Positive beliefs can propel us forward. And looking at the world and ourselves through a negative framework hinders. Weighs us down. Immobilizes.
I saw this with one of my teen sons.
The challenge for a parent is that our children don’t wear their beliefs on a sleeve or present them to us on a silver platter. Our thoughts about our value and our confidence in our abilities are revealed in our actions.
Yep, beliefs impact behavior.
So, what attitudes and actions revealed my son’s negative beliefs?
They relate to school, his efforts, and results.
- Giving up quickly when he encounters a difficulty
- Mocking effort
- Avoiding work and seeking play
Of course, my husband and I these behaviors and tried to encourage him.
- “Honey, you can do it. Your math exercises last week were similar to these. Review them and you’ll find some hints. If you need more help, we’re here.”
- “I reread them and it did not help.”
- “It’s math, darling. Did you try re-doing the exercises?”
- “That’s worthless….”
- “How long did you spend trying to work out this problem? What have you tried?
- “I sat down at my desk and worked. L”
- “What else can you try?”
- “What specific questions do you have? Who can you turn to for help?”
- “I asked last week and it did not help…”
And yet, when we explore fun subjects, he brims with creativity, energy, and charisma. Is this the same person?!
So, last night at dinner we spiced up our regular conversation with what-would-you-do-if questions from a “question book” and enjoyed lively and engaged discussion from all, including from Mr. Dejected-About-Schoolwork.
It was a relief to witness his relaxation and enjoyment and even feeling of value and belonging. And that’s when it became clear to me that his negative beliefs about work are making him miserable.
So, after the meal, I sneaked into his room for a Rendez-Vous, a one-on-one discussion.
“Hi darling, do you have a moment?”
“May I share an observation?”
“Sweetheart, I wonder if you have some beliefs that are making you unhappy. What we believe impacts what we think about ourselves, about the world, and about our place in this amazing cosmos. And I wonder if you recognize yourself in these two beliefs:
- Hard work is no fun
- If you can’t do it perfectly, it is not worth doing.”
“I invite you to challenge those beliefs. Look around you. Are these REALLY true? I have asked myself those same questions and came up with an opposite conclusion. You want to hear my stories?”
And I shared about the time in college when Miss-Good-Student (that was me) got a “D” in Material Sciences. It was a required course in my engineering studies where we discover the qualities of varying materials and the implication in construction and utilization. In our final project, most students reported on some bridge and how it was designed for resistance and sturdiness. I wanted to explore the thickness of the cast bronze in a Charles Remington statue of a bucking horse. All the weight of the bronze is on one horse hoof. What’s the torque? How does the thickness of the bronze impact the width of the horse hoof?… We did not have access to the Internet in those days, and after fruitless searches in encyclopedias and scientific journals, I gave up and retreated to a report on yet another bridge.
My performance snafus in Material Sciences got me questioning my value. Am I a loser?
And I described how I went out to a lonely place and debated with God. “God, if I believe in You and believe that You are perfect, then You did not make a mistake with me.” (Note the engineering logic patter: if…and…then!)
Then, I invited him to look at people we know. Some are under-employed. How satisfied are they? If his believe that “Hard work is no fun,” these folk who are not working hard should be having the time of their lives. And yet, they are filled with worry, question their value, and lack hope for the next steps.
And what about him? What are some of his most significant lasting memories? Was it playing a video game, once again? Or does he thrill over having mastered powerful waves, climbing cliffs, or getting a 20/20 on his group project?
“Sweetheart, I love you. You become what you think. When you are down, it just might be that you have some negative AND MISLEADING assumptions about you and life. Remember,
- ‘You’re worth it’… and l’Oréal asserts it (that tweaked a smile from him)
- And, as Nike says, ‘Just do it!’” (By now he’s downright smirking and rolling his eyes with humor.)