By Anne Hinton Pratt
In recent months, I have noticed an increase of parents and leaders that are at their wits’ end as to what to do with their teens. They have tried everything they can think of and the negative, destructive, disobedient behaviors persist.
If you are one of those parents or if you know someone who needs help, there is something else you can do that can’t help but make a difference if used correctly. Apply the principles and you will see changes!
Change the Way You Think
You may not realize it, but your thoughts actually affect the behavior of others. Your faith and positive thought, when understood and activated, can make an enormous difference in empowering your children to make correct choices.
When your child does something you don’t agree with – something ugly or mean – what are your thoughts? Are they condemning? Are they angry? Are they fearful?
Negative thoughts always come before negative feelings, and these negative feelings as you know, create very destructive scenarios. Know that condemnation never helps. It may make you feel temporarily satisfied to release your own pent-up negative energy, but that feeling only lasts until the words are out, and then you feel worse than ever. Besides, it never solves the problem and always makes things worse.
After all, do you like people condemning you for something you have done? Has it ever made you want to change for them?
Children need to know standards of behavior, but when we lash out at them in anger or frustration it will not permanently accomplish what we want; ever. They may comply for a time under yranny, but as soon as they get out of our presence, they will do what they want. There are better ways to empower our children to change.
The first thing to do is to change your thought patterns about them.
It is very easy to get into patterns of thinking about certain children. Because of their negative, disobedient behavior, we keep thinking the same thoughts and feeling the same feelings about them. Some of those thoughts may include:
- “He is driving me crazy!”
- “She is out of control!”
- “He never listens to me!”
- “I can’t stand to be around him!”
- “She is so negative!”
- “I’m afraid he’s going off the deep end.”
- “I can’t handle her any more.”
These thoughts are always accompanied and strengthened by strong negative emotion. You feel so powerless.
When you continually think these thoughts about a child, the energy of the feeling you are creating actually reinforces that child’s negative behavior. That becomes your offering to your children, and they subconsciously take that energy and swirl it around into their own negative field, increasing the impact of their contrary behavior.
It’s the natural thing for you to react negatively to their negative behavior. But, if you are trying to overcome the “natural man” and become a saint, there is a better way.
How Can I Change My Negative Thoughts
- Think above the line.
Of course, that is easier said than done. Here are some ways to achieve that goal:
a. Think about this child. Think of the many times when you had great memories with him or her – times when you felt peace and great hope for him or her. Maybe the child did something thoughtful and loving for you; maybe he was valiant in some way in the past. You can look in old photo albums or read old journals to find such incidents. Write them down. Let yourself feel the good feelings as you think of these memories.
b. Make another list. On this list write characteristics that you like about your child. For example; John is: organized, smart, dependable, friendly, punctual, playful, funny, and so on. Think of as many as you can. It may take a while to think of positive things when you’ve been thinking negative things for so long, but as you do it, the thoughts will come. If you only can think of four or five things, that is enough. Type up this list, and place it in a place where you will see it often; in the bathroom; on the computer; on the fridge. Just type your teen’s name and his great characteristics. Don’t say anything to your teen about it, but make sure it is placed where he or she can see it. This exercise is for your benefit to remind you often about the real nature of your child. If the child sees it, so much the better.
The next time you find yourself in the old pattern of negative thinking, quickly remember these great thoughts and feelings that you have had. Go find the paper where you wrote down your memories if you can’t remember them at the challenging moment, and then “think your child above the line.” Force yourself to stop the negative thoughts and feelings that at the moment seem absolutely justified and remember the good memories. Imagine your child dressed in white, and as he really is. As you are feeling the good in him, you are really feeling the God (Godlike attributes ) in him. From God comes all good! Your children – even the wayward ones – are His sons and daughters.You need to keep that image in the forefront of your mind, even though your child may give you every reason to distress over his behavior at a given time. When a negative thought or feeling comes to you about your child, just vault your thoughts up above the line and feel the good (God) in your child. Remember who he really is! Holding on to this feeling is a great key to changing both your self and your child’s life.
- Become aware of your thoughts and feelings. Notice how often your mind goes into the default mindset for this child. You’ll be amazed at how often you find yourself in this mental rut. It doesn’t help to think this way. It doesn’t bring joy. Stop it! You have the power to stay calm and feel Good (God) even though your child is acting up. You can control your thoughts and therefore your feelings. Being aware is the first step. Only after you become aware of it can you change it.
- Internalize the good things. As you see these things on both lists that you have made about your child, say over and over to yourself, “I am so pleased with the behavior of my child. His behavior gives me great joy!” If you have more than one child, you can think about things you feel good (God) about in them as well. Think of specific events, great achievements, breakthroughs, loving moments, and feel the pleased feeling that only parents can feel – and then take the child in question and add him or her to that feeling. Often that child already feels like the “black sheep” of the family, and you need to add him/her back to a place that feels good (Godlike). It doesn’t take very long before it will be “John” that you will be finding more and more things to be pleased about, and you will be able to be more enthusiastic as you say, “I am so pleased with John’s behavior. His behavior gives me great joy!”
The good things you find at first may be insignificant, such as, “I love the way he puts the remote control in the right place,” or, “I love the way she folds her clothes.” As you think these things and then feel the Good (GOD) in them, they will give you more and more reasons to be pleased with their behavior. It becomes a game to look for the good things that your children do. Its fun! Whatever you focus on becomes your reality. So focus on the good, and your reality will change.
