We Are What We Think
Parenting from the Heart
Sometimes in life we are dealt a rather crappy hand. This is especially true for children who end up in the foster care system.
Take Anna for example, (name changed for privacy) a 12 year old foster child who had been abandoned by a mother who chose a drug addiction and men over her children. Anna had developed some pretty bad habits. Lying, stealing money to support her cigarette addiction, manipulating everyone around her to get what she wanted. Her entire life seemed to consist of lying, cheating, stealing, and manipulating.
Nothing was wrong with her, except for her thinking. Except for her thinking she would be a normal 12 year old child.
Destructive conditions at home may have helped precipitate her messed up thinking, but the only part of her that was ‘damaged’ was the way she used her thinking process and that could always change.
Unfortunately, nothing in the entire social services system is designed to help young people understand how their thinking is getting them into trouble, so it could change.
Thought Is the Key
If not for their thinking, all teenagers would be wonderful human beings. Something lies behind their presenting behavior. Behind all behavior problems lies a certain type of thinking.
Hidden beneath the off-kilter thinking that makes people feel bad and gets them into trouble, lies that glowing ember of pure love and health that they brought with them into the world. Then they learn to think their way away from it.
The only thing that keeps kids from seeing and being in touch with their beautiful inner, healthy, loving energy deep inside of them is their own thinking- regardless how bad or problematic their behavior.
Children Are Always Doing Their Best
What we see of our children’s behavior is the way they have learned to respond to life. The learning is their own thinking. They create their own way of seeing the world from how they were treated and what they were told, and what they took in as they grew up, and they’re just trying to respond the best way they know how.
They don’t know how to respond in any other way. They’re doing the best they know how at the time, given the way they see things.
So besides going out of our way to show them love, we need to also help them take a look at how they’re using their power of thought and how that thinking is affecting them. This changes the entire tenor of your relationship.
Some people and professionals would argue that in some cases physical problems or chemical imbalances or ADHD and other disorders cause some kids to behave badly, and I don’t dispute that. It’s also conceivable, that the thinking could have preceeded the imbalance or disorder, or that people’s thinking stands between the imbalance or disorder and the behavior, causing it to be manifested in different ways.
First we need to understand what makes kids behave the way they do. Our understanding of why kids behave the way they do will determine our effectiveness and satisfaction in dealing with them.
Why Kids Behave The Way They Do
Kids are not born insecure, or with spiteful behavior. If kids have this common sense and natural wisdom inside them, why don’t they use it?
From the moment we’re born we start forgetting that we have it. Things happen to us. We form thoughts about those events, situations, and circumstances. Our parents tell us things and we form thoughts about what they tell us. This process is a necessary part of life. We develop a way of thinking that helps us make sense of the world.
This thinking causes us to see ourselves in certain ways. Some thoughts can make us feel insecure. Some can make us afraid. Some can make us judgmental of others. Some can make us feel bad or angry. And some can make us feel that we have to behave in certain ways to maintain what we’ve learned to think about ourselves.
Many of these thoughts take us away from our natural state of well-being and self-esteem. Many thoughts are so loud in our heads that we can no longer hear our inner wisdom and common sense.
We have in essence, thought ourselves away from our health. No one does this intentionally. It just happens to all of us as we grow.
One of the secrets to whether we will raise children in healthy, productive, joyful, satisfying ways- and one of the secrets to our own happiness and peace of mind- is to understand that if we could get those unproductive thoughts out the way, or at least not take them seriously, the inner, natural state would automatically surface.
Our thinking, both as children and adults, is the only thing keeping our innate health and wisdom down. Which means, all we have to do is get out of our own way. Ignore, dismiss, forget about, or not take seriously the thoughts that are keeping those natural, inner feelings submerged and it will appear for us.
Children act out in troubling ways only because the thinking they have taken on has made them lose touch with their natural state of well-being and common sense.
Their thinking has made it appear to them that they should act exactly as they are. Given what they believe and how the world looks to them at that moment, they have no other choice but to feel and act in that way. This is why they’re always doing the best they know how at the time.
So what do we do?
If our children already have natural health and wisdom already inside them, and if they also have certain thoughts that create insecurities that lead them to act in troubling ways, then 2 things need to happen:
- We could help this natural state emerge and their own wisdom and common sense to guide them.
- We could help them understand how not to let their negative or insecure thoughts get in the way.
How We Create Insecure Thinking
When children are young, if we yell at them and put them down, or nag at them, and criticize them, and tell them they’re not OK, we are inadvertently teaching them to have insecure thoughts about themselves. They then take them and become those thoughts.
When schools tell kids they won’t fit in, or they won’t do well, or they will have trouble learning, or that they are troublemakers, if that child believes it, they will think it themselves; they will think this is who they are. This keeps them looking outside themselves for the answers to who they are.
This leads to an insecure set of beliefs. If parents are always telling a kid he’s stupid, and then something happens to fit into those beliefs, such as getting an “F” on a test, he may think, “They’re right, I am stupid.” Those beliefs get reinforced. And once those beliefs are entrenched and become a pattern, then even when something happens that contradicts the thoughts/beliefs (such as getting an “A”) then they think, “That was just a fluke”.
Once those thoughts are locked in, no matter what comes along, those kids will still think they’re stupid and act as if they really are. The world then reacts to them accordingly, which in turn reinforces it. It’s a viscious cycle.
We as parents have also picked up such beliefs from our parents. Then without being aware of it, we pass it on to our kids. It then gets programmed into our kids’ brains as it was inadvertently programmed into ours.
Our kids pick up “as if” worlds from us. They begin to go through life “as if” certain things about life are most important. If we were taught that we should go through life as if money were important, we being to see a lot of things in life in terms of money.
They become our own. We now own them.
This is how our kid’s programmed habitual thinking develops. Out of this programmed thinking they then see the world, and out of the way they see the world, they think, feel, and act.
Color Your World
Each of us is looking at the world through different colored lenses and acting as if what we’re seeing is the way life really is.
Everyone sees the world differently. Yet, they think that what they’re seeing is the way it really is. This explains why there are so many arguments, fights, and disagreements. Everyone is living in a separate world, separate reality, that they each think is right.
So are our kids. Our kids live in separate world from us. Therefore, they think differently and act differently than we do. Just as we think our world is right, so do they. No wonder we have so many conflicts.
We do have some similarities in our ways of thinking, but we all have different experiences and interpret those experiences differently.
What do we do?
First, we want to be a little careful about how seriously we take our own thinking. If we pay close attention we might be able to tell when a habitual pattern has become programmed in us and rears its head. It sounds all too familiar. If w see it, we might want to be a little more careful about what we lay on our kids, because it comes from our own “reality” of what we think is important.
We also want to understand that when we react to kids in a negative way, that becomes a pattern, our children can pick up similar thinking patterns. So if we want our kids to behave well, we might want to watch how we think and behave.
If we tend to react with anger to whatever they do wrong, our kids may pick up a tendency to react with anger when they encounter something they don’t like.
It helps to be mindful that our kids act based on their thinking and much of their thinking stems from what they have been innocently exposed to and learned.
The less we treat our kids in ways that breed negative, unhealthy, destructive, or problematic thinking, the less our kids will have a tendency to act out of what becomes programmed, habitual thinking for them.