Protecting a Child From Lies – Part 1February 3, 2011
Jen began training with us with the goal of being a people-helper. During the training, she confronted a half dozen beliefs that were hurting and defeating her life. As she let go of each belief, she felt more freedom to live as an adult. I use the words ‘live as an adult’ because these beliefs were all childish. One belief in particular had affected almost every relationship in her life. It all started so simply. When Jen was three and a half, her mother made her a beautiful white Easter dress with a large pink bow around the waist. She had never worn anything so lovely or expensive (her family was dirt-poor, and this was a major step up in clothing value). At that time, she was the only child in her family, so she had no one to show her pretty dress to. She went outside that Sunday morning looking to display her finery. The only thing walking around was the neighbor’s dog. She followed him into his yard, all the while telling the dog how much she loved her new dress.
The dog was unimpressed, as Jen remembers. He kept walking away from her and went into the next neighbor’s yard. Jen quickly climbed the small picket fence so she could follow the dog. When she got on top of the fence-line, she caught the dress on a picket and tumbled over the other side – directly into a waiting mud puddle. She remembers the horror that covered her soul as she looked down at her new dress, now torn and muddied. A thought gripped her at that moment: I always ruin everything. Even in adulthood, this became the directing belief of her life. During her training, Jen went back to that belief and allowed God to speak to her. His truth came up against that old belief as God showed her that she had actually accomplished many successful things in life. She let go of the internal lie and has been set free from it since that day.
Over the months of training, she let go of other similar beliefs. Each time she did, the truth brought her into a new maturity. She came to see that these childish beliefs had robbed her of so much joy and freedom.
Like many trainees before her, a realization swept over her one day. “My kids may believe things right now that are going to affect them the rest of their lives.” The horror of this slapped her in the face. She knew her parents had done a great job at raising her and her sister, but she still sunk deeply into lie-based thinking. When she came to our training session, she looked downcast. “Mike” she began, “is there any way to prevent my kids from believing lies like all of us did?” I may have been asked that question as much as any other in the 10 years I have trained people to facilitate truth and restoration. My answers are always the same: yes, we can help our children in the process of belief maturation and attainment, but we cannot prevent them from believing lies. However, we can make it more difficult for them to walk into obvious false beliefs.
To better understand how to help our children, let’s review how any person reaches conclusions about what they believe. During the formative years of 5-10, we are constantly evaluating our experiences and drawing conclusions from them. Often those conclusions are inaccurate or completely false. The little child who is ridiculed might decide “Everyone hates me”. A child who drops his ice cream cone may conclude “I will never have anything I want for long.” The girl whose best friend declares she likes someone else better may think, “There is something wrong with me that made her leave.” All of these conclusions are wrong and based on a lack of experience. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop a child from grabbing hold of these beliefs.
When a parent hears these things coming from their child’s mouth, the first instinct is to snuff it quickly. A parent might say to the little girl, “Oh don’t worry dear. It’s not your fault. Little kids change friends all the time.” The parent then feels satisfied they have quelled the doubts and fears. However, all they have really done is deny what their child believes. It doesn’t really have that much effect on the girl.
A different approach is needed. Maybe the strength of this belief (i.e. “There is something wrong with me that made her leave”) was in repetition. Perhaps this is the third friend during the school year who has done this. Or the strength may lie in a secondary proof. Perhaps the little girl witnessed her Aunt and Uncle split up and heard Mom say that they divorced because the Uncle did something wrong. There is no way to know the thought process which brought about the false belief. Or, is there?
Here is what I counsel parents to do. When a child makes a universal statement like “everyone hates me”, instead of challenging it directly, examine the process with them. Here are some questions you might ask:
Why do you think that? Have you thought this before? What happened before this last thing? Who exactly do you think hates you? Why do you call that “hate”?
The questions are designed to reveal the thought process that resulted in a faulty conclusion. When the wrong logic is discovered it might look really simple. The “hated” child might say, “When someone makes fun of you it means they hate you.” A parent only needs to give an alternative to wrestle away the strength of the false belief. Mom might say, “actually, hate may be too strong. Did you hate your brother when you made fun of the noise he made last night? Do you hate the dog when you laugh at him for the way he eats peanut butter?” Just by challenging the foundation of a belief, the force of that belief is diminished. And, because the parent did not negate the child’s conclusion, that child can now re-examine the belief in light of this new information.
Next time, we will discuss how to draw out the pain a child feels without making them feel worse for doing so.