Perception is reality

iStock_000000298626SmallIn this past month alone, I have had a meal or coffee and chatted with numerous adults whose childhoods were less than ideal. Some were downright horrific. Like the boy who saw his mum repeatedly stab his sister to death. Or the girl who grew up in a war torn country and saw people slain right in front of her. Or the boy who was sexually abused by a close family friend. Or the girl who was blamed for her father dying. Or the girl who felt abandoned by her parents as her mum had to work two jobs so that they could survive after her dad ran away. Or the girl who loved the fact her dad was in prison for drug dealing because then she had a reprieve from the sexual abuse. Or the girl whose father had really wanted a son so always felt unwanted. Or the girl with the controlling mother who developed anorexia nervosa as a way of being able to control her own life.

There are a number of others who had childhoods that seemed o’kay, but for some reason or another, never felt good enough. A seemingly innocent seed was planted in their mind by a one-off comment or look or event and it then festered and grew into a huge weed that affected how that person viewed themself.

I hate putting the spotlight on Satan, but I certainly believe that one of the enemy’s strategies has been to rob and steal healthy childhoods from kids. To plant unhealthy seeds of doubt in their self-esteem. To cause friction in relationships so that kids’ futures of greatness are robbed from them. The potential of greatness in each newborn is huge. Why then do we see so many babies grow up and struggle with life issues and never seem to reach their potential in life?

The more I interact with people, the more I realise that we all perceive things differently. What looks like something to one person can look extremely different to another person and there can be a misunderstanding. Children look at events, conversations etc through their own life lenses and then often don’t know how, or even don’t realise, they should clarify things and so are left with a huge misunderstanding that they absorb into their life.

We all have belief systems that affect the way we think, feel and act. Our perception of what has happened to us becomes reality for us. We all have memories (good and bad) but it’s the bad memories that can cause us emotional pain, wound us, and prevent us from achieving our potential in life.

What can we do as parents?

First, we need to be extremely careful of everything we say or do. The words that come out of our mouth in a moment of anger or exasperation can harm a child and change that child’s perspective on themself. Therefore, we can help by growing more Christlike ourselves.

The Bible lists 9 characteristics that are great to be trying to grow and incorporate into our own lives. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galations 5:22-23) Please realise that I am encouraging you in your parenting role, not trying to place extra burden on you. No-one is the perfect parent. It isn’t possible. We all fail. Our aim though, is to do the least amount of damage that we can so that the seeds of greatness in our children have the opportunity to flourish throughout their life.

Second, we need to be proactive and develop an open relationship with each child so that they are able to come to us at any time and share whatever they like without the fear of being judged. A great way of doing this is to have a regular (weekly or fortnightly) date with just you and each child separately. Don’t wait for the ‘stuff to hit the fan’ before you have put in place an open and honest platform from which you communicate.

Third, we need to be able to develop an appropriate strategy to help our child unpack some of their emotions and feelings with us. Some of the tools of the SOZO prayer ministry are great at this. When one of our children reacts unusually or out of character to a situation or person, then it is great to be able to stop and spend a couple of moments just asking a few questions.

Example:

1. “Princess, let’s ask God if there is a lie (sometimes saying a “faulty belief” is easier for a child to comprehend than a “lie”) you are believing just now?” (Wait a few moments).

2. “Princess, what was the first thing that just came into your head when I said that?” (Listen attentively to her answer)

3. “Princess, let’s ask God to show you why you believe that?”    (Wait a few moments for the answer)

4. “Is there anyone you need to forgive?”

5. “God,  I’m sorry for…….  I forgive…. for……….  Can you please bless…..now. Thank you.”

6. “Let’s ask Father God to give, show or tell you the truth just now”. (God is always good so He will always give, show or tell them the truth to replace the faulty belief with. This is a very important question to ask God.)

Fourth, I would also recommend that you ask your children leading questions to find out if there is any stuff in their life that isn’t meant to be there. I ask my children,      

1. “How do you know I love you?”,

2. “Has mummy ever said or done anything to you that has hurt you (& if so, what is it)?”,

3. “What can I do to show you I love you more?”,

4. “What’s one thing you wish I had never said or done?”.

The answers to those questions may well signify that there aren’t any huge issues you need to deal with at the moment. That’s great. Being proactive is far easier than having to spend time patching up the broken relationship.

Also be aware that sometimes it may well be the thing we haven’t said or done. Not saying “I love you,” when we said it to the other child or when we struggle to say it at all can have a huge negative impact.

Fifth, It can be helpful to have another healthy adult in your child’s life so that they can express their feelings, thoughts and concerns to them. We have a beautiful 21 year old young woman who babysits our kids once a fortnight. Our kids look up to her and share stuff with her about their life. This young woman has an amazing insight into our childrens’ lives and the issues they are struggling with and can help them with any skewed beliefs that they may have formed and give them a different perspective from what they believe.

What do you need to do this week in your relationship with each of your children so as to have that solid foundation base in place?

I would love to know how you went. Have you learnt anything about your child and how you interact with them? Please feel free to drop me a comment to let me know.

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