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A Child's Subconscious Mind: How Parents Can Hurt or Help Their Kids

A Child’s Subconscious Mind: How Parents Can Hurt or Help Their Kids

child's subconscious mind

A child’s subconscious mind is not something parents usually think about. They worry about nutrition and development goals. They read about sleep pattern and tantrums. They want to get everything right, but parents rarely invest the same care and interest into how the mind of their child works.

As adults, we have the tendency to see children as miniature adults. We believe that they should think, reason, behave the way we do. However, nothing can be further from the truth.

When kids do not operate the way we think or believe they should, things can go terribly wrong. We might try to correct their behaviours through actions or words, sometimes punishing them, which often just makes the situation worse.

The reason for this is that kids’ minds work very different than ours. Imagine the picture below as being your adult mind.

the subconscious mind

10% of your mind represents your conscious mind. That is where you reason, make decisions, where your willpower is stored. 90% represents your subconscious mind. This is your auto function. This is the area that makes you breathe, manages your body and your emotions. That is where you store your beliefs, your automatic responses, your habits. This is also where your primitive area housing ‘fight or flight’ reactions is.

Between them, there’s something we call the critical mind, half into the conscious, half into the subconscious. This is our ‘filter’.  This is there to protect us. The critical mind analyses the input and decides what can go into the subconscious mind and what cannot.

The average adult has 5 different types of brainwaves:
buttonGamma waves 40+ cycles per second (Hz) (These are involved in higher processing tasks as well as cognitive functioning.)


buttonBeta waves 12 – 40 Cycles per second (Hz) (These are known as high-frequency low-amplitude brain waves that are commonly observed while we are awake. )


buttonAlpha waves 8 – 12 cycles per second (Hz) (This frequency range bridges the gap between our conscious thinking and subconscious mind.)


buttonTheta waves 4 – 8 cycles per second (Hz) (This particular frequency range is involved in daydreaming and sleep.)


buttonDelta waves 0 – 4 cycles per second (Hz) (These are the slowest recorded brain waves in human beings. They are found most often in infants as well as young children.)

The average brain wave cycle for an adult, when awake and alert, is about 21 cycles per second. Scientists call this Beta brainwave activity. This activity slows down when you sleep or daydream.

Alpha waves (8 – 12 Hz.) begin to express around the age of six and Beta waves (12- 15 Hz), the highest level of brain activity, characterised as “active and focused consciousness,” only begin to appear around the age of twelve.

Children have slower brain wave frequencies than adults. When a baby is born, their brain rhythm is only a couple of beats per second. As they grow up and their brains develop brain rhythm increases. In children, right brain functioning develops first. The right brain is associated with the subjective senses, imagination, creativity, memory and intuition, or alpha activity.

When a child is born, they have no logic, reason or inhibitory processes. To make their needs known they use primitive mechanisms. The only fears a baby is born with are the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. All other fears are learned over the years via identification and association.

From the age zero to approximately eight, the child develops a library of these identifications and associations. They learn that some of these are good (positive) and some are bad (negative). These positive and negative associations become the life script of the child. It is formed from what they know, but the child does not yet know right from wrong. The identifications lead to associations which lead to emotion. For example, a child had a scary experience with a dog. The identification is the dog, the experience is frightening, and emotion is fear. Therefore the script reads identification of dog leads to the association of danger that leads to the emotion of fear.

kid and dog

Children are very receptive between during these ages when their right brains are active and their left brains – which includes critical thinking  – are not yet fully functional.  It is during those formative years that subconscious mind programming naturally occurs. It is how people take on limiting beliefs that sabotage their success, including the hurtful words of a tired parent or those of an educator who lost their patience.

A child’s critical mind only develops from around the age of eight, therefore whatever they hear, see, feel goes directly into the subconscious mind without analysis, and is accepted as fact. As the subconscious mind never sleeps, the amount of data that goes directly into their subconscious mind is phenomenal. In the eyes of your child, you are literally everything, and in the programmable Theta state (4-8 Hz.) whatever you tell them, their brain will record as true.

So, until the age of eight, the brain is only downloading data. Are you afraid of heights? Do you believe that money doesn’t grow on trees or that love hurts? Chances are those beliefs were instilled in you unwittingly by your parents when your mind was still malleable and unable to contest. It was unable to contest because, until eight years of age, brain frequency patterns are dominated by Theta waves, holding the child in a hypnagogic trance. This trance-like state allows everything that happens before birth through eight years of age to go directly into the subconscious — bypassing the conscious mind. In other words, at this age, the brain is only downloading data and the critical mind is not yet working.