- Give sincere praise. Be sure that your child hears your sincere praise and that he hears you telling others about his good achievements. “John got up early today and made it to Seminary on time!” “Jane returned home even before curfew last night.”
- Say only good things to others about this child. When you continually say bad things about your child to others, you reinforce the negative feelings in your mind, and in others’ minds. You may be looking for solace and sympathy, but the sharing of a negative experience or idea only strengthens it!
In extremely bad behavior, spouses, certain family members and possibly counselors need to be informed, but other than that, find only good to say. Next time someone asks you about your “problem child,” think of something good he did, like, “She keeps her room so clean, I can’t believe it,” “He really knows how to wash a car” or whatever it is you might have noticed about him recently. At the very least, say, “He’s good, thanks.” (That will always be a truth, because you just need to remember the person he really is.) Let others know that wonderful person. Keep your thoughts and your feelings above the line. Share those positive thoughts and feelings daily with others. At the very least, it will help you feel good! At the most, it will heal the relationship and place your child on the path of happiness and success.
There may be times in your experience with your teen where you see him act like a completely different person from the child you have raised. I’m not talking about crankiness, lack of sleep or occasional hormonal shifts, but I mean when you don’t even recognize the eyes that are peering out at you.
When your teen is absolutely hateful, with out of control anger and behavior, know that at this moment, he is being influenced by other forces. This isn’t who he really is! When you encounter this behavior tell yourself, “This isn’t John/Jane!” You may have found yourself staring evil in the face, and thinking it’s your child. The battle between good and evil that took place in the pre-existence continues. There are dark forces that work on teens, especially now, to fight against us. Just knowing this gives you so much power.
If you encounter this problem:
- Pray for your child like you never prayed before. Knowing that he is besieged by darkness and evil gives you more compassion for him, and hence more power to love.
- Muster your faith. Silently and fervently ask the Lord to cast out the dark forces surrounding your child. Realize that at this moment, your child is in a “deep sleep.” This is not who he really is. Pray that the Lord can help to wake him up to his spiritual self.
- In your mind’s eye, fill your child up with light and love. Start with his feet, and imagine a bright light filling in the darkness. Darkness cannot exist where there is light. Keep filling up all the way past the arms and into the head. At the end, he should look to you in your mind’s eye like a being of light. Place him above the line. Hold him there as you remember the wonderful characteristics of the person that he really is.
- Talk to his spirit. (This should be done in silence. He should not know that any of these steps are being taken.) Pour out your heart to him. Tell him that you are trying to help him. Tell him you love him. Think “above the line” thoughts to him; bear your testimony to him. Do it all with a flow of love.
Realize that evil has no power over you if you are filled with love. So if you see your child hurling obscenities, being destructive, or lashing out, know that what you are seeing isn’t his real self, and that you can help him through this horrific time by loving him unconditionally. He is miserable in this state. His spirit is suffering. The more positive energy you give him the better, because love is the strongest power in the universe. Your thought, faith and love can help him change. (See Appendix Paradigm, below)
In the course of trying to think above the line, what if you make a mistake? What if you mess up by tying into your child’s negativity with behavior that you are ashamed of, escalating the already bad relationship between you and your child? It happens. But when it does, follow these steps.
- Stop! Do not revert back to negative thoughts about yourself and your child. However, remind yourself that, “I can do better.”
- Don’t wallow in guilt and self-pity. Guilt’s only purpose is to let us realize we have done something wrong and need to change. If you waste any more time feeling and focusing on what a horrible parent you are, you will only continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. Instead, recognize your mistake, and begin living the gospel. Focusing on your bad behavior is contrary to the doctrine of repentance. So, pick your bad thoughts and feelings out of the depths and raise them up above the line. The quicker you can get back up above the line, the sooner you and your child can heal.
- Don’t ever let up. You aren’t perfect yourself, so you can’t expect perfection out of your child. But keep applying these principals and you will see a gradual change in your child’s behavior and attitudes as well as yours.
Keep following these steps and it won’t be long before you begin to see miracles. Your child still has the agency to choose what he wants, but you know that he chose to follow Christ in the pre-existence – and so following Christ in this realm is what he really wants. Your child was sent to you so you could help him achieve that goal. You can give your offering of strength and love to your child to help him awaken to who he is. You can reclaim your child through your faith, persistence and “thinking above the line.”
In the Book of Mormon, there is an incredible chapter; Ether 12. In verses 14-19, it recaps the reason why great miracles happened to certain people. “It was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost. Behold, it was the faith of Ammon and his brethren which wrought so great a miracle among the Lamanites.” This tells us strongly how our faith and positive thought can affect and change those around us. Our faith can create miracles.
Further, in verse. 19, it says that there were people who physically saw with their eyes the things that they had only beheld with an eye of faith. This means that the thing that they imagined/believed in their minds eventually became a reality and they were able to experience it with their own eyes. This again reinforces the idea that the act of imagining positive things can and will cause change in ourselves and others.
I like to say, “It was the faith of Anne that (fill in the blank).”
hold that thought in my mind “above the line,” and wait patiently as I see that exact thing or something even better unfold before my eyes. Faith is never wasted. If the thing we ask for is not to be, something ultimately better will happen in its place. That’s how the laws of God operate.
Put your name in the blank. “It was the faith of (your name) that (fill in the blank with a desired behavior).” Hold it there – over time – and watch and see it happen, or something better. When we “think above the line” and keep our thoughts there, we are those “of strong faith,” and the Lord will intervene to cause change.
Excerpts come from Thinking Above the Line by Anne Hinton Pratt. Your feedback is welcome. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
2007 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.