Teach your child how to talk to themselves
You learn things by saying them over and over and thinking about them until they stay in your mind forever.
Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
How many times have you watched your child struggle with something they’ve found difficult? Or doubt themselves when they’ve needed to try something new? Or take to heart something negative they’ve heard someone else say about them?
No doubt if you’ve experienced any of these or similar scenarios as a parent, it’s been hard for you too and you’ve wondered about the best way to help your child through. You’ve maybe tried encouraging them to just try that little bit harder, reassuring them that they’ll be able to do it, or telling them that the negative thing that was said about them just isn’t true. All perfectly normal responses from you – but they might not have the desired effect if your child doesn’t believe any of the things you say.
That’s where self-talk comes in. Self-talk is actually something we all do naturally – that internal monologue that accompanies us as we go about our days. Sometimes we’re aware of it, other times it just runs through our heads like background chatter. Self-talk can have a huge impact on a person’s confidence, and this impact can be good or bad depending on whether the talk is positive (the ‘yes’ voice) or negative (the ‘no’ voice).
Positive self-talk is the kind of talk you want to encourage for your children - simply because words are powerful. Teaching your child about self-talk and how to use it can give them the ability to go from "No, I can't" to "Yes, I can".
So, how do you encourage your child’s ‘yes’ voice to be louder than their ‘no’ voice? Here are 3 ways introduce positive self-talk to children.
1) Use positive self-talk with yourself
Teaching your child to do anything starts with you! By using positive self-talk with yourself you will not only become a role model for your child but you will find that as speak more positively towards yourself, you will do the same towards your child.
2) Listen for negative talk and help them turn this into positive talk
The best way to do this is to find out what’s wrong, acknowledge your child’s feelings about whatever has happened and then work together with them to reframe their negative talk in a positive way. For example, if your child is finding their maths homework difficult and you hear them say “I’m rubbish at maths. I never get the answers right”, you might want to help them reframe this into: “I’m really struggling with this maths homework. I’m going to give it a try and ask my teacher for some more help if I’m still stuck”. Listen out for when your child says things like “I can’t”, “I never” or even “I always”, and help them to think about all the positive things that you – and they – know that they can do.
3) Teach children how to create their own affirmations
Affirmations are positive thoughts or ideas that we focus on to lead us to a desired result. It can be helpful for children to have a positive phrase that they use when they are feeling doubtful or afraid. You could help your child to come up with their own statement or phrase, and help them to practise stopping and thinking of this whenever they start to say negative things to themselves.
Remember that your child is absorbing all kinds of information from the ages of 8 - 12 months onwards, so it’s never really too early to start introducing this kind of talk in your house.
With positive self-talk, you’re teaching your child that even though you can’t always control what happens to you, you can control the way you see it. And that’s what makes the difference.