Negative self-talk is destructive, but it is also rather common in kids. It is a means through which your child expresses himself and what he is saying could actually mean many things: lack of confidence, fear of making a fool out of himself, fear of failure, feeling of powerlessness, stress and anxiety, and so on. We all have to deal with our kids’ negative self-talk at some point. This could look something like this:
“What’s the use, I’m going to lose anyway”
“I’m not good at math”
“I don’t understand anything”
“No one wants to play with me”
“I’ll never make any friends”
“I’ll never make it”
“They’re all better than me”
“They won’t want to play with me anyway”…
The problem with negative self-talk is that your child’s words have a large impact on her behavior. If she believes she’s “poor at math”, she is likely to behave in ways that reinforce that belief. In other words, she can learn to hide behind her “poor math skills” to camouflage her lack of effort.
Several studies have shown that what we think, consciously or unconsciously, shapes our behavior. There is now evidence that our behavior is driven by our attitude. What this means is that the more you child has a positive attitude, the more likely she is to adopt a positive outlook to life and to the challenges she faces, and the more negative her attitude, the more negative will be her outlook to life.
The good news is that relatively simple strategies can help reduce your child’s negative self-talk. Here are a few plans of action that my help your child adopt the right attitude and get rid of negative self-talk.
1) Banish powerlessness by focusing on a growth mindset
According to Carol Dweck, your child’s success is determined by his perception of the concept of “hard”. Dweck argues that a child who has a “growth mindset” is more motivated, creative and better able to deal with setbacks. On the contrary, a child with a “fixed mindset” is more likely to believe that he cannot change how he reacts to his environment, nor can he change the things that happen to him. A child with a fixed mindset feels powerless when faced with even the most “insignificant” challenges.
Other researchers working on growth mindset studies have come to similar conclusions. One of the greatest discoveries of this concept is the fact that the brain is plastic and therefore, specific strategies can strengthen it. What this means is that although your child’s beliefs have a great impact on his behavior, working on those beliefs can help change that behavior.
There is an easy way to help foster a growth mindset in your child. Focusing on your child’s effort is an effective way to teach him that there is a relationship between his behavior and the outcomes. For example, you could say something like:
- “I like the way you used many textures in your drawing”
- “You’re going to learn so much from your…”
- “You worked so hard”
- “It’s great that you tried different approaches and found what works for you”
2) Use positive affirmations the right way
Affirmations are powerful things, there’s no doubt about that. They can help your child deal with self-doubt and cope with negative self-talk. But making affirmations work with kids can be hard work. Several studies have shown that speaking positive words about ourselves can help improve both our well-being and our performance. Some studies suggest that practicing affirmations consistently can help raise your child’s self-esteem.
Positive affirmations have been found to improve problem-solving and creativity, lead to emotional wellbeing and increase self-confidence among those who use them. However, when it comes to kids, specific and explanatory affirmations are more effective. Moreover, just like with adults, affirmations will not work if your child does not believe in what he is saying. In other words, positive affirmations are more likely to work with children if they can see the relationship between their actions and the outcomes.
Here’s how you can make positive affirmations work
- Make positive affirmations part of your everyday routine. Weaving these affirmations into your everyday conversations makes it easier for your child to internalize them
- Use specific and explanatory affirmations. It is not realistic to teach kids that uttering mantras alone is sufficient to get them what they want. They need to know the relationship between their actions/effort and the behavior they want.
Examples of affirmations that could work well with children are:
• The more I practice, the better I become
• I get smart by learning new things/trying new strategies/working hard everyday
• Each time I read for 10 minutes a day, I become a better reader
“I can” statements are also a great way to strengthen positive affirmations. You could teach your child to say something like:
• “Math is difficult, but I can manage it” or “Math is difficult, but I can get better if I do exercises regularly”
• “I can handle this situation”
• “I know I can do better” or “I know I can do better if I …”
3) Help your child believe in her abilities
No matter how often you praise your child or her behavior, it will not make a difference if she does not believe she is worthy of that praise. In other words, your child needs to know that she is capable of success. Set expectations that enable her to achieve specific objectives then raise your expectations gradually. If you show your child that you believe that she is capable of better performance, she is likely to perform better. Comment on any positive behavior that you observe. Praise her efforts even if those efforts do not lead to immediately observable success.
4) Help your child practice gratitude
Some studies have shown that exercises such as writing about the things you value can help bolster your child’s feelings of self-worth. This is because there is evidence that grateful kids are more optimistic, happier and more satisfied with their lives.
Gratitude exercises are easy to start. Asking your kids to state the things for which they are grateful for and participating in these exercises is one way to start. You can set a specific time (for example every day before breakfast or dinner) where everyone takes turns speaking of the things they are grateful for. You can also give your kids a gratitude journal and keep one yourself.
The “This is what it takes to raise a happy and confident adult workbook” draws on proven scientific research and theories from the world’s greatest philosophers to propose practical information to help foster traits such as independent thought, self-motivation, grit, confidence and a growth mindset. Get your copy today!
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