Admit it. Everyday of your life is a gift. You can do with that gift what you choose. You can waste it worrying about the future or the past. You can stumble through it without making the most of the time that you have been given. But you have an opportunity. You can celebrate each and every day of your life. What a concept! What a BIG concept!! Everyday you wake up with the choice to view life as a wonderful journey. Of course, you can also choose to view your day in a much more dismal manner.
Here’s a special opportunity that you have as a parent. You can teach your child to celebrate that gift which he has been given. Imagine sending your child into the adult world with the belief that there is hope in every situation. There is a positive solution to every problem. That tomorrow can be a better day. What better gift can you give to your child, than the gift of optimism?
Of course, following your child around the house telling her to, “Think positive,” “Look on the bright side,” or “Change your attitude” just will not work. Your child will run away when she hears you walking down the hall. What should you do? You’ve got to be a role model and a teacher. Yes, that means that YOU have to celebrate each day of your life. Consider this. Do you wake up each day thinking that you have a new opportunity to be successful? Are you thankful for each day that you have been given? Are you making the most of your life? If the answers aren’t yes, Yes, and YES, then you have work to do, my friend.
First, think about whether your past has become an obstacle to forming and maintaining a positive perspective on life. Were your parents optimists or pessimists? What were the themes that ran through your family? There is often a theme or a pattern of thinking that is passed down from one generation to another. It permeates how the family functions. It impacts the expectations for each person in the family, and the agenda of the family unit itself. It often generates a family mantra. Family mantras can range from empowering to toxic. “You can do anything.” “Anything but super-achievement is failure.” “You need only be competent.” “Keep working until you succeed.” “Why can’t you be like (anyone but yourself)?” “You are part of a greater community.” “If it’s not important to me, then it’s not important.” “Life is good.” “Life would be good if only….” The range of family themes is endless. You internalized themes or mantras from your family as you were growing up. It is important to think about what you were taught. Some of the messages may be powerful driving forces towards success, while others may be creating obstacles that are only present in your mind. In my own family, I learned several valuable mantras including “If you keep working at something, and make small steps towards your goal, you will eventually reach it.” That stick-to-it-ness has been a wonderful driving force in my own life. However, my parents were raised in the Depression, and they also unfortunately passed along a great deal of negativity and the tendency to be overly critical of oneself. One of my challenges, as an adult, has been to adopt and maintain a positive outlook on life. Sometimes those dark and negative thoughts bubble to the surface, but I try to recognize them and put a stop to them immediately. Think about the life lessons that you learned from your parents, and which of those you are now modeling for your child.
Next, consider how you react to success and adversity. What happens when you are successful in an endeavor or encounter an obstacle enroute to a goal? Do your successes in life become overblown, or are they minimized? Do you view success as an end unto itself, or is it an opportunity to set a new goal? Are the obstacles you encounter in life seen as challenges or do they serve as a reason to give up? Do you ignore your successes only to focus on what you may never be able to achieve? You may not realize it, but your child is watching (and learning from) your reaction to success and adversity both large and small.
Another point to consider is what priorities you have in life, and what are you teaching your child about how to approach life? Is life a struggle? Is life something to be just gotten through? Is life something exciting? Is life full of challenges and possibilities? How would your child describe your approach to life? What are the areas of life that emphasize? Is it all about the material things you collect, or is materialism something you abhor? Are you focused on building your mind, as well as your child’s academic potential, or is that something only “smart people” try to achieve? Is it important develop a wide variety of interests, or are you focused on only one goal by which to define yourself as a success or failure. Are you teaching your child that exercise is a part of a healthy lifestyle, or is exercise just the work that goes along with becoming an Olympian or a professional athlete? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Is your child learning the importance of forming social connections, or will he feel socially awkward all his life? Do you have a faith-based belief system, or does your child think that this is all there is? Children characteristically parrot or imitate the views and patterns of the important adults around them. Consider whether the things you think of as important will be create a positive future life experience for your child.
