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Key Takeaways:

  • Positive self-talk involves speaking to yourself more kindly and seeing yourself in a more positive light.
  • Positive self-talk can increase confidence, reduce negative physical and mental symptoms, and lead to greater life satisfaction.
  • Positive self-talk takes practice and should be done daily to make it a habit.

Everybody has an inner monologue and way of speaking to themselves, including children. While some kids generally have a positive way of talking to themselves, some kids may not always realize how harmful their self-talk can be. This is especially true for children who tend to have negative thoughts. Engaging in negative self-talk may lead to stress, having difficulties facing challenges, and liking life a little less. This is where positive self-talk for kids comes in. It is a very powerful tool that can change your child’s outlook and well-being.

What is Positive Self-Talk?

Simply put, positive self-talk turns your inner monologue into a more positive one. It allows you to view yourself in a more positive light, which allows you to keep going despite difficulties, be more optimistic, and put things into perspective.

Self-talk is how we speak to ourselves, otherwise known as our inner voice. We might not be aware that we’re doing it, but we almost certainly are. This inner voice includes our conscious thoughts, beliefs, and biases, creating an internal monologue that we listen to the whole day.

The Importance of Positive Self-Talk for Kids

There are many reasons why positive self-talk is important for kids.

  • Influences perception. Self-talk can influence kids’ perceptions of experiences and events. Positive self-talk leads to a more optimistic outlook, while negative messages directed at the self can contribute to a more pessimistic view.
  • Affects emotional response. A child’s internal dialogue can affect their emotional state. For instance, positive self-talk can boost confidence and reduce stress.
  • Shapes behavior. Self-talk can influence kids’ behaviors. Specifically, positive self-talk can motivate children to take action and face challenges.
  • Impacts decision-making. How kids talk to themselves can impact their problem-solving and decision-making skills.
  • Self-fulfilling prophecy. What children repeatedly tell themselves can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If kids tell themselves they are capable, they may be more proactive and successful in their endeavors. On the other hand, if children always tell themselves they are bound to fail, they may end up sabotaging their own efforts.

Researchers have also found that self-talk isn’t just about what kids say to themselves; it is also about the language they use to say it. Using a third-person perspective in self-talk can help kids step back and think more objectively about their responses and emotions, as well as reduce stress and anxiety [*].

Benefits of Positive Self-Talk for Kids

There are many benefits to using positive self-talk. They include but are not limited to the following:

  • Improves self-confidence
  • Reduces stressReduces symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Makes you feel more in control of your life
  • Helps reduce chronic pain
  • Allows you to solve problems and overcome obstacles
  • Has a calming effect
  • Helps build better relationships
  • Greater life satisfaction

Examples of Positive Self-Talk

When thinking of examples of positive self-talk, it can help to start by turning negative thoughts into positive ones. Here is a list of common negative statements and how to turn them into more positive ones:

Negative: I’ve never done this new thing before, I’m sure I’ll be bad at it.

Positive: This is a great opportunity to learn how to do something new; maybe I’ll even be good at it!

Negative: There’s no way I will do well on this test.

Positive: There’s a chance that I will do well on this test; I will try my best!

Negative: I’ve failed, and now I’m not good at anything and have embarrassed myself.

Positive: I tried, and while I might not have succeeded, my actions were brave.

Negative: Nobody likes me on the playground.

Positive: My classmates want to play in different ways, and I’m sure I can join in.

How to Teach Positive Self-Talks to Kids

There are many ways to teach your kids to engage in positive self-talk. Here are seven methods you can try.

1. Model positive self-talk

It is crucial to let your child hear you talking positively to yourself. Try avoiding negative self-statements such as “I can’t,” “I never,” and “I always.” Model things that you would like your child to say to themselves, such as “Today was difficult, but I can try again tomorrow” or “I believe I can do my best.”

2. Identify negative self-talk

Listen carefully to the things your child says, especially if they are negative, and begin with “I always,” “I never,” or “I can’t.” Talk to your child about how they feel when they hear themselves say that they can’t or will never be able to do something. Show your child that this can stop him or her from doing their best because it takes away confidence.

3. Teach positive affirmations

It helps to have positive phrases to use when your child is feeling nervous, afraid, or doubtful. You and your child can come up with your own phrase, but you can also use positive affirmations. Help your child remember that when they start saying negative things, they should stop, take a deep breath, and think of their special phrase or affirmation.

4. Practice challenging negative thoughts

Practicing challenging negative thoughts is an effective way to teach your child how to engage in more positive self-talk. You can do this with real-life situations or made-up examples. Choose something your child will relate to easily, such as, “I only did well on this test because of luck.” Have your child turn similar statements into more positive ones.

5. Encourage self-compassion

At the root of positive self-talk is self-compassion. It entails being able to give ourselves grace and understanding that we make mistakes, which is part of being human. By encouraging self-compassion, your child will learn how to step back and look at their mistakes as something external instead of a reflection of who they are.

6. Offer positive reinforcement

Positive self-talk is a skill that doesn’t develop overnight. It takes a lot of consistent practice because you are training your brain and changing its neural pathways to handle negative thoughts more effectively in the long term. Whenever your child does positive self-talk, praise and reward them accordingly to reinforce this helpful behavior. Ideally, positive self-talk will become second nature for your child the more they get used to it.

7. Make it fun

There are several ways you can make positive self-talk more fun and engaging! Try creating positive thought jars, doing a compliment circle, or using an “I Am Amazing” worksheet to help your child reflect on their positive qualities and talents.

The Bottom Line

Positive self-talk is the first step to linking us to positive outcomes. It won’t guarantee that you’ll all of a sudden be able to do everything that was difficult in the past, but it can give you the right mindset to tackle those challenges. Coupled with motivational self-talk and tools like self-esteem worksheets, positive self-talk can definitely get you places.

If you’re struggling with too much negative self-talk, however, we recommend consulting a professional who can help you see the more positive side of things.

References:

  1. Kross E, Bruehlman-Senecal E, Park J, et al. Self-Talk as a Regulatory Mechanism: How You Do It Matters. 2014.