Book Club: Dr. Reivich’s Pick05/02/2013
Making Hope Happen
Positive Parenting by Dr. Karen Reivich
What is Hope?
Watching children on a playground tells you all you need to know about hope. A child's vision transforms a series of obstacles (tall ladders, hard to reach monkey bars, wobbly wooden bridges) into limitless opportunities for fun. Goals become very clear ("I am going to swing across all the monkey bars"), the plan develops ("I am going to climb the ladder, grab the bar, and swing from the first one to the second one"), and support is requested ("Can you help me up?") while confidence grows ("I think I got it. Yeah, I am doing it!").
Hope happens when we focus our thoughts on clear and meaningful goals. We concentrate on the future we want, reflect on our goals, and think about all the ways we can make our vision of the future a reality. When we put our thoughts about our goals together with pathways thinking (thinking that helps you identify or create many paths to a goal) and agency thinking (thinking that helps keep your motivation up while pursuing your goal), we are most hopeful. So, the statement, "These are the many ways I can get there from here" reflects pathways thinking. And, "I am excited and confident about getting there from here!" captures agency thinking. Contentment, pride and joy come about when we use our hopeful thinking and overcome obstacles. Frustration, sadness and anger bubble up when obstacles wear us down.
The essence of hope is having the drive to set and pursue goals, to take risks, to initiate action. Hope fuels problem-solving and it helps us develop personal strengths and social resources. More specifically, having hope makes us more likely to do well in school and to take good care of our health.
Why is Hope Important?
Whether your child is experiencing good times or bad times, hope can help. During a good day, when a child is thinking about a bright future, hope helps him persist on important tasks, create challenging stretch goals that foster growth, and build new resources through successful experiences. On tough days, ones that involve failure or illness, hope helps a child overcome major obstacles. For example, if a child receives a poor grade on a test, she revisits her goal for that class, adds or modifies the pathways to achieving that goal, and searches for more support and confidence. In short, she makes hope happen when she is under pressure. When facing more serious problems in life, like chronic pain and illness, hope works to make situations more bearable or makes the recuperative process more productive. For example, high-hope people have a higher tolerance for pain than those with low-hope. And, high-hope people are more likely to do what needs to be done to bounce back and become healthy again.
What Does a "High Hoper" Look Like?
A high-hope child has the ideas, the plans, and the motivation to make things happen. These youngsters are energetic in the moment and excited about the future. Hopeful children are not sitting on the sidelines. They are busy creating pathways to achieve goals and they are filled with the determination to succeed, thereby actively engaging in life and all its possibilities. Through interacting with the world, they are able to acquire the tools and resources they need to successfully navigate their lives. They may even create a hope domino effect that gets their friends and family members involved in hopeful goal pursuits.
Getting children talking about hope is as easy as asking them a few questions and discussing the answers:
- What are your hopes and dreams? Which one is most important to you right now?
- What are all the ways you can think about to make your most important dream come true?
- Who makes you feel like you matter? How will their love and support help make your dream come true?
In programs designed to increase hopeful thinking, group leaders help children refine their goals by making them more clear and specific (so that they can be visualized) and additive (so that the goal adds something to life, like good behavior, rather than taking away something bad, like poor behavior). Children enjoy talking about their goals and making them more dynamic. Pathways thinking encourages children to name each and every path toward their goal. In the exercise, when leaders "block" some pathways, children are encouraged to come up with more ideas.and they always do. Agency thinking is the most difficult hope skill to teach, but leaders are able to do so by emphasizing the social support in the child's life and by building excitement about the future. Having children imagine that their favorite loved one is tagging along on their goal pursuit, or that the special person will be pleased when the goal is reached, can give that extra boost of mental energy when needed.
When helping your child become more hopeful, keep in mind that you are teaching a set of skills that build on what children do naturally, thinking about the future. With a little help, children can learn how to describe important goals in terms that are clear and specific and add something to their lives. Pathways thinking grows as children generate more and more routes that will take them from Point A to Point B in the short term and long term. Finally, with some love and caring and a short track record of personal success, children can stay motivated when pursuing goals.
Dr. Shane Lopez
Shane Lopez, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor for the Department of Psychology and Research in Education at The University of Kansas. Lopez specializes in positive psychology, psychological assessment, and educational leadership. His current work focuses on conducting programmatic research on the roles of hope and courage in our daily lives. He also is a Gallup senior scientist, a role through which he consults primarily with The Gallup Education Division and Gallup University. Lopez is a member of the American Psychological Association and educational advisor for Ready, Set, Learn, The Discovery Channel's pre-school educational television programming. He is the past associate editor of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, editorial board member of the Journal of Positive Psychology, and an ad-hoc reviewer for numerous psychological journals.
With dozens of published works, Lopez' current co-edited and coauthored book titles include Positive Psychology; Positive Psychological Assessment: A Handbook of Models and Measures; and The Handbook of Positive Psychology. He has contributed articles to several psychological journals, including The Counseling Psychologist, School Psychology Quarterly, Journal of Clinical Psychology, Applied Neuropsychology, and Prevention and Treatment.
A licensed psychologist, Lopez received his Bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Southwestern Louisiana, and Master's and Doctorate degrees in counseling psychology from the University of Kansas. Recent honors and awards from the University of Kansas include the Kemper Teaching Fellowship, the Chancellor's Teaching Award, School of Education Faculty Research Award, and Graduate and Professional Association Outstanding Mentor Award. He was the 2003 recipient of the Kansas Psychological Association Outstanding Teaching Award.
Lopez is also a very devoted and involved father. He and his wife have a happy, energetic little boy.
Lopez, S. J., Floyd, R. K., Ulven, J. C., & Snyder, C. R. (2000). Hope therapy: Helping clients build the house of hope. In C. R. Snyder (Ed.), Handbook of hope: Theory, measures, and applications (pp. 123-150). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
McDermott, D., & Snyder, C. R. (2000). The great big book of hope: Help your children achieve their dreams. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Snyder, C. R., Berg, C., Woodward, J. T., Gum, A., Rand, K. L., Wrobleski, K. K., Brown, J. & Hackman, A. (2005). Hope against the cold: Individual differences in trait hope and acute pain tolerance on the cold pressor task. Journal of Personality, 73, 287 312.
Snyder, C. R., Lopez, S. J., Shorey, H. L., Rand, K. L., & Feldman, D. B. (2003). Hope theory, measurements, and applications to school psychology. School Psychology Quarterly, 18, 122-139.
Snyder, C. R., McDermott, D., Cook, W., & Rapoff, M. (1997). Hope for the journey: Helping children through the good times and the bad. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Snyder, C. R., Shorey, H. S., Cheavens, J., Pulvers, K. M., Adams, V. H., III, & Wiklund, C. (2002). Hope and academic success in college. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94, 820-826.
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