Culture Insights Blog

Childhood Origins of your Thinking and Behaviour

Published on 16 Jan 2019
Childhood Origins

Our experiences (and interpretations of them) shape the way we see ourselves and the world. A lot of these patterns are established during our childhood and lead us to reach powerful conclusions about ourselves which impact the way we think and behave. In this episode of the Culture Bites Podcast, Shaun McCarthy and Dominic Gourley talk about how these patterns take shape and how you can proactively shape them in constructive ways.

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"They fuck you up, your mum and dad.  

    They may not mean to, but they do.  

They fill you with the faults they had

    And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn

    By fools in old-style hats and coats,  

Who half the time were soppy-stern

    And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.

    It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

    And don’t have any kids yourself."
This Be The Verse - By Philip Larkin

Key Takeaways from this Episode:

Just like leaders in Business who shape culture in organisations and create expectations for behaviours, parents do the same within the family.

How someone sees themselves is formed over the entirety of your life. A positive self-concept allows you to have a realistic view of yourself and form healthy relationships. A negative self-concept can create unrealistic standards of what they ‘should be’, lead to unhealthy relationships, and drive irrational and self-defeating beliefs about themselves.


Self Concept: 

Broadly, it is made up of three things:

  • Beliefs about themselves: “I’m good at this”, “I’m bad at that”, “I’m helpful”, “I’m unhelpful”, “I’m a grumpy person”, etc.
  • Thoughts about how others see them: “Friendly”, “approachable”, “Popular”, “angry”, “mean”
  • Perceptions of what they are vs what they think they should be

What Forms Your Self-Concept:

There are three main sources that shape your self-concept:

  • The Experiences you have had throughout the entirety of your life
  • The Impact of significant others (people whose views mean a lot to you such as parents or teachers etc).
  • So, if they said you were dumb, maybe you now believe you are dumb. The Conclusions about yourself that you’ve drawn from those experiences


How our Self-Concept beliefs, thoughts and perceptions about self concept drive Thinking and Behaviour styles:

Table 1

How to Raise a Child to Rely on Constructive Styles:

  • Unconditional regard/love – value is based on ‘being you’
  • Values and stories are around achievement and helping others
  • Lots of personal responsibility and involvement in decision-making
  • Emphasis on learning and growth
  • Lots of praise and positive reinforcement, punishment is used sparingly
  • Emphasis on problem-solving
  • Mistakes and failing are seen as ‘opportunities to learn’
  • Respect for each other and others
  • Emphasis on ‘experience’ (somewhat existential – ‘organismic valuing’, the ‘here and now’)
  • Children are encouraged to participate in activities
  • Emphasis on ‘cause and effect’ and ‘your effort can make a difference’
  • Goal setting involves goals that are fairly challenging to achieve
  • Children are allowed to ‘have their dreams’


What Causes Kids to Have a Passive/Defensive Self Image:

  • Conditional regard/love – value is based on ‘being good’
  • Values and stories are around subordinating oneself to others
  • Lack of clarity re expectations of children/contradicting expectations
  • Emphasize doing things to please others
  • Lots of strict rules
  • Lots of ‘formality’
  • Parents are definitely in control
  • Lack of autonomy/decision-making
  • Children are not encouraged to set goals – and if they are, goals are too easy
  • Little feedback on ‘performance’
  • Good performance goes unnoticed but poor performance and mistakes are punished
  • Mistakes are seen as ‘bad’ and fear is used as a motivator
  • Conflict avoided – active withdrawal from conflict


What Causes Kids to Have an Aggressive/Defensive Self-Concept:

  • Conditional regard/love – value is based on ‘looking good’
  • Values and stories are around conflict and competition
  • Everything has to be done very quickly – always in a hurry
  • Emphasis on needing to ‘appear competent’
  • Beliefs about ‘combative’ lifestyle – “it’s a dog eat dog world” etc
  • Confrontation and competition are valued
  • Emphasis on criticism and being critical of others
  • Obsession with failure
  • Children have a feeling that ‘nothing is ever good enough’
  • Goal setting involves goals that are almost impossible to achieve
  • Emphasis on punishment
  • Mistakes and failing are seen as ‘bad’ and ‘unacceptable’
  • Lack of respect for each other and others


If you have a question you want us to answer, email

Listen to previous Culture Podcasts:

001: Kick Starting a Passive Team
002: Dealing with Delegation
003: Telling Someone They have a Blind Spot
004: What's Wrong with Being Competitive?
005: I have a Competitive Teammate – Help!
006: What is a Toxic Culture?
007: How Leaders Impact Culture
008: Is Culture / Climate / Engagement the same thing?
009: My Manager is Resisting Culture Change
010: How the Banks got here
011: Myth Busters: If I’m not Aggressive then I must be Passive
012: How Culture Works Pt1 – Overview
013: How Culture Works Pt2 – Mission, Philosophy, Structures
014: How Culture Works Pt3 – HR Systems
015: How Culture Works Pt4 – Job Design
016: How Culture Works Pt5 – Leadership
017: Rebecca Kardos, CEO Aurora Energy
018: Is Conflict in Teams Good or Bad?
019: Does Teamwork Work?
020: Tips and tricks for LSI Debriefs
021: Can you use the LSI for Recruitment?
022: Dear C.B., My Manager is Cold
023: Passive LSI Action Tips
024: Aggressive LSI Action Tips
025: Breaking Down Silos
026: SuperMind Neuro Science of Creativity
027: Conference Highlights
028: 8 Keys of Team Effectiveness

029: Coaching Questions for Passive Styles
030: Coaching Questions for Aggressive Styles
031: Staying Constructive this Christmas
032: Blue Year's Resolutions
033: How Culture Made Headlines in 2018

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