The Importance of Positive Self-Talk for your Children
by Elizabeth Pantley
If your child is often worried, it is likely that his self-talk is negative. Negative self-talk can cause children to focus on possible disasters such as…
• What if Mommy forgets to pick me up from camp?
• What if I hate my new teacher?
• What if I get hurt and no one is there to help me?
• What if something bad happens to Daddy while he is away?
A stressed-out child tends to rehearse these thoughts in his mind—over and over—until he becomes overcome with fear and worry. Negative self-talk can escalate easily, which then causes anxiety to increase. This is why it is so important to take the time to work with your child to make his self-talk more positive.
Worry is a Waste
Children have very active imaginations, and the first step to helping your child relax is to help him understand that not all of his thoughts are real or accurate. You will want to find a time when your child is relaxed, comfortable, and feeling safe to teach this idea. You can have a conversation about the topic where you use examples to show how thoughts are separate from reality. Be sure to be very gentle when explaining this to your child because you want them to see your point, not think that you are discarding their emotions and thoughts.
• Thinking about a cow doesn’t make one appear in the kitchen.
• Thinking about flying doesn’t cause you to take off into mid-air.
• Thinking that something bad will happen will not cause it to happen.
You will want to explain to your child that she has the ability to change the way that she thinks. Help her to see that she can control her negative thoughts by acknowledging them when they pop up and making a conscious effort to change the direction of thought.
Look for Solutions
We all have the tendency to focus on our problems and review them, rehearse them and dissect them. Children and adults alike have this problem, and you can teach your child that there will always be problems throughout life; but the powerful point is that there are also solutions. “Solutions” is where we should put our focus. If your child is worried about making friends at a new school, she might be thinking…
• I can’t do this.
• I miss my old friends.
• I’m going to hate my new school since I won’t have friends.
Don’t allow her to dwell on this inner torture. Instead, teach her how to problem-solve. Have a conversation about all of the ways that she can make new friends, and have her focus on the positive aspects of getting to know new kids.
Create Positive Note Cards
Sitting down and creating positive note cards with your child can be a great way to discuss positive self-talk and spend quality time together. These cards will help your children remember positive things as she goes about her day, and these can be customized to whatever concern is currently worrying your child:
• I will be fine all day at school.
• I can make new friends today.
• I have learned new things before, and I can learn today, too.
• Mom always picks me up after school.
Create New Habits
Many adults still wallow in negative thinking, so teaching your child from a young age to direct thoughts in a more positive way is an extremely valuable life skill. It gives them the chance at a happier and brighter future, which is exactly what we want for our children.
Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Discipline Solution (McGraw-Hill 2007) by Elizabeth Pantley http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth