We’ve all heard that positive self-talk in athletes boosts their performance and negative self-talk impedes performance. We’ve also heard that positive affirmations for kids can do wonders for their confidence and overall well-being.
Much evidence suggests that words and thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies:
- What you say to yourself – silently or out loud – has power over what you become.
- What you say to your children – silently or out loud – has power over what they become.
- What your children say to themselves – silently or out loud – has power over what they become.
Understanding the power of affirmations for children
Emile Coué is often credited as the founding father of the positive affirmation theory. As a practicing pharmacist, Coué found that the patients to whom he praised a medicine’s effectiveness seemed to get better faster than those to whom he said nothing.
He thus put forth the theory that self-suggestion may have a positive or negative impact. His well-known mantra Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better was based on the idea that if you repeat a statement often enough, then it becomes true.
One of the things Coué emphasized, but which is now often overlooked, is the fact that when the will and imagination are in conflict, imagination will always triumph. By this, he meant that nothing can be achieved if there is conflict between the conscious and the subconscious.
Here is a practical example: When you’re frozen so stiff that you can’t feel your toes anymore, repeating “I am warm. I am warm. I am warm” a million times won’t make you any warmer.
In other words, if you believe in your heart of hearts that you are worthless, looking in the mirror every day and saying “I grow beautiful every day” will only reinforce your feelings of worthlessness.
Coué also stressed that “It is easier to train the imagination than the will”. He argued that, for positive affirmations to work, people had to work on their emotional state and adopt an attitude in line with their affirmations.
Positive affirmations for children: Do they really work?
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the true value of positive affirmations.
Some studies suggest that uttering positive mantras such as “I am confident” can fail, especially among the people they are most intended to help.
In other words, affirmations may not work for all people. (This argument is actually in line with the emphasis Coué placed on aligning the conscious and the subconscious).
Despite this criticism, much evidence suggests that positive affirmations are beneficial:
– They improve problem-solving and creativity under stress.
– They lead to psychological wellbeing
– They increase confidence.
– They increase self-compassion and pro-social behaviors.
What you should know before using affirmations for kids
It is no secret that much of our belief system is built early in life. Wounds inflicted in childhood can have far-reaching consequences. The things we hear from family, friends, and teachers are carried with us throughout our lives.
Before using positive affirmations for kids, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
1. Positive affirmations for kids can only work if the affirmations are realistic
Avoid unreasonable positive statements. Positive affirmations cannot work if the deeply held negative beliefs are not aligned with the declared affirmations. If the gap between the conscious and the unconscious is too wide, your kids will end up feeling worse than before.
2. Know thy child!
Positive affirmations for children work best when you take your child’s unique personality into account. Affirmations should be developed based on your intimate knowledge of each of your children.
3. You have a higher chance of success when your affirmations are specific and explanatory
When using positive affirmations for kids, how you phrase those affirmations plays a role in ensuring their success or failure. You need to make them work. Instead of kids saying “I have many friends”, a better affirmation would be “I have many friends because I always try to help my friends out when I can.” Tying affirmations to specific behavior can be more beneficial to young children.
4. Adopting affirmations for kids takes time.
The results of affirmation are long in coming because they require the affirmations to be repeated over a long period of time. Patience pays.
5. Try different options
Some studies have shown that exercises such as writing about the things you value can bolster feelings of self-worth. This is less dependent on an individual’s self-esteem and is consistent with the idea that grateful kids are more optimistic, happier and more satisfied with their lives.
Adopting a family gratitude routine is also an easy way to help your child feel better about themselves and their lives.
Making your child see themselves as a succesful person is also a powerful strategy that will help them feel good about themselves. Here is a free list of words every kid needs to hear.
6. Accept that you might fail
Some children have a difficult time with affirmation. If you find that you are getting negative results, let it go and seek what works for you.
Simple steps to make positive affirmations for kids work
If you’d like to practise affirmation with your kids this week, here are a few simple steps you can try:
- Be a model. Children imitate their parents. If you want your kids to start practising affirmation, they need to see you practising it.
- Explain to your children why it’s important to develop a positive affirmation habit.
- Choose a specific time when you want to practise using affirmations and keep it short. Don’t make the period too long. Ten minutes a day is quite sufficient.
- Gratitude exercises are an easy way 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.
- If you prefer to use positive affirmations, remember to make them realistic, specific and explanatory. If the affirmations are inconsistent with your kids’ internal beliefs, they will do more harm than good.
- Work on one affirmation at a time. Affirmations only work when they are repeated regularly.
- Practise for at least an entire week.
If you’ve enjoyed this post, you’ll love my Workbook “This is what it takes to raise happy and confident kids“. This workbook draws on science-based ideas and resources and from the world’s greatest philosophers to bring you strategies you can start using immediately.