Be careful what you put in your child's mind

I often hear parents telling their children that they are idiots, they will amount to nothing, they are losers, cowards, etc. Some of these children later repeat such negative opinions of themselves during my lessons. Just think for a moment what kind of message you are sending to your children if you are one of those parents who say things like that. Your children trust you, believe in everything you say and expect you to do what's good for them. This means they believe in most things that you say. Now, if you keep telling them that they will never be good at something, they are likely to believe you and stop even trying. And that's not what you want for your children, is it? You don't want to raise quitters. You want to raise go-getters. Read on to find out how to do that.
Be careful what you say to your child
This brings us to ideas that can help your children believe that they can do anything they put their minds to. That's exactly the opposite of what the parents I mentioned above are doing. I knew some of you people out there would think that this is just theory or a bunch of BS, so I found some serious proof that I am talking serious business. Research in Psychology has shown that these ideas work. 

Do good, be good

In his book, "Redirect", Professor of Psychology Timothy  Wilson talks about the "Do good, be good" method of changing behaviour. This is the idea that if you consistently tell your child that he is generous and likes sharing, he will likely become that kind of person. That's the good side of this method. The bad side of it is that if you consistently tell your child that he is not good at Maths, he will start thinking of himself as someone who is not good at the subject and will probably stop making any effort to get a better grade. And this will ultimately make him bad at Maths. The reason will not be that he is not good, but that he believes he is not good and stops learning. So if your child does something well and you continuously reinforce the idea, he will believe in his abilities and become more confident. As your child tries harder, this will become a habit. And making a habit of forming good habits is the answer. As professor Timothy Wilson says, "Initial edits in people's stories lead to lasting changes." So help your child to edit a good story for himself right from the beginning. This will have a huge impact on his future.

Commitment and Consistency

As Professor of Psychology Robert Cialdini explained in his book, "Influence - Science and Practice", which I highly recommend, there are six principles of influence - reciprocation, consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity. It's commitment and consitency and the way I understand it regarding raising children that I would like to talk about. Consistency is the principle that makes people carry through with previous decisions, even when they know they were wrong. The idea here is to make your children make a commitment, oral or verbal, that they can achieve something or reach any goal that they set. By simply making them believe they can do something, they are likely to keep trying and believing that they can make it. Although this sounds similar to the "Do good, be good" method, the fuel behind consistency is that your child will be striving to be consistent with the commitment he made, which should bring positive results. 

Pushing your children outside their comfort zone

This reminds me of the psychological trick that my uncle used to apply on me when I was in high school. He knew that I was quite competitive and ambitious and would do everything possible to be even better. So he would single out one person he knew was just outside my reach, school-wise, and say something like I would never beat that guy in Mathematics tests, for example. For some children this would be discouraging, but my uncle knew me very well and was aware that I would do everything possible to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone and beat that guy. And that's exactly what happened. Within a few days of my uncle saying that, I would have that guy as my target, repeating to myself that I could be better than him and would usually end up doing better in tests. This caused me to take very frequent trips outside my comfort zone and before I even noticed, I had the best results in the whole school. And I became the target for the other children. 

And the moral is...

The moral of this post is that we should mind what we say to our children and we should know them well enough to be aware of psychological principles that help them keep stretching themselves and going beyond their comfort zone. As Michael John Bobak said, "All progress takes place outside the comfort zone." Instead of bringing our kids down at every turn, we should find ways to raise their self esteem and belief in their abilities. With a little help from you, as a parent, your children will grow up with the belief that they are masters of their own fates. That's what we all want for our children, right? Remember that positive reinforcement often works wonders.
As Celestine Chua said, "Everything is always created twice, first in the mind and then in reality." So be careful what you put in your child's mind as it is likely to become reality.
Recommended books:
  •  "Influence - Science and Practice" - by Robert Cialdini
  • "Redirect" - by Timothy Wilson


Do you believe that the impact of what we say to our children is so big? What psychological tricks are you playing on your kids? Leave a comment below. 


Wed, 26 Jun 2013