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5 Tips for Teaching Kids Positive Self-Talk & Why It Helps

by Vannessa Rhoades 17 Apr 2023
5 Tips for Teaching Kids Positive Self-Talk & Why It Helps

It’s normal for children to have doubts, question their abilities, and have strong negative feelings when dealing with various challenges in life. It’s especially common for children who have difficulty making friends, are victims of bullying, or are having trouble in school. For an overwhelmed child, it’s easy to simply presume something is wrong with them.

As a parent or caregiver, you can help children manage these negative thoughts and emotions by introducing them to positive self-talk. Though acknowledging and accepting those negative feelings is still essential, kids can learn to reevaluate their thought processes and concentrate on their strengths. Let’s take a closer look at teaching kids positive self-talk and why it’s so beneficial. We’ll also look at how to empower children with this effective skill so that they can confront difficulties with strength and self-assurance.

What Is Positive Self-Talk?

Essentially, positive self-talk is a coping mechanism that allows children to reevaluate their thinking and put it into a more positive context. It’s about more than just “having a good attitude.” Positive self-talk helps improve self-esteem and fosters resilience. In other words, the purpose of positive self-talk is to teach the mind to identify strengths, find possibilities for improvement or growth, and motivate one to continue trying.

When caregivers teach children positive self-talk from a young age, they’re giving kids the tools they need to handle setbacks and face challenges in life. Children begin to trust that they have something positive to offer the world. They understand that they have a unique set of characteristics and skills they can rely on when things get tough.

Benefits of Positive Self-Talk

All children are inclined toward self-doubt, particularly as they approach their teen years. Lots of negative thoughts and feelings about themselves, like “I’m such an idiot” or “I’m terrible at writing,” can begin erode their self-confidence and inner strength. They may even begin to believe such statements. Encouraging positive self-talk can help your child become more resilient and motivate them to face setbacks head-on.

In fact, research has shown that helping struggling students focus on their effort rather than their lack of ability may help them perform better on difficult tests and projects. Positive self-talk helps improve a child’s problem-solving and decision-making under stressful conditions. It also increases compassion for themselves, encourages pro-social behavior, and pushes children to seek out areas where they can excel.

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How to Teach Kids Positive Self-Talk

Empowering your child with positive self-talk may feel a little awkward in the beginning as you try to essentially reprogram their brain (and yours). With regular, routine practice, however, you’ll both soon become more comfortable with this powerful tool.

1. Recognize negative self-talk when it happens

Many children aren’t even aware they’re engaging in negative self-talk, nor do they understand the power it can have over their lives. Help create awareness of the negative thoughts and messages children are repeating to themselves.

2. Talk with them

Frequent conversations with your child about what their day was like, what happened at school, and how they’re feeling can help instill positive-self talk as a daily habit. Conversation gives them the opportunity to vent about what went wrong during their day. Positive self-talk can help reframe these conversations and shift the focus to recognizing what they did well. It also helps build a stronger, more trusting relationship between you and your children as you talk about goals and dreams. It allows you to support one another, especially when plans get derailed.

3. Help them see where they excel

Help your children identify their strengths. They may resist at first because it feels like bragging. However, the ability to recognize the skills they’re most adept at (and the skills that need a bit more practice) is something that will benefit them throughout their entire lives. It might be challenging for them at first, and they may need your help. You can also help steer them towards activities that line up with those strengths.

4. Concentrate on effort, not results

It’s far more effective to focus your energy and attention on a child’s effort in a situation rather than the end result. For instance, talk to your child about how much they studied and practiced for a particular exam instead of what their final grade was. Not everything always goes according to plan, whether it’s a science fair project or a soccer game. The important thing is to remind your child that they worked hard and didn’t give up.

5. Be an example of positive self-talk

Children learn a lot by watching the way the adults in their lives communicate. When you’re faced with a difficult situation in your own life, take a moment to model positive self-talk for your kids. It’s just as much of a strength and self-confidence booster for adults as it is for children. You can also set an example of how to use positive self-talk by discussing with them various ways of handling a difficult situation. For instance, if they have to take a math test and they feel their math skills aren’t quite up to par, encourage them to concentrate their efforts by repeating to themselves, “I will do my best.” You could also remind them that even though they don’t feel like their math skills are great at the moment, with study, practice, and hard work, they will improve.

The Takeaway

Positive self-talk has lots of upsides, but it takes practice and consistency. Children are inundated daily with negative messages that are quite easy to absorb. With regular practice, encouragement, and guidance from a loving caregiver, positive self-talk can become almost second nature and a powerful tool for your children to use when faced with challenges or setbacks in life.

If your child seems to be overwhelmed with self-doubt and negative feelings in spite of your continued encouragement, there may be more going on. Talk to a trusted pediatrician or mental health professional about your concerns. They can assess your child and see if there may be other issues present, like anxiety or depression.

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