We all get to choose the beliefs by which we live. In fact, changing beliefs that aren’t working for you can be one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself and one of the most empowering skills you can teach your children.
Let’s talk about what beliefs are. Beliefs are thoughts that we have decided are true and immutable. We have many thoughts over the course of the day.
In the morning we might have thoughts like, “This day is going to be great! I’m going to get so much accomplished. My kids are so sweet, and I love them so much.”
But by the end of the day, we might have entirely different thoughts: “My kids are driving me crazy. I didn’t get anything done. This day was lousy.”
Our thoughts vary based on our mood and circumstances.
Beliefs, though, are thoughts that persist. Beliefs are the thoughts that we have accepted as true, that we have collected evidence for, and that we use to make important decisions about ourselves and our lives.
Beliefs affect how we feel emotionally. They influence our behavior, and they inform how we feel about ourselves and others. They also determine how we judge ourselves and how we judge the life we have created.
What many people fail to realize is that just because we believe something, does not mean it is true. Or, it does not mean it is the only thing that is true. Furthermore, the weird thing about beliefs is that some of the time, things are true because we believe them, not the other way around.
Of course, there are some things that are facts. It is a fact that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and that is true regardless of what you believe.
But some of the time, things are true because we believe them. If you believe that life is hard, for example, you will have lots of opportunities to collect evidence that that is true. And that is what you will do. You will fail to even see any evidence that life is not always hard.
If you believe that life generally works out in your favor, you will collect evidence that life generally works out in your favor, and you will ignore evidence to the contrary.
Our beliefs color the way we look at the world such that we only see evidence that supports them. We literally do not see contradictory evidence. We go through our lives collecting one piece of data after another confirming what we already believe, all the while blind to evidence that points in any other direction.
But here's the important part: The contradictory evidence is there. Think about how many people you know who have evidence for beliefs that are completely opposite of your own.
The point is, we can find evidence to support almost any belief. And since our beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies because they determine how we feel and how we act, it makes sense to look for evidence of beliefs that serve you.
Think about this belief: “Parenting is hard, and my kids are not grateful.”
This belief would make you feel drained, perhaps ashamed, even resentful. It would prompt behavior that reflected those emotions. You would be reluctant to do nice things for them. You might even avoid them altogether or be short tempered with them.
Your behavior would cause a negative reactions in your kids, which would in turn confirm your belief that parenting is hard and your kids are ungrateful.
On the other hand, consider this belief: "Parenting is harder than I thought it was going to be, and sometimes I get really frustrated. I'm committed to being the best parent I can be though, and I'm doing everything I can to learn tools and skills that will allow me to get better and better at it."
This belief allows your frustration, and it makes room for positive interactions with your kids and optimism for the future.
One thing that is important to point out is that your beliefs inform your behavior. If you believe that your children are always at each other’s throats, you will be fed up, and you will lash out at them when they bicker with one another.
Beyond that, you will tell them over and over again that they are mean to each other, and this will become a story in their own minds, one that they will live out every day. After all, if your son always hears that his sister is mean to him, why wouldn’t he lash out at her when he has the chance?
But if you have a belief that your children behave like most siblings, but that under it all, they love each other, your behavior will be different. You won’t be so on edge about their relationship. You will believe that they will work it out.
The point here is not what you believe. After all, you get to decide what serves you. The point is that being conscious of the beliefs you allow to shape your life and your future is a powerful resilience skill that can help you enjoy parenting a little more. It can also help your children examine their own beliefs.
The conversation is the relationship.When you have good conversations with your kids, you have good relationships with your kids.
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