My wife and I have 10 grandchildren — six boys and four girls. My daughter Maria is expecting a new baby in January, so that will bring the total to 11. Three of our grandsons were born last year during the month of November. Since they’re all crawling now, I recently proposed to the family that we schedule a crawling contest. My plan is for all of us to meet on a Sunday afternoon at my brother-in-law’s business, Body Fitness.
Body Fitness has a dance floor where we could place the three boys on one end of the floor and their mothers on the other end. Their mothers could use whatever means necessary to entice the boys to crawl across the floor to arrive at the finish line before the others. All our family members would be present to cheer on the boys.
We haven’t been able to get everyone together yet. My concern is that we have only a short window of time to schedule the race. All three boys are going to be walking within the next month.
The ages of the remaining grandchildren vary between two and nine years old. One of the boys is two years old, and he happens to be very curious and mischievous. He reminds me of Curious George, the young monkey in the popular children’s book series.
Recently, while I was at a family function, the mischievous grandson started acting up. When his mom disciplined him, I butted in and started lecturing her. Yea, I know. I should have minded my own business and kept my mouth shut. But I said something anyway. Here’s what I told my daughter:
When he does something wrong, it’s okay to discipline him, but you should be careful about what you say to him. You should never ask the question “Why did you do that?” When that particular question is asked of a child, the child’s mind usually comes up with one of two answers. The first answer is “Because I’m a bad boy.” The second answer is either “Because I’m a dummy” or “Because I’m stupid.”
I don’t know whether my daughter asks her son the question I referred to, but just in case she does, I wanted to give her my opinion of how she should respond to his mischievous behavior.
I told her that instead of asking her son a question after he does something wrong, she should make the following statement to him: “You’re a good boy. I don’t know why you did that, because you’re smart and you know better. I know you won’t do it again because you’re a good boy.”
I learned this technique from my mom, because that’s what she repeatedly said to me when I was a boy. As a young boy, I was also curious and mischievous. Whenever I did something wrong, my mom acted surprised and reassured me that I must have made a mistake. There were many times when she told me that I was a lot smarter than I led others to believe and that I needed to use my intelligence to do the right thing.
Generally, during the first six years of a child’s life, the foundation for the child’s belief system is firmly established — a belief system that will remain with the child for the rest of his or her life.
There have been several studies during the past 50 years that have confirmed that two minds exist within the human brain: the conscious mind and the subconscious (or unconscious) mind. The subconscious mind, which makes up approximately 88 percent of total brain capacity, is like a sponge and a video recorder that absorbs and records every detail that enters through a person’s senses.
Behavioral experts have come to the conclusion that an individual’s beliefs are primarily developed and stored within the subconscious mind during the first six years of a child’s life. During that time, there is virtually no analysis performed by the child’s brain before information is accepted and absorbed into the subconscious mind.
In other words, every experience, emotion, and feeling that a child who is under the age of six encounters flows directly into the subconscious mind without any analysis or critical thinking first taking place. There is no defense system in place yet for the child to judge whether the information or experience is valid or invalid. When a child reaches the age of reason — which ordinarily occurs after the age of six — the conscious mind begins to filter the data that comes in through the senses and can determine whether the data should be accepted or rejected.
I get irritated every time I hear a parent belittling or saying negative things about a child. It doesn’t matter whether the parent is talking directly to the child or to someone else. The child still hears what is said and accepts it as true.
For example, let’s say the mother of a child is talking on the telephone with her friend and says “He’s such a monster. He’s always getting into trouble. He’s worse than his brother. I don’t know what I’m going to do with him.” While the child may be in another room playing, he still hears what his mother said, and her words and emotions are absorbed directly into his subconscious and accepted as being true.
Over a period of several days, weeks, and months, whenever the mother says something negative about the child — either directly to him or to someone else while the child is within hearing range — the negative beliefs he has about himself are reinforced. When he continues to act up and get into trouble, his behavior sets off a new wave of negative feedback, which perpetuates the cycle of bad behavior.
Most of our beliefs about religion, politics, money, work, family, cleanliness, honesty, love, anger, punctuality, discipline, violence, forgiveness, and justice were formed in our minds during the first six years of our lives.
Last week, I thought about the subconscious mind and how children develop their beliefs when I read the news report about what Pope Francis said when he addressed a joint session of the United States Congress.
There have been a lot of reports in the media that “conservative Catholics” are upset with the pope’s beliefs concerning capitalism, illegal immigration, redistribution of income, the death penalty, and climate change.
Next week, I’m going to share my thoughts about this with you.