Do You Believe in Fishful Thinking?

One of the staples of our snack cupboard has always been Goldfish crackers. I’ve always felt good about giving them to the boys, and those little fishies have always been a favorite of theirs as well. In fact, I now have to buy them each a bag and write their name on the bag so they don’t fight over them! So when I was asked by my friend Sarah at Trenches of Mommyhood if I would consider being a Fishful Thinking Ambassador for Pepperidge Farms, I was intrigued, and when I actually read about the program, I didn’t hesitate. (Plus, I thought maybe I’d get to wear a crown with little goldfish on it. Whaddya think, Pepperidge Farms? A possibility?)

Today, it’s “cool” (and smart marketing) to produce foods that are natural and wholesome. But did you know that Pepperidge Farms has been producing Goldfish crackers without artificial preservatives for over 40 years? To me, that says that Pepperidge Farms is commited to children’s well-being, so it really shouldn’t be surprising that the Fishful Thinking program represents the same values. Fishful Thinking is a program created by Pepperidge Farms and Positive Psychology leader Dr. Karen Reivich whose purpose is to help parents raise kids who are optimistic and can confidently tackle life’s challenges.

Fishful Thinking is made up of 5 key points:

  • Optimism: Focusing on the positive things in life.
  • Emotional Awareness: Expressing and controlling your feelings.
  • Goal Setting/Hope: Finding ways to achieve your goals.
  • Resilience: Coping with life’s ups and downs.
  • Empowerment: Identifying and using your strengths and skills.

I’ve been thinking about how I already encourage these traits with my boys, along with what more I can do. Here are some real-life examples from our house.

  • Boy #1—Optimism. Wow, do we EVER work on this trait with Boy #1! If you have a “tween,” you know what I’m talking about. The attitude. The “woe is me.” The “you never let me do anything.” The “you hate me!” Yeah, it doesn’t really scream “Optimist,” does it? It seems that every single day, at least once, we remind Boy #1 to think about how “good” he’s got it, how much he has going for him, and how a smile will get him much farther than a frown. In fact, I just had a conversation with him about how much he was dreading going to school tomorrow because they have to run the mile in P.E., and “I HATE running! I can’t do it! My lungs feel like they’re going to explode, and I’m always last, and I HATE it…” You get the idea. My advice to him? “I know that you hate it, but there’s no use in getting all worked up about it because you don’t have a choice. You have to run it, so instead of dwelling on it, just do the best you can do.” I even gave him some breathing tips so he could think about his breathing instead of thinking about how much he hates running while he’s in the middle of it. Usually he just says, “That won’t work!” or “Just forget it!” But this time he surprised me by saying, “Hey, remind me of that in the morning, will you?” (I’ll take all the little victories I can get!)
  • Boy #2—Empowerment. I know I’ve said this before, but Boy #2 is just, well, undefinable. He’s my little enigma. I really don’t know what to make of him a lot of the time. One minute he’s doing fractions in his head, and the next minute he’s sucking his thumb. He can be extremely funny, but he can also throw a temper tantrum that his four-year-old brother wishes he’d thought of. And he’s a middle child on top of it all. So we try to really instill empowerment in him whatever chances we get. We capitalize on what he’s good at and what he is interested in (which right now is any and all things “math”) and give him opportunities to “impress us” as well as stretch his thinking to show him that it’s okay if he doesn’t always know the answers and that sometimes it’s just as important to show that you’re willing to search for an answer and take risks as it is to be “right.” He’s proud of being smart, but we hope he’s also just as proud of being curious.
  • Boy #3—Emotional Awareness. Being the baby of the family, I think Boy #3 must feel that he doesn’t get heard because he has now taken to IMMEDIATELY SCREAMING when something doesn’t go his way. And let me just tell you, he is definitely HEARD when this happens! Sometimes we can’t understand what he’s screaming, but we can hear him, no doubt about it. Obviously, then, we are working on helping Boy #3 express his emotions in a way that’s more constructive. And doesn’t cause our blood pressure to spike. Lately it’s been working to sit him in a time-out immediately when he begins screaming. We give him a chance to calm down, and then we discuss what the problem is and what he can do to solve it that doesn’t involve screaming. (And when I say “we,” I mean “my husband” because he is much better at this than I am!) This usually does the trick, and we have about a 5-minute window before he forgets about what we just discussed and screams again about a different issue. Work in progress…

So what about you? What Fishful Thinking traits do you emphasize with your kids? Which ones would you like to? Do you have any strategies that have worked well for you? Let’s start a conversation!

4 thoughts on “Do You Believe in Fishful Thinking?”

  1. Wonderful blog…wonderful insights into #1,2 and 3. You are a great Mom, as I have always contended. 🙂

  2. Great post Paula – isn’t this a great program? It’s one that’s so relevant to our lives as mothers!

  3. Great insight of your 3. My oldest is going thru the same as yours. Drives me crazy. They have it soooo much easier than I did. But I have to empathize that it really is tough being a middle schooler.

  4. This is an interesting program…I guess right now, I’m just trying to instill in Miss Priss how much it really bothers Mommy when I find the goldfish ground into a fine powder and scattered all over the sofa. :o)

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