There is a rising movement among teachers and parents on the use of positivity as a teaching philosophy. I applaud this movement because our communities are rampant with people brandishing their weapons of negativity. Some teachers or parents are overly harsh on their children. They use negative imagery and phrases to cow their children into submission. They shame, insult, and even curse to gain control over their children. Yet, some parents are so reactionary to their personal negative upbringing that they swing to the other extreme of being overly positive. This is especially rampant among people who get a whiff of positive psychology but don’t understand its correct theory or application. Here, I discuss some factors to bring balance into positivism as a teaching method.
Clearly Define Positivity – Positivity is not a synonym of happiness but a word that describes an array of emotions. These can include thankfulness, hope, inspiration, fun, and, many more. Therefore, when you talk to your kids about being positive, avoid telling them to be “happy.” Be specific. Ask them to focus on one emotion at a time.
Duality of Emotions – There is a common myth that sunflowers are always facing the sun. Known as floral heliotropism, sunflowers in full bloom do not follow the sun, but actually face east. The expectation that our children, teenagers or even adults should always be positive is foolhardy and dangerous. Save God, everything else can be viewed as dualistic. Darkness is counter to light. Love is counter to hatred. In this fashion, positivity is counter to negativity. More specifically, joy is counter to sadness. For teachers and parents, every teenager or student have tens of emotions.
Accurate Use of Emotions – Never use a positive emotion in a demeaning way. For example, gratitude is a very positive emotion. It requires one to asses one’s situation, be a recipient of kindness, and learn to pass that goodness along. Don’t bring it into the discussion when feelings are high and tense. If your teen is angry that they don’t have the latest phone, invoking gratitude is helpful in some ways. But it’s only going make them resent rules, and even question divine providence. That is only stating, “You are a very spoiled child!” Instead, bring up gratitude when they witness kindness or are recipients of kindness.
Positivity-Boarding – I chose to use this phrase not to diminish the suffering of people who have suffered water boarding, but to show how invasively torturous people who force positivity onto themselves or others are. Positive thinking is not just about suppressing one’s behavior, body communication, language or even thinking. In fact, it begins when your are faced with an initial circumstance and not later by forcing your reactions such as you body language, facial expressions or words to conform to being positive. By changing how you think about circumstances that come your way, it will help shape your reactions. Trying to change someone’s negative reactions is partially effective. It might even make them think of you as insensitive. When a woman was crying and lamenting over her child’s death, the prophet exhorted her to be patient. She lashed out angrily back at the Prophet (pbuh). The Prophet’s advice was affective inasmuch as how she interpreted her circumstances. When she returned to her senses, she realized she had been rude to the Prophet. The Prophet told her that patience begins at the first strike of calamity. Here, his instructions echo the same wisdom. It’s all about how you interpret your circumstances that will govern your reaction.