“You’re a bad boy!”

“You’re a naughty girl!”

“You’re lazy!”

“You’re greedy!”

The above are just some of the common phrases that frustrated, stressed-out parents frequently blurt out to their children.

I hear them in homes, shopping centres and buses all the time.

The parents never mean these words, they just say them to express their anger or annoyance with something that the child has done.

They don’t realise that each of these words is a dagger struck deep into the confidence, self-esteem and self-belief of a child.

The other day I had a very interesting conversation with a Ukrainian woman. In an earlier life she had spent four years working as a house-cleaner in Israel.

I asked her about the personalities and living habits of Israelis. She told me something very interesting.

“They always say to the child, ‘You are good, you are clever, you are beautiful…’ All the time, every single day, all the adults say this to all the children. So the child grows up believing this.”

This is it, I thought to myself.

This is the secret behind why Israel is the most powerful state in the Middle East. Why Israelis succeed in business, technology, defence…

Why Israelis enjoy an influence in the world far beyond their size.

It’s not because of a secret conspiracy.

It is because their children grow up believing that they can do anything.

I learned the same things about Americans after living in US prisons for three years.

For three years I read the daily newspapers (which I would often get two weeks late after the censors had checked they were OK), listened to daily radio shows and conversed with Americans, both prison officers and prisoners.

I would read every bit of every page of the newspaper, both the “liberal” New York Times and the right-wing Wall Street Journal.

Reading a newspaper in solitary confinement is different to reading it on the bus or train.

I would read every single section: news, arts, interior designing, business, relationships, technology…

The Americans are the most powerful nation in the world because they believe it.

From a struggling single mother on welfare to the CEO of a multibillion corporation, they believe they can do everything.

This inner belief, this high self-esteem, self-respect and self-belief is what motivates that same struggling single mother to not only survive, but to thrive as well.

Instead of sitting down feeling sorry for herself, that same single mother makes cookies in her kitchen then sells them to her neighbours to make her life better.

She does not blame others for her predicament. If her situation was the fault of others, then why are there so many other single American mothers who are also successful in life, she asks herself.

“We Americans are the smartest people in the world… the most creative… the most…” Fill the gap. They actually believe it.

I heard several speeches and statements of President Obama. In every single speech he praised the American people.

In fact I have never heard any American president ever criticise the American people. Ever.

What type of leader attacks and criticises his own people?

Sadly, there are a few in the Muslim community who criticise their people. In lectures, talks, sermons.

These so-called clerics, imams and “leaders” are responsible for why some Muslims today feel that all their problems are someone else’s fault (Americans, Jews, the “Government”, the police… take your pick.)

“Muslims don’t care about those dying in Syria.” [Actually, we do. Ask the hundreds of doctors, teachers and aid workers who have given up their day jobs to lighten the suffering of Syrian refugees.]

“Muslims don’t care about each other.” [Actually, ask hospital nurses who have to beg the families of Muslim patients to ask their droves of visitors to stop coming.]

“Muslims don’t want to give charity.” [Actually, Muslims are the most charitable people in the entire world.]

Dr. Joseph Goebbels was Adolf Hitler’s chief propagandist. He once famously said,

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

This is how he was able to convince Germans suffering from post-1929 Great Depression economic hardship that Jews were responsible for all of the suffering in the world.

A bit like those politicians and tabloid papers today who blame all the world’s problems on “immigrants” when most of them are “immigrants” themselves.

To say to a child, “You’re bad” is not only a lie. It is a big lie. Because no child is bad. No matter what he or she does. Children behave badly but they are not bad.

“Focus on the action or behaviour, not the personality.” This is what successful parents try to do.

Former cricketer Imran Khan is Pakistan’s most famous politician. According to Wikileaks, Imran Khan is the only Pakistani politician who does not lick the boots of the US Government.

This man was successful in cricket, being the first cricketer to captain Pakistan’s cricket team to win the World Cup in 1992.

He was successful in building Pakistan’s first specialist cancer hospital for the poor, a task many believed was impossible.

And he has been successful as a politician so far (but always fails to win power because he is not corrupt).

His secret?

His mother.

When in prison I read his autobiography, titled “Pakistan: A Personal History” – one of the best autobiographies that I have ever read. Because it is honest. It reveals vulnerabilities and mistakes, as well as successes.

I highly recommend this book (link at end).

When writing about his childhood, Khan wrote that his mother instilled such a high sense of self-esteem, self-belief and self-respect into him that this was the secret behind all of his successes later on in life.

So, whatever you want your children to be. Just keep repeating it to them, day and night.

Eventually they will come to believe you.

And then they will come to believe it themselves.

You can read my story, why I was in prison and why I blog here.

Imran Khan’s autobiography is available on Amazon here.

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