I’m not talking about the TV. Positive self-talk. A conversation with yourself. Establishing a new truth. The power of positive thinking; that you can alter your mindset, adjust your self-image.
When you turn off the television, do you return to it the next day on the same channel? Most of us do, of course, at least initially; we are creatures of habit. My “Aha” moment came when a trusted friend matter-of-factly told me the other day, “change the channel.” In that instant, I realized that I didn’t have to accept things the way they are.
And then I extrapolated the concept to parenting. If you modify your inputs, can you transform the result? Why not? After all, isn’t that our newly elected government’s hymn? Regardless of your political affinity, this country resoundingly cast a vote for change. It’s an affirmation that we can redirect or even re-invent our own destiny.
I love it. Why do we have to acquiesce to labels – the shy one, the athlete, the outgoing child, the challenging daughter, the compliant son? Come on – can’t you/ don’t you tag each of your children and then assume that they will conform to your prediction of their behavior? It’s human nature.
How often I have had conversations with parents who would declare, “But this is my fearful child,” or “You see, he is my daredevil,” or “She’s just lazy.” These are just examples of the easy markers we are prone to affix innocently to our children. The problem is that such branding becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy!
Just ask any adult and s/he will tell you, without hesitation, his or her characterization of themselves. “I am the __________ one in the family.” Which one are you? Would your child be able to answer that question about himself without hesitation? More than likely yes, and that is not necessarily a good thing!
So I say, defy your own forecast! Let your children discover their own destiny! Be in awe as they re-invent themselves. Encourage them to “change the channel” – even give them those words to use as a mantra. Let them find out who they are, divested of their designated trademark. Give them an emotive high-five! Celebrate their resourcefulness!
Help them picture success rather than expect failure. Ask your child how you can help him pass instead of lecturing him for flunking. Make the goals stronger than the current reality.
A classic illustration of this principle, of course, is Watty Piper’s “The Little Engine That Could.” Amazon.com actually defines this book as “the unknowing progenitor of a whole generation of self-help books.” I prefer to think of it as an inspirational favorite commemorated by the Little Blue Engine’s rallying mantra, “I think I can – I think I can….”
A final word on this subject: Don’t make assumptions. In fact, suspend them. Encourage your child to “change the channel” if she doesn’t like what she “is watching” (about herself). And model the practice by using your own remote! Then give them all the benefits and choices of the 500-channel universe in which they are growing up!