False Assumption 6: They Won’t be Affected

by | False Assumptions Series

If my kids don’t seem to be listening, they won’t be affected by what I say about them to others.

In my book Parenting With An Attitude, as well as in False Assumption 2, I go into detail describing what I call a child’s sponge-like brain.  I suggested the idea that our kids are constantly absorbing into that little sponge, data that comes their way. While some aspects of personality are genetic and predisposes us to certain characteristics, much of how we develop and evolve from an infant to a full blown adult comes about as a result of what we hear, how we are treated, what we observe and the messages we are given during that stage of development where our brain doesn’t have the capacity to do much more than to absorb.

Once that little sponge-like brain has absorbed and basically concluded, “if they say so, it must be true”, then the tendency for the owner of that brain, is to set out in life to reinforce, substantiate and perpetuate what it initially absorbed from what it heard.

This is kind of like brain washing I suppose, but this inevitable process-call it shaping or call it brain washing-can be advantageous to the development of our kids, or it can be misused and lead to an unfortunate result, depending on the messages they hear from us. That’s in large part an explanation-albeit simplistic-of personality development.

While their sponge-like brains are constantly absorbing, so too are their two ears constantly transmitting to their brain what they hear, weather they appear to be tuned in to what we are saying or not.

I must confess to a habit of occasionally eves dropping on conversations taking place at Vons (or any other public place for that matter) between two shopping parents.  I know they are parents when, not far from the conversation taking place can be found a couple of kids, both vigorously scaling a mountain of cantaloupes, or maybe attempting to surreptitiously load Mom or Dad’s cart with quite a few boxes of frosted flakes.

And while the kids are busy being kids, there is the following conversation going on between the two parents who have run into each other:

“Jamie is fairly coordinated, but her brother is the smart one”

“I really don’t like bringing Austin to the store with me because when I do, it always seems to take me longer”.

“I can’t tell you how sad I was when my sitter pooped out and I had to bring Conner today”.

Justin just can’t seem to catch on to second grade.  I’m beginning to think we should have held him back”.

I know what you’re thinking:  picky, picky, picky.  Perhaps, but it is important to consider how over time, our messages begin to create a blue print for a child’s self-esteem. So why not fill their little sponge-like brain with positive messages for them to live up to, rather than negative ones for them to live down to?

Certainly all of us have said things within ear shot of our kids that weren’t the best. And we could argue that they don’t seem to have been negatively affected much.  True enough. It is not so much the occasional messages, but rather, a chronic and repetitive pattern of negative messages we want to avoid.

Fortunately, we can get away with making mistakes-lots of mistakes in fact.  That’s a good thing since none of us is perfect and we will all make plenty of blunders during the course of our parenting years.

For more on this subject see my book Parenting With An Attitude, specifically chapter 1 “What Do My Kids Hear Me Say About Them?”.


Suggestion: avoid saying anything about your kids-either to them or to others-that you don’t want them to hear. Instead, say positive things to others that you DO want them to hear (I was so proud of Luke when……..) In either case you will be helping to create a road map that will either serve them well or work against them for the rest of their lives.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *