By Bob Lancer
You teach your child to think about himself the way that you think about him. Children don’t need us to worry about them; they need us to believe in them. Most mistakenly presume that the child’s display of behavior and character determines how we must think of him or her. But one of the best kept secrets when it comes to bringing out the best in even the most challenging children is mastering the creative power of your thought for positively influencing child behavior and development.
Improving child discipline always begins with improving parent self-discipline, based on the powerful natural law of child development, which we can call The Law of Reflection. That law states that children develop behaviors and attitudes like those they spend time with. As you demonstrate love and wisdom through your own reactions, you automatically instill in your children responsible self-control. The level of reaction that is perhaps most commonly overlooked and underestimated is own thinking. How you think about our child is one way of reacting to your child’s behavior, and it has a powerful influence upon the behavior your child displays.
How we think of a child functions as a self-fulfilling prophecy. As you discipline yourself to consciously observe how you think of your child, and then let go of those thoughts that portray your child in disturbing ways, you help your child to fulfill her glorious potential.
Be particularly careful to avoid thinking of your child while you feel angry, anxious, or in any way emotionally disturbed about his behavior, because in those emotional states you can only think thoughts that reinforce your emotional disturbance. When you feel emotional, do not take your thoughts seriously; concentrate on keeping attention focused on the present moment, without engaging thought.
Pay close attention to your experiences with your child to learn from them. You will notice when you do this that the angrier you feel when you attempt to control your child’s behavior, the more powerless, confused and frustrated you feel. This is because:
- Your angry state is working against you by making it impossible to think of any ideas but those that keep you feeling angry.
- The measure of anger you feel expresses aggression, which triggers an equal measure of defensiveness in your child’.
- Angry reactions, at their root, stem from an unconscious mental vision of yourself as a victim, and of your child as being beyond your control, which functions as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Another way of using the Law of Reflection is to regard your child’s problematic behavior as an indicator of a way that you need to improve your own behavior. For instance, if your child displays unkindness, instead of lashing out at your child, determine to identify ways that you can be more kind, and determine to demonstrate a higher level of kindness. Think about ways that you can express more compassion. Think about ways that you have been unkind in the past, and let those painful memories spur you on to deliberately demonstrate more compassion in the future. You may still address the child’s unkind behavior directly, clearly stating what was unacceptable about the behavior and why, with an attitude of firmness in your tone. However, be sure to remain extremely sensitive and compassionate toward your child, because what you want is for your child to express sensitive compassion toward others.
You can apply the Law of Reflection to help you to redirect just about any behavior your child exhibits. Let’s say that your child demonstrates a lack of focus and tends to veer off track while engaged in tasks. Instead of lashing out at the child, criticizing her for being “a dreamer”, determine to demonstrate a higher level of responsible focus in your own life. See how your own thoughts, speech and actions tend to drift off course. If you take on the arrogant attitude that you are perfectly focused, you overlook your own weaknesses in this area, and model a stubborn refusal to change for your child.
Use the Law of Reflection to support your child’s healthy attitudes. If your child seems to display low self-esteem, take that as a sign that you need to re-examine how you really think about yourself. Trying to improve a child’s feelings about herself while you treat yourself disrespectfully proves absolutely futile. Recognize ways that you mistreat yourself, including living in an overly stressful pace, not exercising, overeating, and work on gradually improving.
In general use the Law of Reflection to help your child by working on the fulfillment of your own higher potential all life long.