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Self-talk is the inner voice we have in our heads that goes on when we have to make a tough decision or think our way out of a difficult situation. When self-talk is conditioned with thinking negatively or cynically over the years, our first response to any situation becomes negative. On the contrary, conditioning self-talk positively helps us see the brighter side of things and stay calm in stressful situations. Since this is an important habit to cultivate in our children, this article talks about how you can teach your child positive self-talk that will influence them to become resilient and successful individuals.
What Is Positive Self Talk for Child?
Positivity is an attitude where we see things brighter and search for better ways to look at people, circumstances, and events. Positivity helps in staying optimistic and persevering through tough challenges. Self-talk is the inner dialogue we have with ourselves every day of our lives. If we are in a meeting feeling nervous, telling ourselves to calm down and focus on the topic at hand is self-talk. Self-talk can be both positive and negative. Our views and attitudes primarily condition children’s self-talk. If we constantly fuss over things and view the world cynically, they pick up the same attitude. Teaching children positive self-talk helps them control their thoughts and emotions and build their self-esteem. Positive self-talk in children is the difference between “My math scores are low; therefore, I will always be poor at math” and “I can work harder to improve my math scores; if my friends can do it, so can I.”
Benefits of Positive Self-talk for Kids
Negative self-talk is a demotivator and takes away your child’s confidence. Children are especially prone to negative thinking as they grow into teenagers. Hence it is essential to inculcate the habit of positive self-talk. Here are some benefits of positive self-talk for children:
- Positive self-talk builds up confidence and self-esteem
- It develops a positive attitude towards life
- They make it considerably easier to handle difficult situations
- They understand their self-worth and the value of other people
- They communicate openly and are willing to have a dialogue when a stressful situation arises
Ways to Improve Your Child’s Positive Self Talk
It takes time to develop positive self-talk, and it begins with simple steps. Here are ways you can teach your child to improve their positive self-talk.
1. Self-talk begins with self-awareness
The first step towards developing positive self-talk is building self-awareness in your child about their inner voice. Becoming aware of it is tricky as many adults don’t realize that they have self-talk. It might seem an alien concept at first to the child, but they will eventually learn to become aware of it. Explain how it influences them and teach them to observe the thoughts that arise in different situations. Self-talk is more evident under challenging situations and after the crisis has passed when relief from being out of trouble is the dominant feeling. Ask them to note down the self-talk whenever they become aware of it and their thoughts and feelings at that moment.
2. Analyzing thoughts
As you teach them to become more self-aware, learning to recognize their thoughts is an important step. Thoughts form the substance of self-talk, and learning to recognize them helps significantly get a hold of it. Ask them to note down five of their deepest or recurring thoughts throughout the day. This exercise will help them practice becoming aware of thoughts and analyze them later on. Find thoughts that trouble them often – maybe they feel anxious about math classes or are being bullied. Ask them to write down their thoughts to be analyzed when they feel calm, facilitating identifying patterns in their thinking.
3. Spotting negative self-talk
The first step towards instilling positivity is to recognize negative self-talk. As human beings, we have a bias towards thinking negatively as a survival instinct. Therefore negative self-talk is not always self-evident and doesn’t always come with emotions of fear or dread. Negative self-talk often presents itself as a long-practiced pattern of thoughts. While “I can’t finish this homework” is a direct negative thought, “the other boy is smarter than me, and unlike me, he can pass without studying all night” is indirect. “I see no point in participating in the race because there are kids who will always run faster than me” – these kinds of negative self-talk hinder your child before they even attempt something.
4. Become a model for positive self-talk
Children learn more from what we are than what we teach. If they see you habitually blaming others for your mistakes or speaking negatively when challenges arise, they will absorb the attitude and repeat that in their own lives. Thus, even if the situation is highly stressful, refrain from speaking negatively about it in their presence. Your attitude should always be that there is a solution to every problem. Practice saying lines such as “I’ll try again tomorrow” or “this time I will do it differently.”
5. Turning negative self-talk to positive
When negative phrases inevitably pop up in our heads, the trick is to stop them in their tracks and modify the thought into a positive one. You can get involved in this exercise with them and use every opportunity where a negative talk comes up to turn it into a positive one until it becomes a habit. “I will not be able to solve this math problem” can be stopped in the middle and replaced with “I will try to solve this later when I might get new ideas.” It is also essential to maintain a positive self-image to go with the self-talk.
6. Talk about the benefits of positive self-talk
While it is easier to teach younger children to stay positive, older children and teenagers can get skeptical about how thinking positively can improve a bad situation; though you cannot change events or actions through positive self-talk, the way we look at it could make us feel better or help develop a better solution. If positive self-talk sounds silly aloud, they could learn to keep their thoughts private, so nobody else can make fun of it. Positive self-talk can help children make better choices that lead to better outcomes. Therefore it is a better strategy than negative self-talk.
7. Create affirmations that make readily available positive lines
Practiced affirmations are a positive self talk for preschoolers and young kids who often get swept away by their fears or anxiety too quickly. Having a ready-made thought that can spring to their minds during such a situation can help them calm down and regain their sense of positivity. Getting an answer wrong in the class can be embarrassing, but an affirmation such as “I get better every day” can remind them that it is alright to make a mistake and have time to correct it. Other positive affirmations include “It’s okay not to know everything,” “I can do anything I put my mind to,” “I am free to make my own choices.”
8. Use crafts to convey positive self-talk messages
If telling your child about positive self-talk becomes too boring, develop some creative craft ideas to associate happy artwork with positivity. Make cardboard cut-outs such as a folding flower with positive affirmations written on all the petals. They can also make a positive affirmations calendar for the week or the month and place it on the table. Use their favorite colors to write the affirmations to associate them with positive thoughts and make a strong impression.
9. Talk about the real world and challenges people experience
Talk to them with examples about the challenges faced by other people every day in their lives. Share stories about those who persevered and triumphed. Ask them questions about what they thought about the stories and how they could have done things differently. You can also encourage them to talk about their challenges and how they applied positive self-talk to solve them. You could also initiate the talk in front of peers and how their positive self-talk helped them in life.
10. Read books about self-talk
Books are an excellent source of information on positive attitudes and psychology. There are many children’s books that touch on these topics, both as storybooks and picture books. Storybooks with tales about positivity also work well to help children develop the right attitude. Popular books, such as Harry Potter and Shrek, have great lessons in adverse situations and positive self-talk.
11. Appreciate their efforts
Motivation works wonders when it comes to reinforcing positive behaviors. Whenever they display signs of positive self talk, praise them for their efforts. Even if they still fail with their positive self-talk, what’s important is that they learn to keep trying. When they stumble somewhere, and you notice them being strong, recognize the behavior and appreciate it.
12. Teach them mindfulness
Mindfulness techniques are powerful practices that help your children keep their minds in the present and build a sense of calm and control over their emotions. Children who practice mindfulness also have more profound insights into themselves, others, and situations. Therefore they are less likely to indulge in negative self-talk. When they do get stressed after events, they will find and bring themselves back to their calm state as they know how to separate their emotions from their circumstances and see things rationally.
Positive self-talk is a practice that takes time to develop, and it gets better as children get older. While positive self-talk involves looking at the bright side of things and better ways to solve problems, it also involves being realistic. Although negative thoughts come up all the time, being positive also recognizes that negative thoughts are sometimes healthy warnings that need to be examined.