There are several new books out about the things we “say” to ourselves and the impact those thoughts can have on our lives. Children are not always fully aware of these thoughts. Metacognition, or the recognition of these thoughts, is critical to a child being raised in a Christian home. Why? Because these thoughts have a huge impact on the choices your kids will make. Being aware of their thought processes will give them more awareness of their ability to control these thoughts and make better choices.
So where do all of these thoughts originate? Many of them actually begin with you. That is why it’s so important to refrain from saying things like, “You are so stupid!” or “You always make the worst possible decisions!” when you are frustrated with your kids. Words have an impact on thoughts. If you use inappropriate language when frustrated with your kids – especially repeatedly – their thoughts will continue to define themselves using your words. Which is sad, because often parents don’t really mean those hurtful words – they were spoken in the anger of the moment.
You can also put positive thoughts in your kids’ brains. Be realistic though. Studies are showing that unrealistically high self esteem also produces negative consequences. Think carefully about the positive messages you want your kids to hear about themselves in their own heads. Be intentional in using them regularly to make the “tape” especially strong. Don’t forget things like, “I will always love you!”, because those reassurances will be there when they need them, too.
Make sure to put some strong scripture “tapes” in their brains. Have a few verses you regularly quote or summarize. Encourage them to memorize scripture and use it regularly so it will be part of their long term memory “tape” collection when they need it. Help them have a balance of scriptures that encourage them to make good choices and verses that remind them of God’s love, power and presence.
While you are working to put helpful “tapes” in the brains of your kids, it is crucial to monitor another major source of negative thoughts in our brains – the words of siblings. Do not ignore it when siblings say ugly things to one another. Don’t excuse it as normal sibling teasing. Teasing or not, when a thin girl is told constantly by a sibling that she is fat, she begins to believe it. Insist that siblings use kind words when speaking to each other. Don’t let their youthful meanness put negative thought patterns in each other’s brains for life.
Want to know what tapes your kids have playing in their heads already? Ask them? If they don’t know, tell them to name a huge goal they have for their future and then pay close attention to what their brain “says” in response to it. If they are already having negative thoughts, teach them how to change them by substituting a better thought every time they realize they are beginning the harmful thought. It takes practice, but it can help them make better choices if they learn to make their inner dialogue helpful and holy.