Blogger | Teacher
Children are like sponges – they soak up everything that’s happening around them, learning with each experience and opportunity they come across. They grow faster than we can keep track of, gaining new knowledge, skills, and language each and every day. And while this is an amazing and beautiful part of your child’s young life, it’s important to keep in mind all the unconscious thought patterns and learned behaviors you may be feeding to your little ones without even knowing.
While we’re always careful about the things we say in front of children, sometimes it’s the things we don’t say that can make a world of difference. Even in situations where our words aren’t directed at our little ones, they are still taking in all our thoughts, feelings, and actions, and using those as learning opportunities. If you’re not sure of which unconscious thought patterns you may accidentally be giving to your children, here are some examples.
Although many people in this day and age are more aware and careful of how they talk to their children about their bodies, what you may not always consider are the ways your children may take in the thought patterns and negative words you use on your own body. Each comment about how you need to watch your weight or count your calories is heard by the little ears around you, and each poke and prod and pinch of your own belly is seen as an example of how your little one should look at and treat their bodies.
While your words to them may be “You should always love yourself and your body, you’re beautiful!”, your actions and talk of diets and weight loss are showing them that self-love isn’t as important as personal criticisms. Wanting to show your little ones how to take care of their bodies with healthy diets and exercise is great! You can do this in a positive way by talking about how good you feel when you go for a run or how delicious eating an apple is.
At the same time, it’s good to make an extra effort to promote personal affirmations and body positivity. When your child hears you say, “Wow, I feel very pretty today!” or “My eyes are looking very bright today and that makes me happy,” they will begin to imitate those confident and positive behaviors with their own bodies. Use your child’s sponge-like nature to benefit them and promote body positivity and personal health in a much kinder, more affirming way.
“Crying is Weak”
This one is of the interesting learned thought patterns I came across as an adult through seeing it in a friend of mine. My friend is someone who struggles at times with releasing emotions, and though she never hesitates to encourage others to let go, she herself finds crying to be difficult or even embarrassing depending on the situation.
However, through our conversations, I learned that her mother was someone who promoted “being strong” around my friend when she was growing up. Though her mother never told her crying was weak, the fact that she saw her mom forcing down her own feelings to “push through” unconsciously taught my friend that taking a moment to release those pent-up emotions was somehow negative or bad.
There is nothing wrong with crying, especially if you’re in a high-stress situation or have been feeling a bit run down. Being willing to cry in front of your child and show them that you can still be strong and deal with your problems while also letting go can help them build a healthier, more well-balanced relationship with their own emotions.
Society at times can be harsh and make us feel like crying makes us weak, but being willing to move through your feelings and cope with what you’re experiencing can make you a more emotionally-intelligent, well-rounded person.
Work Takes Priority
Responsibilities are important, and being able to pay your bills and take care of your needs (and the needs of your family) are necessary for living life. However, work isn’t the most important thing in life, and it shouldn’t take precedence over your emotional, mental, and physical needs. By showing your child that you will willingly put your own needs aside for money or financial responsibility, you are unconsciously giving them your thought patterns and saying that work comes before anything else.
Don’t get me wrong – work is incredibly important. Being able to take care of your children and their needs is essential for being a parent. But it’s also okay to take time off here and there to take care of your own needs. It’s okay to call in sick when you’re feeling unwell or to take a mental health break if you feel yourself reaching an impasse. The world won’t stop turning just because you took time for yourself, and you’ll show your kids that it’s okay for them to prioritize themselves.
Other People’s Needs Come First
This is one of those tricky thought patterns that isn’t inherently bad – in fact, the intentions are honestly well placed – but can also lead to unhealthy habits as adults. There are two ways this can usually play out: when you show your kids that you’re willing to constantly put other people’s needs before your own, and when you pressure your children to always do exactly what you want them to, you are unconsciously teaching them that they are not the priority in their own lives.
Neither one of the things I mentioned is inherently bad on its own. Putting people’s needs first is often shown as an act of kindness – you are promoting a selfless nature that is willing to take care of the people around you. However, in instances where your child can see you’re burnt out or down but still put the needs and wants of others first, what is “kindness” towards others becomes a “burden” for yourself. It’s good to have a balance of both kindness to those around you and kindness towards yourself so that your child can see and imitate healthy habits.
The other way I mentioned also usually comes from a place of good intentions. Parents have lived a long life and understand what can help make the process easier – getting good grades and having lots of extracurriculars can lead to getting into a good college, getting a good job, and being financially stable. This is all well and good, but it can also lead to making your children feel pressured to please you and fulfill your needs above their own. If you show them the best way to succeed while also giving them the space to make mistakes or make decisions for themselves, you will also be teaching them that it’s okay to consider themselves and their needs and choose the path in life that makes them happy.
Do you have any unconscious thought patterns that you’ve accidentally taken on as you’ve grown older? What kinds of habits and learned behaviors have you seen in your own life? Tell us in the comments!
About Draven Jackson
Draven is an avid writer and reader who enjoys sharing her opinions on movies, books, and music with the rest of the world. She will soon be working as a teacher in Japan and hopes to use her experience to connect with other teachers and students around the globe. Draven spends most of her time at home with her family, her dogs, and her ferret.
To see more, view all posts by Draven Jackson here.