Parents of young children often ask me what they should do to raise confident, successful young men and women. Here is what I tell them, based on my understanding of the neuroscience of the human brain and the power of belief:
Treat them like royals!
To help them understand further, I ask them to enter the theatre of their imagination and picture their children dressed as young members of a royal family on an important day. Picture them standing on a balcony overlooking a crowded square filled with adoring subjects. Picture them walking with their family amongst the crowd, heads high as they stride with a confident gait. Their faces, body language, and behavior ooze confidence. The world is theirs, and they can choose their own futures.
The human brain works in a wonderful way. Our cerebral cortex (or cognitive brain) drives our thought and reason. It has the power to override the deeply moving messages of our emotional brain and the fearful messages of our primitive brain. It is the source of positive thinking. If our brain is filled with positive thoughts that resonate with our emotional desires, belief flows easily and naturally. And this is the secret!
The royal child hears affirmation at every corner. The whole world shouts out, “You are worthy!” Their ears faithfully pass the message on to their brain, in particular to their cognitive brain. Their cognitive brain hears this message hour after hour, day after day. It becomes deeply ingrained in their being, and they believe—truly believe.
Because they believe, they walk tall and think big. They don’t hear the nagging voice of their primitive brain urging caution as we do. Its paltry efforts are dwarfed by the resounding echoes in their cognitive brain: “You are worthy, you are worthy” becomes “I am worthy, I am worthy, I am worthy!” With this refrain, desires become belief, which become actions and success.
It’s a simple recipe.
Now, most children don’t have hordes of fans and an entourage sharing the constant affirmation that royals have. That’s where we step in as parents. Our voices have to become the affirmation of the masses. Our voices have to shout loudly, every hour of every day, “You are worthy, you are worthy, you are worthy!” Our children’s ears will faithfully pass the message on to their cognitive brains, and soon, belief becomes success.
I do have one word of caution: Even as you soak their growing brains in the “you are worthy” message, it must be balanced with the twin guidance that it is hard work that will be the forerunner of their success. Self-worthiness in the absence of hard work is entitlement, a dangerous affliction for royals and lesser mortals alike.
Finally, here is the most challenging part of this instruction for all parents: We have to model this royal behavior for our children. We have to model self-belief and self-worth.
Many parents are surprised to find, when they attend a parenting workshop based on the neuroscience of raising successful children, that we spend most of the time focusing on their own (the parents’, that is) sense of self-worth. This is because children may or may not listen to our words, but they always notice, and usually follow, our actions—for better or for worse.