of kids and how to give them positive reinforcement while also being honest. Dr. Seligman's rich examples derived from other institutions across the world provide a great example of what we could be doing in the USA that we don't. I've tried to apply much of what I read to how I coach and raise my own kids and seen very positive results. It's been very helpful though at times difficult to implement. Overall, I really feel that ...more
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Kelly Creel
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wish I’d found this book earlier in my journey as a parent, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to pass along the program to my early teen now. This program does a great job giving practical solutions and exercises that allow both children and adults to practice assessing situations and making productive choices instead of following the path of cynicism and learned helplessness. Sadly, optimism gets a bad rap, and the word itself has morphed into one that connotes unicorn rainbow farts and ...more
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found myself liking this a lot more than I expected. In particular I like how he debunks the Pollyanna mindset and explains why focusing on self-esteem can be so damaging. He then provides the standard cognitive behavioral therapy tools in a way that could be used for children. The edition I listened to felt a bit dated so I'd be curious to hear an update on how well the interventions are working at preventing depression.
Jan 02, 2019 marked it as unfinished
I started this but then realized I needed to go read the adult version of Seligman's work first to really get the benefit. In addition, my kid was a little young for many of the recommendations (she was only five at the time when I was reading this in October 2017). I haven't yet come back to this, although now that my child is a little older maybe I can give it another try. Marking as "unfinished" until I actually pick it up again.
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: g
This was pretty awesome. It teaches parents how to teach kids healthy mental and emotional habits.

It is also depressing learning the self- esteem push of “you are special” has increased depression 10 fold. But this book teaches us how to increase our children’s self confidence by having them do hard things and accomplish difficult tasks.

This is something I hope to keep referencing for many years to come.
Sep 23, 2018 rated it liked it
There is a lot of information in this book - difficult to take it all in in one reading. I will definitely have to revisit it again. The exercises are meant for 8-13 year olds, so my child is too young to try this out on now. However, I will be trying to work on some of it myself, so hopefully this modelling will help him pick up more optimistic habits (assuming I can pick up the habits myself)
Patrik Bystrom
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent reference text for all parents. It provides concrete methods for equipping your children with the tools that will prevent them from ever being the victims of depression and anxiety. As a teacher I think the text will have dual uses as I can incorporate some of these ideas into my teaching.
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really liked this one, 4.5. Based on sound research at a level I haven’t seen in the other parenting books I’ve read. Many great ideas for how to safeguard children, and all of us, against depression. It’s rather old, but it didn’t feel outdated at all - must read!
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written and full of good advices.

I will definitely recommend it to parents and teachers. There so many tips that will help you to enhance your kids development and well-being.
Ryan Mclean
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
A great book about teaching your kids competence and helping them take the right amount of responsibility in their lives. Teaches them to take control of what they can fix and accept the things they can't.
Carolyn Parker
Oct 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Although I have no children at home, I found some interesting information in this book. It did seem to follow more of a textbook/workbook format and could have been considerably shorter. The primary focus is children aged 8-11.
Melanie Meyer
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is intended for parents. Each strategy includes multiple examples and practice activities.
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good practical guide with many exercises to be done with children. Maybe it has a bit too much context at times but it could have been too dry otherwise.
Jose Romero
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
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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
“In the struggle to cure syphilis in the first decade of the century, Paul Ehrlich concocted a drug, 606, that worked by poisoning Treponema pallidum, the spirochete that causes syphilis. It was called 606 because before it Ehrlich concocted 605 other drugs, none of which worked. Ehrlich, presumably, experienced 605 defeats but persisted.” 1 likes
“At my parents' house, I recently found a 1950 black-and-white snapshot of a chubby bespectacled warrior holding a three-and-a-half-foot freshly killed rattlesnake. The boy's smile is ecstatic.” 0 likes
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