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

Martin E. P. Seligman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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 optimism that can help them combat depression, achieve more on the playing field and at school, and improve their physical health.

As Seligman states in his new afterword for this edition, “Teaching children optimism is more, I realized, than just correcting pessimism . . . It is the creation of a positive strength, a sunny but solid future-mindedness that can be deployed throughout life -- not only to fight depression and to come back from failure, but also to be the foundation of success and vitality.”

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

According to noted psychologist Seligman (Learned Optimism), 30% of American children suffer from depression. Further, his studies demonstrate that "pessimistic children are at much higher risk for becoming depressed than optimistic children." His mission here is to teach parents and other concerned adults how to instill in children a sense of optimism and personal mastery. Seligman discounts prevalent theory that children who are encouraged by others to feel good about themselves will do well. Instead, he proposes that self-esteem comes from mastering challenges, overcoming frustration and experiencing individual achievement. In clear, concise prose peppered with anecdotes, dialogues, cartoons and exercises, Seligman offers a concrete plan of action based on techniques of self-evaluation and social interaction. He describes the development of the Penn Depression Prevention Program, in which school kids are taught ways to divest themselves of pessimistic approaches and adopt optimistic ones, and adapts it to home use by parents. While a few of the exercises may seem daunting to parents, this encouraging volume moves beyond popular self-help tomes and ideology to offer hope and practical suggestions; it will be of great value to teachers as well. First serial rights to Ladies' Home Journal and Parents magazine; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"The first major work to provide an effective program for preventing depression in childhood--and probably later in life." -- --Aaron T. Beck, M.D., President, Beck Foundation for Cognitive Therapy

Product Details

  • File Size: 1271 KB
  • Print Length: 354 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (September 17, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003ZUY0XK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,711 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
93 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe it's Mistitled, but it's GREAT August 16, 2001
I don't disagree entirely with the one-star reviewer--optimism is hardly the answer to all of society's problems. However, as the parent of a son who often shows signs of inheriting ... depression ..., I found this book to be a proactive alternative to the little lectures on over-reacting to situations that I had been giving! I explain the steps Seligman suggests as games we play to prepare him for middle school and they get him thinking about the control he can exert in his own perceptions (this is a skill often not acquired until late adolescence, if ever). Finally, some support for at-risk kids! I only wish more parents were aware of the influence their behavior wields--this book helps both parent and child increase self-understanding. Other books on childhood depression depend too heavily on explaining available medication--THANK YOU, Mr. Seligman, for offering concrete advice on drug-free depression-prevention.
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96 of 98 people found the following review helpful
I'm an Emotional Intelligence coach. I work with adults teaching them EQ competencies, including optimism, and I've seen it work wonders! Since reading this book, I've been teaching it to children with the same results. It's particularly important in children with high IQs. Their propensity to perceive more deeply, and their perfectionism made them set-up for depression. They can get into trouble with their thinking (can't we all!). Seligman's theory works, if you take the time to understand it and follow his instructions. The essence of optimism is not the upward cycle, but being able to avoid the downward spiral when a disappointment, loss or failure occurs. It's a way of thinking that can be changed. Would you like to live 19% longer, enjoy better health, be more likely to fulfill your potential ... all this backed by Seligman's years of research ... and wouldn't you want this for your child?
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60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effective in helping middle school parents and children February 7, 2010
By JorgeMB
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am a 6th grade counselor in a private school. After reading this book I used it to prepare a workshop and to help several families abandon child management systems that were highly stressful and unproductive. The workshop got very high ratings and requests for follow ups. Several families reported a significant improvement in their quality of life following interventions based on Dr. Seligman's ideas.

I believe that Dr. Seligman has good intentions when he applies this book to depression but that this emphasis limits the book's potential. It has much broader value and can help almost any family improve the middle school and teen years experience. I am looking forward to helping many more members of our community with the use of this tool.

If you are having difficulty with the 11 to 15 year old developmental process or you just simply want to look at some really good ideas this is a book for you. It is an easy read and well detailed. Enjoy!
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Optimisim can be learned- one optimist's view. December 10, 2003
The basic premise of this book is that optimisim is not only a tendency which some are born with, but also a learned skill that even those who are naturally pessimistic in nature can master. It is theorized that by teaching children this skill they will be better able to avoid being overcome by depression,as both children and the adults they grow into. The author is one who was an early proponent of cognitive therapy, which is a behavior modification type program for re-training the pessimistic brain of those who are depressed, and which has had remarkable, positive results. In this book those same techniques are described to parents as PREVENTATIVE life skills and habits to be developed in order to safeguard children from ever even becoming depressed. As the former spouse of a clinically depressed man who has sucessfully managed his depression through cognitive therapy, I am a believer in this process. If severly depressed people can be taught a functional optimism which effectively treats depression, then teaching these same positive functional habits of optimism in children as a prevetative measure makes alot of sense. I picked up this book in the hope of teaching our children these life skills. I was impressed by the functional "HOW TO" type exercises to use with children of all ages. This book is written in a easy to understand manner which is not overly innundated with technical jargon. Of course, my review is from the vantage point of an optimist herself who would like to believe I can help prepare my children to face life in a healthy manner through parenting. I am putting a lot of faith in the power of nurture over nature- and many will debate that. Read more ›
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must for every caring parent's library February 15, 2000
'Want to give your children a gift that will be precious to them for a lifetime? Give the gift of optimism.
Although I first read the book two years ago, it has left an impression on my parenting and I sometimes refer back to it. Seligman's research-based approach to instilling optimism and confidence is both inspiring and relatively easy to implement. While the book focuses on older children who are already proficient in dealing with abstract concepts, I found the book useful as a parent of very young children: some concepts could be applied to my parenting surprisingly early, and all could be applied to my personal outlook to enhance my own optimism and mental health (and to help me model optimism for my children). I hope every parent reads this book!
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