It Starts With Us

Have you ever caught yourself saying something, quickly realizing it is something your closest friend says all the time? Or maybe you noticed one day that you know all the words to a song you didn’t realize you had even paid attention to. That’s because what we surround ourselves with influences us on every level, even subconsciously. You may have heard it said before that we are like the five people with whom we spend most of our time. I’m a firm believer in this. If positive and success-

ful people consistently surround you, you are more likely to be a positive and successful person. If you tend to be around folks who complain, struggle with work ethic, or act or speak negatively, chances are you will find yourself doing the same. 

As parents, it is important to recognize that we have the opportunity and yes, responsibility, to be the positive influence for our children. The opportunity to influence their foundation of moral structure, beliefs, and attitudes about themselves and others is an important key to setting them up for long-term success that often gets overlooked.

So how can we help our children grow up feeling loved, accepted, and respected in a world that is filled with negative propaganda that tells them they are never enough? How do we compete with the peer pressure often seen on social media and mainstream enter-
tainment that leaves them feeling discouraged? 

Here are five tips I find helpful with my own children …

1. WALK THE TALK. The number one thing we must realize is that our children are always watching and always listening. If you are constantly talking down about yourself, others, or your circumstances, your children will begin to mimic this behavior. How many times have you laughed at young children who say adult phrases or words? What we sometimes fail to consider is the fact that they are picking up on all the things we say and do. If you have a child who says things like “I can’t ever get anything right; nothing ever works for me; I have the worst luck, that’s just who I am …” ask yourself if this is something you often say. Is your self-talk positive? Do you talk poorly about yourself or others? If your children throw things when they are mad or resort to violence when they don’t get their way, consider where they might be seeing this behavior and make sure it’s not at home. 

2. WORDS MATTER. All of them. It’s important that when we speak to our children we are honest, yet cognizant about what we say and how we say it. Our words could impact our child’s confidence and self-perspective for much longer than the conversation itself. If your child makes a mistake, address the mistake/action for what it is; don’t imply that he or she is wrong or bad, but rather, his or her choice was. If you are quick to throw out phrases like “You always do this; you never listen; you drive me crazy …” these will become their inner voice and eventually what they believe about themselves to be true until they are taught otherwise. The same holds true when we talk to others about our kids. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been around parents and I overhear a conversation where one says to another “He can be such a pain; she never does what I tell her; he is so oversensitive …” Think their children didn’t hear them? Think again. Words matter. Make sure you aren’t saying things to your children or about them you wouldn’t say to or about yourself. 

3. SUPPORT THEIR DREAMS. Kids aren’t born with limiting beliefs. If you ask young children what they want to be when they grow up, they almost always have an answer. Everything from teaching to saving the world, they believe this is what they want to do, and will inevitably do. They have no reason to doubt their ability to be what they want. Support them. Cheer them on. Does this mean your three-year-old should have an action plan to become the next president or that you are setting him or her up for disappointment? No. It provides an opportunity to help children understand the characteristics and skill sets required for what they want to be, and it shows them you believe in them too. As adults, we often try to keep things “realistic” – we laugh at their dreams and encourage them to find an alternative dream or a “backup plan.” Why? Typically, it’s because over time we lost faith in our own dreams or we lacked the belief in ourselves to go after them at all. Children who are repeatedly told they are crazy for their dreams, or sarcastically told “Good luck with that,” will struggle to find their passions until someone else pours belief back into them.

4. BE AVAILABLE. Life can be hectic at times, yet our children need to know we are there for them, we are listening, and we are available when they need support. They need to know they can come to us for guidance and comfort without judgment. If we don’t create an environment where they feel safe to talk to us, this can lead to feelings of loneliness, confusion, or that they are not respected or valued. Show them they are worth your time.

5. TEACH THEM HOW TO COPE WITH DISAPPOINTMENT. Not everyone should get a trophy. The reality is not everyone can always win all the time. Disappointment is a natural part of life and if we do not show our children how to process disappointments and cope with the emotions that stem from this, they will struggle in every area of their life. Whether it’s life goals, career goals, or relationship goals, they will inevitably be faced with disappointment either in themselves, their circumstances, or others. Teach them patience, respect, and forgiveness.