Perception or Fact – Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

In our latest publication, Understanding Children and TeensJudy Bartkowiak draws on her extensive experience as therapist to show parents, teachers and coaches how they can use Neuro Lingusitic Programming (NLP), Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Art Therapy in order to connect with children and teens and to help them overcome their problems. Her book is filled with clear explanations, examples and easy-to-follow exercises – here we share an extract which discusses limiting beliefs and how to overcome them.

NLP, like a lot fo modalities, talks a lot about beliefs, yet this is a word that isn’t in common parlance.  Most people talk about beliefs in relation to religion, don’t they?  Changing beliefs in that context might even be considered undesirable. When we talk about beliefs in that context we are referring to what we hold to be true in the moment about our current situation.  It is our internal representation of what has happened, what was said or done.  It is based on our childhood, parents, schooling, experiences of life and the key events that have affected us, particularly in those first six years of life.

Many of these beliefs will be helpful, such as: some snakes may be poisonous so we should be careful, or, it is important to look both ways before crossing the road.  These beliefs keep us safe.  However, we may also hold beliefs that don’t keep us safe but instead hold us back from achieving all our capabilities.  We call the beliefs that help us ‘resourceful beliefs’ because they give us the resources to move forward. The beliefs that don’t help us we call ‘limiting beliefs’ because they limit what we can achieve or be in life.

What we want children to do is learn how to:

  • Notice a thought
  • Identify it as fact or belief
  • Is it helpful?  If yes, act on it.
  • Is it unhelpful?  Apply one of the methods outlined in this chapter to overcome it.


Children experience limiting beliefs in different ways.  To some extent, it may depend on whether the child is visual, auditory or kinaesthetic.  A visual child might see the climbing wall as higher or see a new situiation as scarier.  An auditory child might hear a voice as more shouty, or harsher, and a kinaesthetic child may feel an atmosphere as more dangerous.

I know that before I learnt about NLP I would dismiss my children’s limiting beliefs.  Their ‘I can’t’ would be met with ‘of course you can’ or ‘you can do this.’  Of course, this doesn’t really help, because not only was I not being helpful but I was suggesting they were wrong.  A more helpful response, I know now, is to accept that this is how they feel right now and trust they can overcome the block by looking at the choices they have.


Understanding Children and Teens: A Practical Guide for Parents, Teachers and Coaches by Judy Bartkowiak is out now

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