Link copied to clipboard

Are You Casting a Good Spell or a Bad One On Your Child?

Bonnie Harris


Are you aware that you probably live under a spell? I’m not talking about voodoo or magic; I’m talking about the story you have created about yourself and developed over the years based on your perception of what your parents thought of you. This is how powerful parenting is. We all live under spells, some positive, some negative; some we have realized and got out fro under, some we live under that direct all we do.

Spells are unconsciously cast by well-meaning parents who do not understand the power of their words and expectations on the developing brains of their children. Parents are so powerful in children’s eyes that they buy into these spells hook-line-and-sinker.

And it goes on—we cast spells on our children.

First think about the spells you lived under during your childhood. These are what you believed about your role in your family. For instance:

  • I was the favorite.
  • I was the responsible one, expected to take care of my siblings. I was always counted on.
  • I was the pain in the neck member of the family, the troublemaker. I made my parents’ lives miserable.
  • I was never good enough. No matter what I did, I could never be who my father expected. I was a huge disappointment.
  • I was the clown, the brunt of family jokes.
  • I was invisible. No one really cared. I didn’t matter.
  • I was the academic achiever—always expected to be the best and smartest.

Some of these were based on what you heard; some on what you extrapolated from experiences.

Now see if you can replace, “I was ….” with “I am….” Are you still conducting your life under that spell? How does the spell play out in your parenting today? What spells are you are casting on your children?

If you knew what you needed to do to get your parents’ approval and could do it, you probably made out pretty well. You got what you wanted (approval), but was there a cost? Did you learn that that approval was conditional on your behavior? What did you have to give up in order to get that approval?

Now, what if you expect the same behavior from your child, but she doesn’t have the adaptable personality to adjust herself for your approval. How do you react? What spell does your reaction cast on her? Are you demanding and critical so she learns that she can’t ever be who you want and thus believes she is not good enough? Or do you adjust your expectations appropriately so she develops under the spell of support, understanding, and acceptance—“I’m okay just the way I am.”

You may have a child who criticizes you, blames you for everything that goes wrong, hits you and says, “You’re not the boss of me” or “You’re stupid” or “Get out of my life!” Do you take it personally and react with anger, blame, or retaliation? Or do you try your utmost to tip toe around your child and do what he wants to make him happy. In other words what do you do if you need your child’s approval—the approval you never got from your parents? Can you withstand the hurricane or do you get sucked into it and blown around until you are worn to a frazzle?

This approval example can work as a template for any spell you are under. We all experience them. Becoming conscious of them allows you to make choices and get out from under an active spell so that you don’t pass them on to your children.

Imagine if your children were to live under these spells:

  • I am good at trusting and listening to myself for guidance.
  • No matter what, there is a support system I can count on.
  • I am an important member of the family and my opinions always count.
  • I can make mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes are not failings.
  • I am accepted for who I am and do what I want in life.
  • I am capable of getting my needs met.
share this
Follow Us

Bonnie Harris

Bonnie Harris, M.S.Ed. is the director of Connective Parenting and is an international speaker and parent educator. She has taught groups and coached parents privately for thirty years. Bonnie is the author of two books, "When Your Kids Push Your Buttons" and "Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live With”. You can learn more about her work at or follow her on Facebook