Many of our beliefs are formed in early years from what we see, hear and experience. At that time our critical thinking skills are not intact and we don’t question the “mind programming” that takes place, often by adults with good intentions.

So for example, a kid who grows up in a household where parents repeated something along the lines of “If you don’t get good grades in school, you’ll never have a good job”, may grow up with the unconscious belief that they are not capable of having a great job or doesn’t deserve one because they didn’t do well in school.

We know this by observing the brain activity of individuals who have been hypnotised. In order to hypnotise a person, his brain frequencies must first be lowered to the Delta and Theta state —the very state your child finds himself in naturally during his first eight years. Because of this natural hypnotic state in the child, his brain downloads all the perceptions, activity and knowledge he receives without the benefit of discrimination.  Your child is ‘programmed’ for his adult years during this phase of development and it is this subconscious ‘programming’ that will run 95 % of his adult life.

From around eight to approximately twelve a child starts to develop logic and reason. The child is capable of making decisions and developing will power. This becomes the conscious mind and represents around 10% of the mind. The subconscious mind represents the remaining 90% of the mind.

The left brain is the critical thinking part of our intelligence involved with logic, language and physical activity. It develops more slowly. In fact, scientists now believe that brains aren’t fully developed until we are well into our twenties, possibly even our thirties.

Another important aspect parents should remember is that the subconscious mind has no sense of humour. It is not logical and it takes things literally, it does not interpret. When parents joke with their children before they have that critical filter, or even worse, use sarcasm, that is very real for those children. Statements like “Are you stupid?” or “Leave me alone!” is not interpreted but taken as truth.

Learned helplessness occurs with children in almost any family, and suggestions accepted as truth become part of the belief system of their subconscious minds. There is a direct connection between how kids feel and how they behave. When kids feel right, they’ll behave right.

How do we help them to feel right? By accepting their feelings and helping them to correct their life script.

The problem is that parents don’t usually accept their children’s feelings, without even realising it. For example: “You don’t really feel that way.” “You’re just saying that because you’re tired.” “There’s no reason to be so upset.”

Steady denial of feelings can confuse and enrage kids. It also teaches them not to know what their feelings are — not to trust them. Add to this to not taking into account the developmental phase of the child’s mind and you can create the programming that hinders the child.

The conscious mind sees with the eyes. It perceives outside experiences that are taken into our minds. It is your conscious mind that sees this web page.

The subconscious mind, on the other hand, has no contact with the outside world. It is blind. The subconscious mind does not see any more than a computer sees. Consequently, the subconscious mind does not know the difference between real and imagined. It is not conjecture; psychologists have verified it in laboratory experiments.

The subconscious mind relies on sensory input. Thus, it responds to reality and imagination in the same way.

Younger children are especially vulnerable, accepting negative suggestions with the same energy as positive ones. If your child’s belief structure is one based largely on fear or lack of confidence, a feeling of rejection or inadequacy, the ensuing decisions made by their conscious mind will, of course, reflect those beliefs.

The good news is parent’s mistakes can be undone.

Many years ago, Joane Goulding, who studied biopsychosocial aspects of stress and mind management and served as a Director of the Australian Academy of Hypnotic Science, realised that children can be programmed in their sleep to fight off negative suggestions.

She created the Goulding SleepTalk® Process that children’s healthcare professionals have been using for over 30 years. The Goulding SleepTalk® process gives parents a second chance to undo the possible harms caused by unkind words they may have said to their children during a busy day.

The process is a safe, ethical and non-intrusive method suitable for any family, that empowers parents to help their children to achieve self-confidence and inner strength. They do it by giving their children positive suggestions to help with general and specific issues in their lives.


Author: Mae van Rensburg

Mae is a Personal Counsellor, Hypnotherapist and NLP Practitioner based in Canberra. After a successful career in IT and Finance, Mae's passion for the wellbeing of others prompted her to get certified and join the world of Hypnotherapy. She launched Brand New Mindset Australia in 2010, ever since successfully putting science and hypnotherapy techniques to work to help people achieve their goals in happiness and health, and quickly abandon bad habits. 

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