Finally (and this is by no means an exhaustive list), what will you consider when determining whether or not your life has been successful? Have you ever stopped to consider what you think it means to be successful? Have you learned to set goals that are attainable? If your child learns that “success” is only achieved if she is a billionaire, the next Babe Ruth, or a Nobel Prize winner, then being successful may seem an untenable goal. Are you just floating through life without goals or a sense of purpose? If not much is expected of a child, then life may become a series of “good enough’s” or viewed as a flat plateau without much to look forward to on the horizon. Are you able to pinpoint the success you have already experienced in your life, or are you always haunted by the “should have’s” or “never will be’s”? Recognizing and being thankful for your accomplishments in life is important, and is an important component in life satisfaction. A child who is trained to focus on what might have been or what might not ever occur is far less likely to experience satisfaction with life. Have you developed goals that span across many areas of your life, or do you focus on one goal to the exclusion of everything else in your life. Having a life that is hopeful and balanced will help your child to look forward to experiences and be willing to take risks. Your child will internalize a list of what is important in life and what is not. Both the list, and the level that is necessary to achieve “success” of each item on the list, will impact how he approaches life. Focusing your child on setting reasonable and positive goals in many areas will help her grow into an adult who can find something to celebrate each day of life no matter what happens on that day.
As I was thinking about how to teach children to celebrate each day of their lives, I suddenly realized that “bingo” is just the acronym to use as a training tool. Let me tell you why. As you may or may not know, my primary website (www.UnCommonCourtesy.com) is a combination of motivational material and several hundred bingo games and concentration sets. How did such an unlikely combination come about? As the room mother for my son’s first grade class, I was responsible for overseeing a Halloween party. My youngest child was six months old, and still getting up three or four times a night. My other two children weren’t great sleepers, and I come from a long line of poor sleepers. Consequently, I was quite sleep-deprived at the time. My son’s teacher asked me to bring a Halloween bingo game to the party, but she had a very specific type of game in mind. As I recall, it was one with only pictures. I tried to find one online, but didn’t find one that met her parameters. It was overwhelming to think about driving around to find such a specific game, so I decided to make it myself. Armed with a graphics program and some clipart, I produced a set. It was crude in comparison with the sets I create at this time, but it wasn’t bad. Then, I laminated the set because I wanted it to last several years. I didn’t want to make another set when my second child reached the first grade! I took the set to the party and several of the teachers said to me, “This is good. You could sell this.” For many years I had been a children custody evaluator, mediator, and a family therapist. However, that time in my life had past, and I was looking for a new career path. One that would allow me to focus on my children, work at home, and experience less stress. I thought to myself, “I COULD sell this!” I had launched my UnCommonCourtesy.com website as a reaction to all of the negativity in my past life, as well as the pain I witnessed in my private practice. Although I hadn’t published a newsletter or worked on the site for a couple of years, I had just not been able to get myself to shut it down. I kept thinking that surely it would be a part of my future career. Undaunted by the disconnect between the name of the site and bingo games, as well as the reaction from several family members and friends (“You are going to do what?????”), I put together a couple of bingo games to sell at Christmas. I managed to put together an order form, arrange for a secure server, and put the sets online. I made (and still make) all the sets by hand. Although I seemingly did everything wrong, I sold $700 dollars worth of bingo games that Christmas season! Never mind that I had actually lost money because of business set-up costs; my sleep-deprived mind was filled with possibilities. Although my head was filled with things like, “this could be the start of something big,” I heard a lot of “yea, yea, whatever” around me. But I’m a positive thinker. I kept making sets. Making better sets. Finding niches that my bingo games could fit into. I have to say that my unlikely career has been a wonderfully rewarding experience, and something that I can work on when things around me seem a bit dark. Thinking positively, and staying focused, has helped me to develop a very satisfying business and it is all about BINGO!
Well, you’ve heard my story. Now it’s time to learn to teach your child to celebrate life by applying the positive principle of BINGO!
B: BE IN THE GAME. How many children sit on the sidelines because they are afraid of failure or trying something new? They slam the door closed before they even get their feet firmly inside. I certainly did as a child, and I regret just about everything that I refused to try. Do not allow your child to sit on the sideline waiting for the good time to come to her. Teach him to participate! Tell her that the only failure in life is not trying at all. The main point is to jump in and get going. While you are at it, get in the game with your children! Volunteer at school. Sign up to coach a team. Be a Sunday School teacher. There is no question that my own children view me as a participant and not as someone who sits on the sidelines. They love it, and your child will love to see you involved in his life.
I: INTERNALIZE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE IN YOUR CHILD Talk about how good life is. Prompt her to make a list of the things that she has to be thankful for. Help him see that there is hope in, or a positive view of, almost every situation. Remember to be a role model! This is a family project, and you should think about the negative thoughts and actions that are holding you back. What do you have to be grateful for? Are you focused on what’s going right or what you haven’t got? How can you grasp and hold onto a positive attitude all day long. Don’t just say it- live it!
N: NOW IS THE TIME THAT IS IMPORTANT. Some people live in the past. Others focus on the future. But today is the time that you can jump into, start a life-changing pattern, or just savor. Enjoy the Moment! Teach your child to enjoy what he experiences every day. Help her learn to work toward things on a day-to-day basis. Don’t let him fret about the test next Thursday, help him plan study blocks between now and then so the test will be a cinch. Don’t join her in lamenting about not being chosen as the star in the play, work with her to be the best in the part that she was assigned. Those in-the-moment times with your child may be the ones that the two of you have the fondest memories of in the future.
G: GIVE OF YOURSELF. In the world of me, Me, ME, the self-absorption that many children learn is ultimately unsatisfying. If you live a life that is focused on material things, you’ll always think about what you do not have. More importantly, you will waste your life fretting about what other people have, and how much better your life would be if you lived someone else’s life. If everything is all about you, then the other members of your family will be left high and dry. In our house, we sing a song when one of the kids gets a bit too focused on his or her needs. While we sing the tune to “It Had to be You,” we insert the words: “It’s all about me. It’s all about me. Wonderful me. Important me. It’s all about me. Oh can’t you see? It’s all about me!” On and on it goes until everyone is laughing so hard that there are tears in our eyes. I try to give of myself, and I look back on most days thinking how good it felt to do something for a friend, have seen the eyes of my children light up because of the time I shared with them, or have done something a little unexpected for someone in need. It’s been a pleasant surprise to watch my children take note of my actions, and I hope they do the same for others throughout their lives.
O: OVERCOME IT! One of my favorites Authors, Norman Vincent Peale, made a very powerful statement in his book Enthusiasm Makes the Difference: “Every problem contains within itself the seeds of its own solutions.” Life is full of struggles and difficulties. Just because you are an optimist doesn’t mean you won’t have problems. You can think of those problems as another reason to despair or as an opportunity for growth. I often ask myself, “What can I learn from this?” or “How can I use this as an opportunity to grow as a result of my experience.” Teach your child how to recognize that a problem exists before it gets out of control, how to problem-solve, and how to enlist others to help him solve those problems. Just about every problem in life can be solved or used as a spring board toward a positive outcome.
Now it’s time for you to start teaching your child the BINGO principle. Have fun! Enjoy the time that you spend with your child! Work on yourself a bit too! I’ll be writing future articles about how to teach your child to celebrate holidays and other moments in his or her life using the BINGO principle. I hope that you will stop by www.uncommoncouresty.com to take a look at my latest thoughts and a few of my bingo games as well!
Celebrate today and everyday!
Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.
P.S. I’ve written many other motivational articles. You can find an index of them at: http://uncommoncourtesy.com/motivationalarticles.htm
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference in the Compenium: Peale, Norman Vincent (1994). The Power of Positive Thinking, The Positive Principle Today, and Enthusiasm Makes the Difference. Wings Books, New York. Pg 511.
© 2007-2012 Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
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Bingo Games, Motivational Material and More at www.UnCommonCourtesy.com! A multitude of holiday, religious, educational, and patriotic bingo games and concentration sets available . Bingo games for adults and children to play at home, school, church, corporate meetings, and just about anywhere you can imagine. Read Susan C Rempel, Ph.D.’s blog about Patriotism, First Principles, and American History. Follow Dr. Rempel on Twitter: SusanRempel or LinkedIn