3 Ways Parents Shape Their Children’s Mind
Children learn from everything their parents do and say. That is a bold and rather frightening statement; but, it is true. Parents cannot not teach, lead, and guide their children. Children are watching, listening, and learning from their parents every moment of every day. Children learn to show politeness, express gratitude, and practicing kindness by watching their parents do the same. Unfortunately, children also pick up language they hear their parents mumble under their breath in anger. They enact their parent’s most undesirable habits and practice them with little restraint. This constant learning extends beyond mere actions and words to include a child’s thought life as well. A parent’s words and actions influence how their children think about themselves, their abilities, their relationships. Think about that: a parent’s words and actions mold their children’s thought life which forms their children’s confidence, relationships, and self-concept…ultimately, their success. This is a huge responsibility. With the weight of that responsibility in mind, we, as parents and family shepherds, have to ask ourselves, “Do my words and actions instill beneficial, life-enhancing ways of thinking in my child or do they instill detrimental, hurtful patterns of thought in my child?” Here are 3 ways you, as your family’s shepherd, can guide your children to think in beneficial, life-enhancing ways.
· Model life-enhancing thought patterns in your own life. Think out loud around your children and let them hear beneficial patterns of thought. Let them hear how you avoid “making a mountain out of a mole hill.” Let them experience you recognizing that a negative event is temporary not permanent. Acknowledge what is, and what is not, your responsibility in the midst of difficult situations. Give your children the opportunity to discover that your most common thoughts focus around things that are true, respectful, admirable, of good reputation, and praiseworthy. One of the most crucial times to model life-enhancing thought patterns centers on times of discipline. When you discipline misbehavior, make sure your words reflect a firm, but grace-filled, love. Practically speaking, this means no name-calling, focus on behavior not character, do not make the misbehavior bigger than necessary by lecturing or “going on and on,” and express faith in your child, that he can and will (and most likely has in the past) engage in the positive behaviors you desire.
· Teach life-enhancing thought patterns in all situations. Talk to your children in difficult times, challenging times, and happy times to encourage thought patterns that promote humility, respect, love, and truth in each situation. When their team loses a game, teach them to think about what they can learn and how to improve. When their team wins a game, teach them to think about showing grace and respect to their opponent. When their mind reaches for the worst case scenario in the midst of a challenging situation, teach them to question that worst case and search for the reality of the situation instead. Teach your children to listen to their thoughts, investigate the evidence for their thoughts, question the usefulness of their thoughts, and consider any realistic alternatives for their thoughts.
· Practice gratitude. Every night ask your children to name 3 events they experienced during the day for which they are grateful. Write them down; keep a list. Throughout the day, say “thank you” every chance you get. Tell your children “thank you” when they do something kind. Tell your spouse “thank you” for supper. Tell the stranger “thank you” for holding the door open, the waitress for bringing your food, the other driving for letting you into the line of traffic. Let gratitude permeate your language and your actions. Then it will permeate your children’s thoughts as well. The life-enhancing thought pattern of gratitude will become your children’s natural approach to life, their modus operandi. Is there any better way to live than to live with gratitude?
Parents cannot not teach, lead, and guide their children, even when it comes to patterns of thought. As you might imagine, teaching your children life-enhancing thought patterns will demand your time and attention, your best listening ear, a heart of patience, and a compassionate sensitivity…but, the results are well worth the effort.