Setting a vision, which is part intention and part visualization, is supported by diverse research. Strong and specific intentions have been shown to be a powerful tool that can influence behavior, thoughts and moods.

For example, people who made resolutions were 10 times more likely to attain them. Even a single positive word can strengthen areas of the brain related to cognitive functioning, motivation and action, while a single negative word can increase activity in the brain’s fear center, partially shut down the brain’s logic and reasoning centers, and disrupt genes that protect from stress.

Positivity researcher Barbara Fredrickson found that when people were shown positive film clips, they felt more motivated to take action and see the possibilities in their lives. Describing a positive day to kids is like showing them a positive film clip that they're about to jump into.

Lastly, emotional contagion research suggests that enthusiasm and joy (as well as sadness, anger, and fear) can be passed from person to person within milliseconds.

When you muster your own positivity about the day's events, your kids will pick up on your emotions.

Here are four ways to set the vision for a great day with your kids:

1. The guessing game vision

“Today we’re going to do something special. You want to guess what it is? I’ll give you some hints. When we get there, there will be banana bread waiting for us! We might play hide and seek in the living room, and I know you’ll find the sneakiest spot ever. Later we’ll play in the yard on the swings and go in the kiddie pool. We might even go in the basement and look at someone’s favorite shell collection. Did you guess? That’s right, we’re going to Grandma and Grandpas!”


“Get your shoes on, we’re going to Grandma and Grandpa’s.”

2. Description of great parts to look out for

“Today we’re going to drive to the cabin in Wisconsin. Do you think we’ll see that real jail on the side of the road like we did last year? That was cool how we could see the lookout towers and fences from the highway. Also, we’re gonna listen to the coolest music—everyone can take turns, but I’m listening to the oldies when it’s my turn. What will you choose? Plus we’re getting Subway for lunch and I’m getting my favorite cheese sandwich!

“Remember when we played the license plate game last year and you saw Rhode Island? That was so rare. I wonder what states we will see this year.”


“Ugh, it’s gonna take forever to get to Wisconsin.”

3. The setting-up-for-good-behavior vision

“We’re going to your soccer game tonight. Remember how much hustle you had last time? You were running so fast you were a blur. All your team members were such good sports too—remember when your forward helped that guy up after he fell down, then you all said 'good game' at the end? I bet the other team will love playing against you guys, because you’re tough, but friendly too.”


“Soccer tonight.”

4. The sensory vision

"We’re going hiking and we can all look for smooth walking sticks. We might even see a manatee or an osprey along this trail, so we’ve got to keep our eyes peeled. We’re gonna really be soaking up this Florida sunshine since it’s so cold in Minnesota right now. And we can even have some races along the trail.”


“We're going hiking."

How parents set the tone helps determine if their families will see the day as a disaster or a delight. It alerts them to the fun moments they can be especially “on the lookout for.” It also reduces resistance and builds enthusiasm, joy, excitement, and a sense of safety from knowing what's coming next.