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How to Teach Your Kids to Use Positive Self-Talk

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Most people are their own worst critics. And this can come to hurt us. When we constantly berate ourselves, put ourselves down, and criticize ourselves, we start to believe all those negative things. However, those negative beliefs are hardly ever rooted in the truth, and it can be especially painful for parents to see their kids be so hard on themselves. To combat this negativity, many therapists and psychologists recommend using positive self-talk.

What is positive self-talk?

Positive self-talk helps people reframe their thinking and build self-esteem. It’s not just about creating a positive attitude, it’s about teaching the brain to look at both the bad and good, rather than just the bad. We all have faults, and it’s good to be aware for them. Unfortunately, too many of us only look at our faults and do not look at our strengths as well. By using positive self-talk, you can bring those strengths into the picture to help you gain more resiliency and confidence.

First, recognize negative self-talk

Awareness is key to building any new habit. If your child is overly critical of themselves, don’t expect them to flip a switch and suddenly become more positive. Instead, teach them how to recognize their negative self-talk first. Tell them to listen to sentences that start with “I can’t,” “I always,” or “I never.” Once they’re aware of this negative self-talk, they can take steps to change it.

Ask questions and turn things around

Now that you and your child are aware of their negative self-talk, start digging a little deeper. Why does your child say or think these things about themselves? For example, if your child says, “I’ll never get a good grade in math,” ask them what makes them think this. Then, work with your child to turn these phrases around to make it more realistic and positive. Here’s how that would work:

Negative Self-Talk: “I’ll never get a good grade in math. I’m too stupid.”

Question: Why do you think this? What evidence is there to support this?

Positive Self-Talk: “Math is a difficult subject for me, but with help, hard work, and practice, I can get a better grade.”

As you can see, the positive self-talk example does not simply tell your child that “they can do it.” Instead, it recognizes your child’s struggles while also reframing the situation to empower them.

Model positive self-talk

Kids copy their parents. Even if you want your child to practice positive self-talk, they won’t do so if they see you being hard on yourself or others. If you’ve been critical of yourself in the past, use this as an opportunity to practice and model positive self-talk as well.

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