Do you realize that affirmations can be both positive and negative? Although the definition of an affirmation is a ‘positive assertion’, many understand it to be “the things we think and repetitively say to our inner selves as we get on with our days” (infinitegrace.co.za). If you’re thinking negative, resigned, fearful thoughts, they are negative affirmations. What you focus on grows, so focus on the good stuff.
We spend a lot of time thinking and talking about what’s going wrong or what we don’t want to happen. This happens a lot when we think about our kids. Have you ever thought that your child is incapable of solving a problem? That if you don’t take over, nothing will get done, or a situation will grow worse? There is a philosophy at Hyde School that says, “Instead of trying to prevent the worst from happening, let’s focus on bringing out the best in our kids.”
Focusing on their best is challenging when you see evidence of where they are screwing up or behaving poorly. Your thoughts go round and round. “How did we get here?” “She has so much potential and it’s being wasted.” “He’s withdrawn and sullen. How will he ever function on the job, on a team?” What you’re describing is what you don’t want. It’s a negative affirmation.
Here’s the thing: when you focus on what isn’t working, you become more frustrated, anxious, tired and hopeless. This translates not only into your words, but also into your tone of voice and the energy you bring to any interaction. You begin to see your child as his problems, not as the kind, funny, smart and loving person he is (and he really is all these things). The goodness is hidden below a lot of, pardon me, crap.
You may only be seeing broken promises and broken dreams. You feel different, maybe a failure. How could this not filter down to your child? This will add to feelings he already has of insecurity, shame and resentment. What you focus on grows. Do you see the loop of negativity and disappointment?
A mom shared that she was not looking forward to a road trip with her son to look at colleges. Things had been tense for a while. ‘He’s a pill, I don’t want to go on this trip, it’s going to be a S%@T show.” The bottom line is, if that’s what you expect, that’s what you’ll get. It’s an affirmation of what you don’t want, and that energy is real.
There are no magic words, no magic formula; however, there is another way to approach it. We talked about anticipating and visualizing what could go right, i.e. good weather, him driving well, a nice (or at least neutral) conversation or two in the car. Maybe there would be something that lights him up at one of the colleges.
I also suggested that she dig into her memories of him as a young child. You know, the sweet ones that make you smile. “Do you remember that trip with Grandma?” “There was this cute thing you used to do as a toddler.” “I’ll never forget the look on your face when we brought your baby sister home from the hospital!” This is sharing at its best.
The point is to find points of connection. It’s the only way into your child’s heart and visions of a brighter, more hopeful future. Pick positive thoughts and affirmations to get more of what you do want.
Fern Weis is a certified life coach who learned that caring and good intentions are not enough in parenting. In fact, they are often the problem! Fern supports parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, including addiction recovery. She helps parents release guilt, end enabling and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life's challenges. Her articles are featured in Thrive Global, Medium, Motherly, The Teen Mentor, and Bergen County Moms.
Learn more about coaching and classes at www.fernweis.com. And then download your free guide, "Five Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talk." For information on Family Recovery programs, visit www.familyrecoverypartners.com.