As silly as this may sound, it was years of training horses that taught me how to raise my daughter. Every living being is born with neutral beliefs, and every action has a direct reaction. We are the creator of the initial action, reaction, or both, and our communication and engagement further promotes or discourages the behavior. It’s easy to raise happy children when you understand neurolinguistics (brain communication).
It is parent’s interactions with their children that initially create the child’s paradigm of who they believe themselves to be. Inherently there is a lot power and responsibility when we fully understand how our words and actions will shape our children for their lifetime.
So why not shape our children to be responsible, loving and considerate people? I understand that this may be an obvious, duh! But it’s not that easy for most parents, and it’s not their fault. It is the perpetual cycle handed down by generations and accepted by society.
Setting up our Children for Success
Let’s start this conversation with responsibility. We are responsible for everything and everyone that shows up in our life. All of it, even the “bad” stuff. When we choose to be responsible for our life we create power, and freedom. And the truth is every action we take has a direct reaction, and chain reaction, if we had made a different choice we would have had a different reaction. This gives us power to change the future if our current situation is not desirable.
Before we move on, you need to answer these questions, as they will set you to fully support your happy children.
1. Recall an adult or incident from your childhood that resulted in you feeling bad. What did they say or do? How did you feel about yourself?
2. Recall an adult or incident from your childhood that resulted in you feeling good. What did they say or do? How did you feel about yourself?
We all have people or incidents we can recall from our childhood who’ve left us feeling loved, powerful, smart, accepted, and there are people or incidents who left us feeling wrong, broken, unaccepted, and lonely.
Regardless if you’re pregnant and your baby is soon to be here, or if you have an older child, right now is the perfect time to set your child up for success and create happy children.
Raising Happy Children
Children absorb information from their surroundings. Parents form children’s paradigm of life (who we are and how we value ourselves) happens between birth and 8 years old. We as parents have the single greatest influence over our children. Other influences include society, demographics, and socioeconomic status, but parents beliefs and interactions with children is what typically molds that child for life.
Children are born with no pre-existing beliefs or behaviors, everything is learned, everything is programmed. Programming happens whether intentional or unintentional and is either creating a positive or negative belief. Programming occurs in the sub-conscious brain, where we think, act, and do, without actually thinking about it.
Children with dysfunctional behavior typically have parents who are trying to achieve a positive outcome, but interacting with the child in a manner that creates undesirable behavior. Most parents are not educated in mental health, neurological science, or linguistics and the children are unintentionally programmed to act negatively and/or have negative beliefs about themselves.
Most people do the best they can, they don’t intentionally hurt us, but we make up stories about ourselves based on our experiences. We get to create experiences for our children so they create positive stories about themselves.
It is not huge experiences that create our beliefs, but the small experiences daily. We take these experiences and run them as a program for our life.
The human brain does not process negations. When we focus on what we do not want, the brain imagines the object to be avoided, more than the relational word “not”, and then focuses attention there. I want you to think for a second… But whatever you think about, do NOT think of a pink elephant…
What shade of pink was that elephant? A negative command in language patterns is wanting something to occur by stating what you don’t want to occur. This avoids a direct command.
Children literally act as they are told to (a direct command), not how they are told not to (negative command). These past few paragraphs alone have been a bit confusing right?! So let’s be direct.
Positive Linguistics (direct command):
You are kind. You are so much fun. You always have the best ideas. You make friends everywhere you go. Everyone always loves you. You are so helpful.
Child name, I love when you walk right next to me in the store, so we can get in and out quickly so we can go to the park and play!
Child name, you make me so proud of you when we go to restaurants and you eat so politely, are polite to our waitress and eat neatly.
Positive language and interactions results in children having positive thoughts, positive beliefs, and positive actions.
Negative linguistics (negative command):
You are always late. You are so loud. You are crazy. You are challenging. You are difficult. You are needy. You are exhausting.
Child name, if you don’t want to end up in time out again you better not yell, scream, make a mess or we won’t go to the park and play.
Child name, you better not make a mess like last time when we had to leave the restaurant and apologize to everyone because you were so loud.
Language focusing on what we don’t want promotes behaviors we don’t want and poor self-esteem.
It’s easy to imagine how the programming impacts our children, speak what you want into existence.
It is adults’ negative language patterns that are the hardest to break, as we’ve got a lot more practice and programs then our children.
You will fail, it happens and it’s ok, acknowledge the breakdown, and move on. If you say something to your child and realize it was not want you intended, let them know that was not what you meant to say and rephrase it for them. When you do this you are teaching your child it’s ok to mess up, it’s ok to be forgiven; it’s good to acknowledge mistakes, and how to move on. These are powerful lessons in life and it’s our everyday interactions with them that set them up for success.
