I am not an expert in parenting but I am a firm believer in the written word of God and its practicality for our day. The Scriptures are replete with references emphasizing the need to speak positively and fill our minds with ‘can do’ thoughts. In my opinion, there are few aspects of modern living where this is more apt than the area of parenting.
I was reading the book Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude, authored by Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone. They said in their book that there were several hundred thousands of teenagers who “enter penal institutions for car thefts and other crimes. These personal tragedies could in many instances be avoided if the parents learned how to employ suggestion properly and if their sons and daughters were taught how to effectively use …. self-suggestion.”
The theme that they were trying to develop is the principle of Auto-suggestion or Self-suggestion, which they defined as “the agency of control through which an individual may voluntarily feed his subconscious mind on thoughts of a creative nature, or by neglect, permit thoughts of a destructive nature to find their way into the rich garden of his mind.”
Simply put, when you repeat a statement to yourself or to another often enough, you or that other person come to believe it and all the mental and thought processes are geared toward proving that statement true. Hence when you tell your child that you trust he is a good child and repeat it often enough, he starts to believe it and soon enough when this belief becomes strongly entrenched in his heart, his thoughts and actions would be directed toward the good.
Conversely, repeat to your child that he is bad, recalcitrant, incorrigible and that nothing good can come out of him and soon enough, he begins to act out your script.
What is my point? The world is already full of negative influences. Our children were born into them, are faced with these negative stimuli everyday – at school with their peers, at home with the visual media and internet, on the road with suggestive and sometimes lewd publicity. The least that we owe them is to temper all of these undesirable influences by our positive, encouraging expressions towards them. In time, they catch the drift.
Positive autosuggestion has nothing to do with lying to your child or patting him on the back when he has obviously committed a wrong. It is all about saying, suggesting, promoting, whether subtly or overtly, ideas that will steer his thought processes and motivate him to desirable action.
The book continues that through the use of suggestion, young people can be motivated to develop inviolable moral standards through their own conscious auto-suggestion and they will know how to neutralize or repel the undesirable suggestions of their associates in an intelligent manner.” I guess this explains why some youngsters successfully withstand peer pressure while others do not.
To return to my first point of reference however, I’m amazed sometimes at how fitting the bible’s counsel can be in our everyday lives, in things that we take for granted. Consider for example, the book of Colossians 3:21, where it urges fathers to avoid exasperating their children, “that they do not become downhearted.” Indeed, when talking to our children or any younger one for that matter, thoughtfulness will help us to avoid “exasperating” them or “provoking them to wrath,” as Ephesians 6:4 complements it.
Even if children must be disciplined, parents and elders should speak to them respectfully. In this way, older ones make it easier for the youth to correct their course. That is so much better than conveying the impression that we have given up on them, whereupon they may give up on themselves. Younger ones might not remember all the counsel that they received, but they will remember how others spoke to them.
Another good counsel is found at Colossians 3:8, which says to put away “wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of YOUR mouth.” What I glean from this is that you should never talk to your children in an angry state. I have heard many a mother in my neighborhood use very heavy curse words on their children. In the Yoruba language, for example, you’ll hear a mother address her daughter at the top of her voice, “ko ni daa fun baba e!” (you really don’t want to know what that means) or a father calling down evil upon his son, over a relatively minor cause of frustration. By the way, we all know how much our parents utterances come to pass on us their children. If many years down the line, these children start having problems and encountering difficulties in their adult life, their parents often don’t remember that it might have been something rashly said or carelessly uttered earlier on in their children’s life. So what does this teach? The very same lesson pronounced in Colossians 4:5, which urges us to “let our utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt,” as it were. Food without the proper quantity of salt to season it would be disagreeable to the palate. In the same vein, speech that is uncouth would have the same effect to the ears – distasteful, repugnant, unpleasant, even disgusting. We certainly want to avoid that.
Beyond being just a good parent to my children, I want to be a good friend. A good friend:
And appreciates you
I want to do all of that and more, even though the pressures of daily living would have me do otherwise. In the final analysis, whatever our convictions are, every parent, stepparent or guardian has a choice: to be that positive force in your child’s life or to be his drawback. Which do you choose? I’d like to know what you think.