When I was in third grade, I wanted to participate in the school’s science fair. I came home and told my mom.
You know what she did?
She went into the bathroom, picked up a plastic comb and rubbed it all over her slacks, then tore a sheet of toilet paper and put it against the comb. The toilet paper stuck to the comb.
“Look,” she said, “static electricity! This is what you can do for the science fair.”
I didn’t even have a chance to come up with my own idea.
You know, my mom was—and is—one of the most loving mothers that you can ever have or want in life. I am very, very blessed.
But because she loves me so much, she did a lot for me when I was a child. I didn’t have any chores, for example.
Growing up, I had a lot of natural talents, but that didn’t mean I took on a lot of extracurricular activities or stuck with things to master what I wasn’t particularly good at from the start.
You could say that I often gave up too easily.
I was also a bit of a procrastinator.
It took me a long time to realize why I was like that. Eventually, as an adult, I learned that it stemmed from the belief that I wasn’t capable.
That belief solidified inside me each time my mother would do things for me that I should have been doing for myself, like my school projects or even cleaning my own room.
So, despite her good intentions, I wasn’t forming very positive beliefs about myself.
I wasn’t alone. This happens to most people growing up.
How does the belief, “I’m not capable,” form in young children, and how does it lead to procrastination later in life?
To help answer this question, I want you to imagine you are a very young child and you are struggling to button your shirt.
Your dad comes over and says, “Let me help you with that, sweetie.” He then buttons your shirt for you. Then he bends down and ties your shoes for you, too. Maybe he’s in a hurry to get out the door with you. Maybe he’s just trying to be helpful. You don’t know that. You’re a little kid and all you know is that you tried to button your shirt and your dad came over and did it for you.
Now, ask yourself, as that child in that scenario:
How do you feel and what might you conclude (about yourself)?
Here’s another scenario for you to imagine:
You’re three years old and in that stage where you want to do things by yourself, because you’re a “big kid” now. You’re at the dinner table and reach over to pour your own milk out of the carton and your mom says, “Oh, let me get that for you, honey. You’re going to spill it.”
Again, how do you feel and what might you conclude?
You come home and say, “Dad, my friend Jason can ride a two-wheeler and I want to ride one, too!” And your dad responds, “Oh buddy, you’re too wobbly still. I don’t think so.”
Again, how do you feel and what might you conclude?
In all of these scenarios, is it likely that you conclude:
Mistakes are bad.
I’m not capable.
No matter what I do it will never be good enough.
I can’t get it right, so why even try?
Ok, but how do these beliefs tie in to procrastination, you might ask? Good question!
You see, people who procrastinate have the belief that, “I’m not good enough,” or, “I’m not capable.” Other beliefs may be that mistakes and failures are bad. These beliefs lead to fear of making mistakes or taking action, that’s why they put things off.
They have the belief that what makes me good enough is doing things perfectly. So, they are afraid that if they are not going to do something perfectly, they may as well not even do it.
Can you see how if you have those beliefs listed above you are going to procrastinate? I mean, if something you are going to do is never going to be good enough anyway, why bother?
As a child, you may have procrastinated homework and school projects and cleaning your room. While that may have resulted in lower grades at school and stern warnings from your parents, maybe you didn’t think it was a big deal to procrastinate.
Later on, however, as an adult, procrastination can hinder you from living the life you really want.
It can prevent you from applying to the university you really want to attend, because you’re afraid you’re not good enough to get accepted, so you put off applying, and the deadline comes and goes.
It can prevent you from doing well at your career because you have this tendency to sit on tasks until the last possible minute, which leads you to being overwhelmed and rushed, doing a half-baked job, and never getting promoted.
It can lead you to putting off doing something good for your health, like dieting and exercising, because you’re afraid you’ll fail anyway, so you don’t even try, and you get fatter and sicker.
All these examples are why, if you want your children to grow up to be capable, confident, and happy adults, you have to consider how your words and behavior NOW may be leading them to form certain negative beliefs about themselves LATER.
And then take action to ensure your kids are growing up believing in themselves and their abilities.Take Action Now
Most parents have good intentions for their children. Sadly, even good intentions can sometimes lead to undesirable outcomes.
If you consider the example scenarios I had you imagine in this article, the parent was being kind and loving, but was not conscious to the effects their behavior and words had on their child.
In other words, they had good intentions, but those good intentions alone didn’t result in you (the child) concluding positive beliefs about yourself.
Look at my mom, for example. She was an angel. She wanted to help me because she thought that was how she would show me she loved me. She wanted me to do well and not be too stressed. She did things FOR me instead of allowing me to do things for myself, and either succeeding or failing, and learning from my mistakes.
Unfortunately, that led to believing I was incapable and to being a procrastinator when I was younger.
Fortunately, I’ve eliminated these negative beliefs about myself and have been able to live the kind of life I really want to live, which includes helping people discover how they can parent in a way that empowers their children and makes parenting a whole lot more fun.
If you want to know how to parent your children in a way that lessens the chances that they will grow up to believe they’re not capable, or that mistakes and failures are bad, then you may want to check out my audio and workbook program, Parenting That Empowers: How To Ensure Your Child Becomes A Happy, Confident, Capable Adult.
In my program, you’ll learn how to allow your child to make mistakes—and therefore teach them that mistakes are a normal part of life, without driving yourself crazy with anxiety or worry that they’ll mess up.
You’ll learn to say things that are more empowering than, “Let me help you.”
You’ll have a big “AHA” when you ask yourself two important questions about wanting your child to “obey” in Module 3. You’ll also learn how to help your children make decisions based on consequences, not based on pleasing you, or fearing punishments.
This is a better way to teach your kids responsibility rather than doing things FOR them or telling them what to do.
My program is very easy to listen to and has a lot of useful anecdotes and examples that help you empathize with your child and really see things from their point of view. The accompanying workbook will help you solidify what you learn and put it into practice right away.Train Your Kids to Feel Empowered
I know you want what’s best for your kids. You wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t.
Let me show you how to put positive parenting practices behind your good intentions.
P.S. Many parents hate seeing their kids make mistakes. They hate seeing their children get upset because they’ve failed. Parents hate to see their kids suffer! But there’s a way to talk to your children after they make a mistake or, even better, BEFORE they make a mistake, so they learn to take personal responsibility, rather than learning to dodge punishment. Or worse, believing that “mistakes are bad” and being afraid to step out of their comfort zone next time.
Find out how to handle mistakes in my program, Parenting That Empowers:Start Listening