How To Create Happy, Healthy, Loving Children
Acknowledgement: We all LOVE acknowledgement. When we get acknowledged for something we did, we are more likely to do it again. Reinforce the behaviors you appreciate in your children by bringing attention to them, acknowledge them frequently to others. Be proud of your child, build them up, let them notice all the wonderful things they do. The small things are often times feel like big things, especially to children.
Comparisons: Eliminate the comparison, good or bad. Praise them for who they are, just as they are. Let their creativity flow freely from them. Everyone feels terrible when compared to others. Teach them everyone is special, we each have a unique gift and to honor the difference in us. This teaches our children to acknowledge and see the best in others, in which we then are able to acknowledge and see the best in ourselves.
Hearing vs Listening: Most people listen with the intent to respond, agenized to have their message heard. Try something different, listen with the intention to really hear what your children are saying, what may be going on with them, the beliefs they may be making up about themselves, about life. Anytime others are expressing frustration or anger they are experiencing underlying beliefs involving hurt and pain, and don’t know how to effectively communicate. When those pains can be soothed and healed the undesirable behaviors stop. It’s not about listening, but about authentically hearing what your child is saying and what they are not saying (sometimes we need to read between the lines).
Quality Time: Children feel loved and important when time is spent with them enjoying them, with no distractions, doing the things that they love. Watching cartoons, reading silly books, playing games, riding bikes, etc. (This is my biggest struggle, as I don’t enjoy games, TV, movies, reading, or most children’s activities, but it means the world to my daughter so I intentionally find enjoyment in her happiness as the time will pass and I’ll be able to look back on these fun times).
Goodnights: What we think about before falling asleep runs our dreams for the night, and gives us the emotional feeling when waking up and starting the day. This is your opportunity to create so much happiness for your children, send them dreaming of all the great things to looks forward to, and acknowledge them for being amazing people. Be specific with things they do and ways they are being. Tell them they’ll have good dreams. Tell them they’ll fall asleep quickly and sleep all night perfectly (just like we discussed in positive linguistics and direct commands).
Self-esteem: Talk with them about the amazing contribution they are to the world. That they are special and lots of people are going to be helped because of them. They are funny, loving, a great friend. You love spending time with them. It’s ok to make mistakes, mistakes are where we learn what works and what doesn’t. Think of areas you may struggle with self esteem and how you can have different conversations with your child so their beliefs are different. “You have such a strong, beautiful body” “You’re body will always be perfect” “Your hair is so shiny, it must be from all the veggies you’ve been eating”.
Mistakes aka Lessons: Mistakes and failures are part of life, it’s how we overcome them that leaves us feeling empowered or deflated, teaching your children to fail forward fast will help them in all situations. Talk to them on how to overcome failures, brush themselves off and move on. When something happens that is not desirable, talk with them about what worked, what didn’t work (in a factual way, not blame or shame), and what they can do different next time. You can create your children to be empowered and make better decisions.
Your word: Be impeccable with you word. Very few people are in complete integrity with their word, what value does your word have? Having integrity with our word is HUGE to happy children. Think of the message it sends your child when you break your word to yourself (that you don’t matter) when you break your word to them (they don’t matter). Keeping our word is so simple, yet our word is broken several times a day by most people. I challenge you to keep your word for 1 day, a full 24 hours. This means everything you do; you do exactly as you said you would. It is ok if you need to renegotiate your word, but start giving your word value. For example I said I’d call at 2:00, but I can’t call until 2:01, that can be renegotiated so I can be in integrity with my word. The more you practice this the easier it will become. A really great book for this is The Four Agreements.
No means No: This piggy backs off keeping your word conversation above, but dives deeper into having respect from your children. When parents say no, but mean maybe, or if you whine, cry, or pester me then I’ll say yes, then these children are literally trained no means throw a fit to get what you want. Yes trained. When a child makes a request, think how important it is to say no. Is it adamant no? Can you come to a compromise? When you respond to your child give your word value, and mean what you say. If its not a big deal, or can be accommodated why not say yes? I’m not talking about spoiling children; I’m talking about meeting their needs. You will never see a child who has their emotional needs met throwing a fit. Undesirable behaviors are just poorly positioned cries for help.
We literally speak the future into existence. Talk to your child as you’d like them to be. We get what we focus on, if you focus on your smart, caring, and loving child, you’ll have just that.
By the way, this also works on adults so if your partner isn’t showing up ideally perhaps try for 30 days only seeing them in a new possibility. See them as the choice you choose, every morning choose them, as everything they do is exactly what you desire. You’ll be amazed how people show up when we create a space for them to step into. Remember the power is in your language and interactions!