Positive/Negative Self-Talk and Your Child
Last month the article was about giving the gift of positive self-talk to your child and how it begins with you (the parent) first. Let’s revisit that for a moment then move on to the tools for your children.
The first and most important strategy is to role model our reactions to our own adult misfires or accidents. I want to define “misfire, failures or accident” regarding this article. I mean normal life happenings that do not go as we may have planned in our daily life.
For example, dropping a full dinner plate and saying “sh.., I have ruined dinner.” To a child this message displays accidents are not okay, and everything is ruined. Do not fret. This is just a reactive habit and thought. Reactive thoughts and habits can be changed through practice and awareness.
Practice saying, “Oops, I will just clean this up and get another plate.” Or you could even say, “I need some help.” Showing your child, it is okay to ask for help. This may seem like a minor example. We are human and every word will not be perfect. I challenge you to think of a bigger anxious reactive moment. Is this how you want your child to react to failures or accidents? Or can you practice a different response? What are the words I need to say or display for my child in order for them to understand what to do in life and reference later? Remember words and experiences shape children’s inner thoughts and actions.
Here are some concrete preventative strategies to support your child’s positive self-talk:
1. Gratitude is powerful. Practice saying real statements to and around your child. “I appreciate you trying again, or I like when Dad/Mom made a mistake and is trying again, I love that man!” This is sending a few messages: that we all make mistakes, can try again and are always loved.
2. Pay attention to the messages on the television and online your child is using or surrounded by at this vulnerable age. Parents you have control and guidance over this and what your child hears and internalizes at this young age.
3. A dose of power and attention. Let me be clear-this is not a pass for negative behavior! Your child needs boundaries and consequences which falls under parenting. A key piece of the definition of loving your child.
Each day set a special time for quality uninterrupted listening to your child. This maybe during bath time or quiet snuggling time right before they fall asleep. Find your own special time of day. Giving your child the power of the conversation with your full attention and respect. Very little response necessary. Listen to understand.
What should I do when I hear my child repeating negative self-talk?
Don’t panic! Just pay attention when your child says, “I am bad at cutting with scissors!” Our natural response as a parent may be to say, “no you are not, you are amazing at cutting with scissors!!!” and we want to fix, fix, fix in some way.
What you can do is first acknowledge the feeling, “you sound frustrated or tell me what happened and why you are feeling that way.” This may seem simple and is exactly what your child needs to hear now. Then listen. Slow down and listen.
You have listened and you have acknowledged your child’s feeling. Here are some supportive responses you can follow up with:
“You are right. Cutting is hard. It takes practice.”
“You may not be good at it yet. Cutting takes practice. Practice helps you learn.”
“Everyone needs practice cutting. Shall we try again now or later?”
“I love trying new things and mistakes happens. Why do you think that is?”
Language has big and deep and effects. Consider this analogy… A house is made of many bricks. A person’s self-esteem is made of many words and thoughts they have heard and inquired over time. What do you want your child’s inner foundation to be built on?