What parents do and don’t do, say and don’t say, provide their children with the experiences that their children interpret into beliefs.  Those beliefs, in turn, then determine their behavior and emotions and, ultimately, their lives for better or for worse.

Most parents at this point respond: “I’ve never thought about my children’s beliefs before.  Isn’t our job as parents to get our children to do the right thing, to teach them, and to make them happy?”

At What Cost?

The question we suggest you ask yourself is: At what cost? If you succeed in achieving what you wanted at the moment, and, as a result of your interaction with your child, he or she forms negative self-esteem beliefs, such as, I’m not good enough or I’m not worthwhile, or negative beliefs about life, such as, What I want doesn’t matter or I’ll never get what I want, was your behavior really “successful”?  In other words, is what you achieved short term with your child worth the long-term cost?

I’m not saying that your children’s behavior on a daily basis, their learning, and their current happiness are not important.  Of course they are.  What I am saying is that the single factor that has the greatest impact on whether or not your child achieves happiness and true satisfaction in life is a healthy self-esteem, a positive sense of life, and other positive beliefs—such as Relationships work, It’s safe to express feelings, and People can be trusted. Nothing they do, learn or feel as a child will have as much influence on their adult life as the fundamental beliefs they form as a child and take into adulthood.  (What are the possibilities of a truly satisfying life if you believe: I’m not good enough, I’m not worthwhile, What I want doesn’t matter, or I’ll never get what I want?)

Given that fact, what do you think that the major role of parents should be? Influencing behavior?  Teaching information?  Making their children happy?—or  facilitating their children in creating positive beliefs about themselves and life?

If you chose the latter, the best way I know of to insure that you are getting your job as a parent done is constantly to ask yourself the question: What is my child likely to conclude about him or herself and life as a result of this interaction we just had?  If it is a positive conclusion, congratulations!  You got your job done.  If it is a negative one, go back, apologize and clean it up.

The following two anecdotes involve interactions my wife Shelly and I had with each of our two children.  They illustrate some of the consequences of choosing something other than facilitating the creation of positive beliefs as the goal of parenting.

I Am Responsible For My Child’s Behavior

I noticed one day after my then ten-year-old daughter Blake took a friend’s hat that I immediately told her to give it back.  Why, I asked myself a few minutes after my interaction with her, did I tell her what to do?  If the friend got angry and didn’t speak to Blake for a day or two, that would be a good lesson for her on respecting other people’s property.  Having one friend not talk to her for a couple of days wouldn’t be a catastrophe.  If, on the other hand, the friend didn’t get angry, then it was just a game and Blake would give it back on her own when the game was over.  There were a half dozen other possible outcomes.  Regardless of what happened, however, why had I felt that I had to make sure she gave it right back?

I discovered after a little exploration that I believed “I am responsible for my children’s behavior toward others.”  And, “if I am responsible, then I have to make sure she always does what I think is appropriate and never does what I think is not appropriate.”  Can you see how these beliefs led to me telling her to give the hat back?

The question is not whether this is a “good” parenting belief.  The important question to consider is: What conclusions would Blake eventually come to if I continued this type of behavior long enough?   There’s something wrong with me (because dad is always telling me what to do and not to do).  Or, I can’t count on myself to do the right thing. Or, I need someone else to make sure I do the right thing.  With this belief, what would happen when someone tells her that “everyone” is trying drugs, or having sex, etc.?  If she can’t count on her own judgment, she would have to listen to what everyone else is saying.

Learn Effective Parenting Skills

Obviously there are good ways of teaching children without controlling your child’s every behavior that I cannot cover in this short blog post. For more details, and to learn how parents can insure that their children form positive, and not negative, beliefs about themselves and life, attend Shelly’s live, interactive, webinar, where she will answer your specific parenting questions. Tuesday, Nov 3, 9-10 p.m. EST.  http://bit.ly/4umdm5

Children Are Not Adults.  Why Do We Assume They Are?

When Brittany, our other daughter, was four, she took about ten two-to-four inch pieces of Scotch tape from Shelly’s desk and was using it to play with.  Shelly asked her to not take any more tape because she was wasting it.  Brittany did it several more times and Shelly found herself getting increasingly annoyed with the amount of tape Brittany was “wasting.”   Shelly told her that she wouldn’t be allowed to come into her home office anymore if she kept taking the tape.

After several more incidents like this, Shelly said to herself:  What’s the big deal?  Putting a couple of feet of tape on paper, the waste basket and the wall is wasting tape by adult standards, but it is a game by a child’s standards and a very inexpensive game at that.  On the other hand, what is she concluding about herself and life as a result of these interactions with me?

One possibility might be: There’s something wrong with me. Or perhaps, I’m not good enough. Or, I can’t be trusted.  Or: What I want doesn’t matter.  Shelly clearly had to stop this type of behavior, but first she had to figure out what she believed that produced it.  When Shelly finally discovered it she realized that it was a belief that a great many parents had:  Children should have the same standards of behavior as adults.  Why should they?  Children are not adults!

Remember to keep asking yourself as you interact with your child: What conclusion is my child reaching?  Asking that question and making sure that the conclusions are positive will make more of a difference in his or her life than you can possibly imagine.

Thanks for reading my blog. Do you agree or disagree with the points I made in this post?  Why?  Do you have something to add?  Your comments will add value for thousands of readers.

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To find out more about Shelly Lefkoe’s live, interactive, webinar, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 9-10 p.m. EST, where she will answer your specific parenting questions, click on http://bit.ly/4umdm5)

If you haven’t yet eliminated at least one of your limiting self-esteem beliefs using the Lefkoe Belief Process, go to htp://www.recreateyourlife.com/free where you can eliminate one limiting belief free.

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