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Normally, I like to stay positive instead of ranting or introducing a negative thought.

Which I guess is kind of the point today.

My rant IS about negative thoughts. Negative programming, specifically.

It sneaks in on us from all angles, doesn’t it? Little messages that we might not recognize, disguised as something else: humor, sarcasm, teasing, groupthink.

(Speaking of groupthink, some related reading: Why I want misconduct to surprise me (at least a little)

I visited a few children’s clothing stores recently and as always, they sold a ton of tee shirts with fun graphics and sayings. Most were adorable.

But then I was struck by a particular display where one shirt after another flashed a message I don’t want my son wearing.

They didn’t contain profanity or nudity or some other wildly inappropriate message. And that’s where the sneak creeps in.

Here’s what the shirts said:

  • Hellooooooo, Weekend
  • NOPE. I’m going back to bed.
  • I speak fluent sarcasm
  • I never finish anyth
  • Is it Friday?

Notice the problem?

I’d like to point something out: I’m not offended by the shirts. I’m just never going to buy them for Daniel.

So in 2FP fashion, here are 2 reasons why I won’t buy them: 1) They program negative thinking and 2) They promote and encourage mediocrity.

1. Programming our Minds

All five of those shirts have a negative message. They’re disguised as humor, but don’t fall for it. There’s plenty that’s funny that doesn’t steer our kids down a path toward Loserville.

Ever hear of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP?

It’s a fancy term for “watch what you think.” (Though obviously, there’s a LOT more to it.)

The concept has been around forever. You can see a light version of it in classics like Norman Vincent Peale’s You Can if You Think You Can or The Power of Positive Thinking. Or Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, originally published in 1937.

 Then there’s The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, which says in the Introduction:

“All of us, more than we recognize, are products of the thinking around us. And much of this thinking is little, not big. All around you is an environment that is trying to tug you, trying to pull you down Second Class Street.”

But NLP goes much deeper than positive thinking. It’s all about the ways we program our subconscious.

NLP and Children’s Tee Shirts

In NLP; The New Technology of Achievement, Chapter Two describes the “Neuro” part as referring to our nervous system, “the mental pathways of our five senses by which we see, hear, feel, taste and smell.”

But it’s the Linguistic and the Programming parts that are most fascinating.

“Linguistic refers to our ability to use language and how specific words and phrases mirror our mental worlds,” the book says, adding that it also refers to “postures, gestures, and habits that reveal our thinking styles, beliefs and more.”

And then Programming is what it sounds like: the habits we teach ourselves, which can be learned and unlearned.

That’s powerful. Habits mean everything, and they start with our thoughtsWe program our minds, which in turn influence our actions.

We program our minds, which in turn influence our actions.Click To Tweet

So what does this have to do with children’s tee shirts?


Words matter. Whether we think them, write them, speak them, convey them through our body language, or wear them, they matter. And if I buy those tee shirts and stick them on my son, he will ingest their messages.

Words Matter

Let’s take a second look.

“Hellooooooo, Weekend”

My son is 6 and in kindergarten. I don’t want him living for the weekend. I don’t want him living for the weekend when he’s 26.

I don’t want him to think that adulthood means he’ll find a Mon-Fri job he hates and that he’ll count the days until the weekend. I want him to value each day.

Once when I was 9 or 10, I excitedly announced that I couldn’t wait for some event to happen. And my father replied, “Don’t wish your life away.

That kinda freaked me out. Maybe I was a too-serious child, but I immediately pictured myself catapulting toward death, my life whooshing by as I pushed the fast-forward button by wishing for things like birthday parties instead of staying present.

Not that I could vocalize any of that. Really, I just kind of got the chills as I took the phrase literally.

That’s exactly what the “living for the weekend” mentality is, though, isn’t it? Five out of seven days, down the drain. That’s 71 damn percent of a week.

Do I want to teach Daniel to toss out 71 percent of his life? To wish it away?

More Tee-Shirt Dissection

How about the next one: “NOPE. I’m going back to bed.”

I’ll be the first to admit: I’m not a morning person. But I still don’t like the message here.

I want Daniel to wake up and look forward to his day. I want him to practice gratitude and the Law of Attraction. And in that vein, he will wake up and speak about what he’s thankful for and think about what great things he will tackle today.

Why would I want his first thought of the day to be “NOPE?”

Next: “I speak fluent sarcasm.

Somehow, sarcasm is equated with funny. Again, full admission: I have a sarcastic streak and will pit my sarcasm against anyone’s.

But honestly? I don’t consider it a strength. And I try really hard to keep it from being negative. There’s a difference between being dry and witty, and a sarcasm that’s biting and hurtful.

Daniel can be very quick-witted. But I’d prefer if he’s not sarcastic.

Tee shirt #4: “I never finish anyth

Yes, it’s witty. But as you can probably guess by now, the relevant question is: Is this how I want Daniel to think?

Do I want my 6-year-old to program his mind to think of himself as someone who never finishes anything? Or that it’s funny not to finish what we start?

I don’t want him wearing a message of failure. And that’s what this is.

Tee shirt #5: “Is it Friday?

Refer to tee shirt #1. Do I want my son to wish his life away? Or do I want him to grab hold of each day and attack it with enthusiasm?

2. Promoting Mediocrity

So what do each of the tee shirts have in common?


Mediocrity as a way of life. As its own goal. They broadcast a lack of enthusiasm and motivation.

Don’t you want excellence for yourself and your children?

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” The idea is that you become what you surround yourself with, whether that’s people who strive for success or fall into mediocrity. Whether they exercise regularly. The type of income they produce and their perception of money.

I strive to surround myself with people who set goals and consistently work toward them. Life is simply more fulfilling that way.

Guess what? I’ve never heard successful people count the days til the weekend or joke that they don’t finish what they start. Quite the opposite.

I've never heard successful people count the days til the weekend or joke that they don't finish what they start. Quite the opposite.Click To Tweet

I want Daniel to absorb messages of achievement and positivity. So those five tee shirts, and others like it, will never appear in his closet. When he spends time with me, he will be exposed to people who sincerely practice those beliefs. (No fakers and frauds. But that’s a topic for another day.)

What do you think? Would you skip those tee shirts, and why or why not? What are your thoughts on the ways we program our minds?

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