Positive Self-Talk for Kids: In this post, you will learn how to help your children replace negative inner talk and motivate themselves with tips on how to promote positive thinking and examples of adaptative inner dialogue.
What is Self-Talk
Self-talk is our internal dialogue, those sentences and messages we tell ourselves.
Self-talk can be both negative and positive.
Our negative self-talk reinforces negative beliefs and attitudes and it may lead to feelings of worthlessness.
“I’m useless, I’ll never be able to do that”
Negative thoughts can sometimes pop up spontaneously as automatic thoughts in the form of negative ideas about ourselves, the world, and the future.
Positive self-talk, on the other hand, can be a powerful tool to reassure ourselves, motivate us, replace negative inner talk, focus our attention on the positives within us, and even enhance performance.
Kids have to face challenging situations in their everyday lives that can trigger negative self-talk.
Encouraging positive self-talk may be a very useful strategy in such situations.
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Identifying Negative Emotions
Being able to identify their negative emotions in the first step kids can take to be able to deal with them appropriately and understanding situations that may benefit from positive self-talk.
Some kids are still learning about emotions. There are different tools and activities that you can use to help your child identify different types of emotion:
- describing situations in their lives that may trigger certain emotions.
These are some examples that children may relate to, and may help them understand more complex emotions:
- Fear: Not doing an assignment or breaking a rule and then worrying about the consequences.
- Sorrow: Losing a friend or a pet.
- Embarrassment: When someone makes fun of their appearance, their work, or anything they said.
- Guilt: When they lie about something or cheat on a test and know it’s wrong
- Anger: When something they own is taken away against their will or when they are being scolded when not at fault.
- Loneliness: When their friends do not come to school or when they feel like they do not fit in the circle that they are in.
- Jealousy: A classmate scoring more in a class test or some other kid gets the latest gadget.
- Worthlessness: When they think they are not good enough after failing at a task or when a task seems too hard.
Tips to Promote Positive Self-Talk in your Kids
- Always validate your child’s feelings and tell them it is “normal” and even adults have troubling thoughts.
- Teach your child the role our thoughts play in how we feel.
This is an example of how our own thoughts may trigger our anxiety or, on the contrary help us cope:
Situation: the teacher is going to ask me a question
a) anxiety triggering thought: I’m going to forget everything I studied.
b) coping statement: I’m going to breathe in and think about the answer. If I need a few seconds to think about it, I will just say so.
- Spend enough time with your children to have a better understanding of their personalities and their thought process, so that you can respond accordingly.
- Model positive self-talk. Show them how you phrase more adaptative self-talk when you are facing a difficult situation.
- Identify situations or experiences that trigger negative thoughts, and prepare positive statements that can compensate thought associated with it that we can retrieve.
- Help them reflect on the positive qualities and talents that they have (this “Things I like about myself” worksheets can help you with this activity)
- Start the day with positive affirmations with your kid.
We use these beautiful affirmation cards to help our kids focus on the positive message.
And these positive affirmations worksheets are great for younger kids or children with fine motor skills issues or special needs.
- Teach your child that his/her mind is a “motel” or a “guest house” that will be visited by a number of emotions during the day and none of them is coming to stay forever. So whatever it is, it will be over soon. This will help your child get some perspective and minimize the problem.
- Keep reminding them that there is no problem that cannot be dealt with.
- Teach them calming phrases that they can repeat to themselves when in stressful situations. “Everything will be fine” “I can do this” “It will be over soon”
- Frequently engage them in activities where you practice converting commonly occurring negative thoughts to positive.
- “I am so dumb, I always make mistakes.” into:
- “I am learning from my mistakes and I will keep getting better.”
- Teach them to find a positive aspect in every situation. For example, when feeling alone they could tell themselves “I can now enjoy the peace of my own company, read a book, focus on studies, etc”
- Write down every day a list of positive, happy thoughts.
- Teach them about gratitude: More 👉 Gratitude Activities for Kids
- Write a gratitude journal
- Prepare gratitude rocks.
While you prepare your gratitude rocks, you all have an opportunity to reflect on some of the good things and people in your lives.
Examples and tips of self instructions that can help kids deal with certain emotions:
- Embarrassment: ask them to reflect on past achievements and strong traits.
- Fear: Competence-related self instructions work better than threat-related verbal cues (Kanfer, F.H., Karoly, P & Newman A., 1975). “I’m a brave kid. I can handle darkness” would be better than “It’s ok, darkness is a fun place”
- Anxiety: Prepare positive self-talk statements to cope with different stages of the anxiety-triggering situation (Meichembaun & Goodman, 1971):
- preparation statements: “I need to remember to breathe in and out”
- coping statements: “I can do this, I’m doing great”
- acknowledge accomplishments: “I was a little anxious at the beginning, but I’ve done a great job answering the teacher’s questions”
- Anger: Self-talk can be used to cope with challenging situations in an adaptative way (following a similar approach to the anxiety example shown above)
Useful Positive Self-Talk Resources in this Blog
- Learn how to use positive affirmation cards to promote positive thinking and self-love