Motivational speaker Steven Campbell authored a book called, Making Your Mind Magnificent: Flourishing At Any Age, in order to help people understand and apply the power of our minds as it relates to the physiology of our brains and leading a fulfilled life. Campbell is the host of a radio talk show called, “Your Amazing Mind” in Sonoma, Ca., and he is a Banana Moments contributor. I had a chance to talk with him about the way the mind can strengthen the parent-child bond.
“Today we know our brain cells are complex and our brain has the unlimited capacity to grow more cells and so our ability to change is without limit,” Campbell said. He knows this is true from his own life experience. “As a child I got it into my head that I was terrible at math,” Campbell said. “And one day I was told by my employer that I had to teach a math class, and in my mind I was a computer science instructor who did not understand math.” Feeling like he had no other choice, Campbell prepared the curriculum and provided math instruction to college students. To his surprise his math class was a huge hit. “Then I realized that our brains are really responsive to what our minds tell it,” he said.
According to Campbell, our brains can restructure as we learn. “The brain believes everything you tell it. That is why self talk is important. Most self talk is negative…so when we do something stupid, we say to ourselves ‘you’re stupid’ and then your brain believes you.”
Campbell also cautions parents that as children grow everything others say do not become a part of them until they agree with them. “We are not thinking people who feel, we are feeling people who think,” he said. “Those feelings come from our beliefs about what happens to us, not by what happens to us. When I was older, it was possible to start questioning what I was saying to myself. But when you are very young, it is hard to challenge the thoughts in your mind.”
Hence what you believe about yourself and your children really matters.
“Your children may make it seem like what you say doesn’t really matter, but it really does,” Campbell said. “Words matter. Especially when you have young children everything the parent says sinks in.”
Make your mind your parenting mentor
Campbell encourages parents to anchor their relationship with their child around who their children are, not based upon what they do. We live in an achievement-oriented society and it is easy for kids to calculate their acceptance in the home and in your heart based upon their performance in school or sports. “Children are born to be who they are,” Campbell said. “That is not for us to approve or disapprove.” So when a child does something that is not okay or meets your disapproval, tell your child why you were not crazy about what she did. It is possible to feel compassion for your child and hold her accountable to standards of conduct. “One of the first lessons children need to learn is that you love them not because of what they do or don’t do, but because of who they are.”
So with strong willed, challenging children especially, it helps to think of them as magnificent blessings who have much to teach you about love.
Be clear in your own mind about your own motive in correcting or reprimanding your child. If your motivation is to be in control of what they do and how they behave, then that is fear talking. Often when fear is talking, we make statements about how we feel, which is usually angry and frustrated because we are not in control of our children’s behavior. But if your motivation is to help your child understand how to think for himself and make good decisions in the future, then that is love talking.
“Ninety percent of what we communicate is how we say it,” Campbell said.
Recovering from mistakes and course correction
Campbell encourages parents to think about making their home a safe place for children to try out different images of themselves and make mistakes without losing love. “As our children grow, thousands of images are introduced into their brain, and they need a safe place to lock on and try different images. You don’t have to love what your children do,” he said. “We have a tendency to get out the mental check lists of all the dumb things we have done when something goes wrong. The brain doesn’t know or care when it happened. It acts as if it is today,” he said. “So it is important to train your child to think about ‘next time’ how she will do it differently.”
The “next time” principle is giving yourself permission to make mistakes and fail which is a part of growing and learning. “We must never give up learning,” Campbell said.
Questions to ponder:
- What are your beliefs about yourself and your child?
- What kinds of messages do you send your child about their inherent value to you and the family?
- What lessons from your childhood continue to influence you as a parent today? Are they positive, negative?
- What practical life lessons do you want your child to experience from your home environment? How are you creating learning opportunities for your child?
For more about building a family culture that strengthens the parent-child bond go to Fresh Start.
Proceed to next article: Choosing “shameless” for you and your child
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM, Tuesdays. Her next book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media will be released in the fall 2013.
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