It doesn’t take long for it to sink in that your children emulate your good and bad habits. It’s really jolting when your four-year-old tells someone to fuck off. If you come home filled with frustrations from a day spent fighting with others, you probably like to unwind by elucidating to your mate that so-and-so is a goddamned pecker-head or that your boss always has her panties in a twist. Guess who’s listening.

About the time you are learning how to modulate the messages you are sending to your children, you become aware that you are embedding emotions that belong only to you into their operating systems. As an example, my mom had an extreme reaction to spiders. The sight of even a tiny eight-legged creature almost paralyzed her. One of my earliest recollections – perhaps I was three years old – was of my mom, back against the wall, begging me to “step on it and kill it”. From that day forward, through much of my adult life, I carried her fear of spiders.

As a parent, I want our kids to know that some spiders are dangerous and there are ways to avoid them. Broken glass is also dangerous, so is sticking a fork into an electrical outlet. So is touching a hot stove. A parent who passes on personal unsubstantiated fears is actually programming and limiting the child’s future options.

Just because someone in my mother’s past was afraid of spiders, she passed that fear onto my mother. My mother passed it on to me. I was fortunate enough, through introspection, to break that chain of misinformation. I often wonder how many other chains of misinformation I’m passing on to my kids. I’ve found some whoppers just in time.