What I Don’t Want My Kids to Believe


It was well after midnight, and I scrambled to find a pen and paper. I have a hard enough time locating a pen during the day, but I was able to find a marker in my kitchen junk drawer.

It was a blank sheet of white paper waiting to be filled – a clean slate. I needed one after the long day we had.

So I took off the lid, and wrote down the Truth.

“You are a very good listener!”

“You are thoughtful of others!”

“You are patient and kind!”

“You are full of love and love to obey!”

“You make great choices!”

“You are a GREAT kid!

When I finished, I taped it outside of her doorway, planning to make a copy for her brother’s room. And then… I sat there in the hallway and cried. How I wished these words were always true. I wish she would listen and obey easily. I wish she thought of others often. I wish she was more patient. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of times when she is! There are plenty of moments when each statement is 100% true.

But I’m guilty of trying to correct her not so great moments with words like these…

“You are making bad choices today! You aren’t a very good listener right now. You are not being kind!”

Similar words are said to my son.

Over and over I correct the behavior of my children by pointing out what they are doing wrong rather than focusing on what I want them to do instead. Our words are so powerful, aren’t they? Scripture reminds us that this is true!  And research confirms that if we hear something enough, we often start to believe it. It is the believing part that can be dangerous.

Some call it self-fulfilling prophecy.

I learned about this theory in one of my communication classes in college. It was ten years ago, so I might not have all the details correct, but the basic idea is something like this. A person can make a prediction come true simply because they believe it.

In class, we discussed a study where two teachers were each given a group of students and told how their students performed the previous year. One teacher was told that their students had performed in the lower half of their class the previous year. The other teacher was told that their students had performed in the upper half of their class the previous year. The truth is, both groups of students had actually performed right in the middle. It quickly became evident that the predictions the teachers had made before they engaged with their students impacted the students’ success.

The students of the teacher who believed her class was smart excelled and achieved higher test scores than the students of the teacher who believed her class wasn’t as smart. They fulfilled their own predictions.

I think this can be true with our parenting as well. We hear ourselves say that our children just don’t listen. We hear ourselves say that they are making bad choices. We hear ourselves say that they aren’t being kind. We hear ourselves say that they need to stop, be more patient, be more thoughtful, be less selfish. And pretty soon, we believe our own words. We parent as though we have kids who make bad choices, are unkind, impatient, unthoughtful, and selfish… and perhaps worst of all…our kids believe those things too.

But that’s not what I want them to believe. I want them to believe that they make great choices! Are great listeners! Are kind and helpful and smart and obedient! Because so often they really are!

So how do we shift our words to match our hearts?

We listened for who God says our children really are. We see our children as God does and believe His Truth about them. We let His words fulfill themselves! We prophecy those words over our children.

I’m not asking you to deny reality. I’m not asking you to tell your child that they are being good when they are actually being disobedient. I am simply saying that we need to speak to our children’s potential. We need to speak life over our children as often as we can, and this includes the moments when we must correct them.

Instead of saying, “You’re not being a good sharer! Please give that to your brother!” We can say, “You are so great at sharing. I loved it when you shared your crayons with your brother the other day. Let’s share like that again!”

Instead of saying, “You’re not being a good listener!” We say, “You are so great at listening and obeying! Thank you for listening to mommy again now.”

If I want my children to believe that they are good, kind, loving, obedient and respectful, then I must believe it first myself. I must align myself with Truth, even when God’s Truth doesn’t look like my own all of the time. And then I must parent like I believe His Words above everything else.

So I’ll hang these words where I can see them often, and I’ll pray that my children know they are true. It’s up to me to shape what they think of themselves… Like that blank sheet of white paper waiting to be filled – a clean slate.

So… my question tonight is this. What are we going to write?





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  • Kari Escalante says:

    Yes, I agree with you, that we as mom’s need to be better at choosing our words when we are training our littles…but i also slightly disagree besause the ultimate TRUTH is that WE ARE all bad listeners, greedy and unkind… apart from the Lord. My caution after reading this was that we could be focusing too much on moralism and not on the gospel! Its the gospel that tells us that we aren’t good and that we need a good God to change us to be good. So yes, I agree that we should be choosing our words carefully BUT I also think it is very important to tell our children that they aren’t good but that they NEED JESUS to help change their hearts so they can be good! I’m more scared to train up my littles to think that they are innately good causing them to struggle with the truth that they need a savior than the opposite… just a caution :)

  • Kate says:

    I love this and needed to hear it! Discipline is always a challenge and I need to remember the power of my words to my kids. Thank you!

  • […] What I Don’t Want My Kids to Believe – RIGHT in the feels!  I try really hard to make sure I word things the right way with my boys. I really love the explanation of this post about it. […]

  • Taylor-Lynn Louis says:

    Whew, needed this today!! Thanks so much for sharing. I, too, am more often guilty of correcting rather than encouraging. I’ve been pretty worn down with it the last couple weeks. Hubs and I have seen breakthrough in a couple areas just by committing to pray for the same thing over each child every morning, but I’m going to have to figure out how to remember to do this, as well. So powerful!!

  • Alayne Fenasci says:

    You are catching me at the right time with this one! My little girl is so full of love and sincerity that needs to be recognized and pointed out as Christlike. With her express desire to do things that make Jesus happy and help other people, I have noticed that in correcting her, even when she really needs it, I have to be careful to explain in a way that doesn’t make her feel ashamed.

    She is at a precious age where she is sorting out the line between being kind and needing to stand up for herself, too, so pointing out her positive attributes and good boundaries will strengthen her and aid her in feeling successful in her efforts. Sometimes what I need most is to know my efforts are seen even if my results are not as perfect as I’d like. I know she feels the same way. This post is exactly the simple advice I needed to sort out something I’ve been unable to even articulate.

    Blessings from our home to yours.

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