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Don’t Believe Everything You Think: Negative Thoughts Part 1

Part I: Our minds are prone to negativity and it affects our children

"More often than not, fear doesn’t emerge as nail-biting, cold-feet terror. It surfaces instead as anger, perfectionism, pessimism, low-level anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation. It poisons each moment it touches." -- Dan Baker, Ph.D.

Source: Antonioguillem/AdobeStock

You may think your moods just come out of nowhere. But scientists now believe that moods are usually a response to what we think, often without even noticing.

Here's how it works.

  1. A thought flits through your mind: "My child should be more like that other child."
  2. That thought makes you feel a little anxious or sad.
  3. Those feelings make you more likely to think another negative thought, like: "Is there something wrong with him?"
  4. Before you know it, you're plunged into a cascade of negativity: "It must be my fault... If only I were a better parent."
  5. These thoughts create or reinforce a negative story in your unconscious about yourself, your child, the world. They make it likely that more negative thoughts will follow.

That's how our little fears and judgments can snowball throughout our day, without our even realizing it. Since thoughts create emotions, you're in a bad mood before you know it. Instead of enjoying our children, feeling a sense of well-being, we end up pinched and anxious. So those bad moods and cranky days are often created by our own minds!

But wait, it gets worse. Since our children are so sensitive to our moods, they pick up on our mood and tone, and get anxious themselves. Guess what kids do when they get anxious? They "act out" the feelings they can't express in words. In other words, they misbehave.

But why is the mind prone to negativity? Because the human mind is responsible for keeping us safe. It's always scanning for danger, to keep us from shame, embarrassment, failure. The mind is actually designed to focus on the negative, including constant warnings about what might happen in the future, if we don't take drastic action now.

  • "If he doesn’t start using the potty, he’ll never be able to start school."
  • "How will she ever make it in college if I'm having to check up on her homework so much?"
  • "I screamed at her again. I know this is bad for her. Have I damaged her for life?"
  • "If I don’t do something drastic to stop this behavior right now, he'll grow up to be a criminal!”

Many of our thoughts about the future project a negative reality. Unfortunately, since our thoughts determine our actions, all these negative thoughts influence us to act more harshly with our child, and that in turn worsens the child's behavior. We're creating our own self-fulfilling prophecy.

One definition of FEAR is "Future Events Appearing Real." But our thoughts about the future are never real -- no one can know what the future holds. Fear is what pulls us off the high road and onto the low road of parenting. Fear is what makes us hard on ourselves and our children. Fear is what makes us anxious and angry. When we give fear a foothold in one area, it has a way of taking over our lives. Without conscious management on our parts, fear can permeate our thoughts and our moods, and poison our relationships with our children.

But it doesn't have to be this way! You can "retrain" your mind not to believe everything you think, and to think more constructively. In our next post, we will discuss how to retrain your mind for more constructive thoughts.