Helping a Child with Negative Self-Talk
How often does your child partake in negative self-talk? How often do you hear things like:
I will never get that right!
I am so stupid.
You don’t love me.
I am so ugly.
I am such an idiot.
I always make you mad.
No one likes me.
I am so awkward.
I am so annoying.
Even if you aren’t hearing these thought out loud, many kids are constantly berating themselves silently.
The problem with that is the domino effect it sets off.
[Scroll to the bottom to watch my Kids Youtube Video on this topic]
What we tell ourselves impacts how we behave.
How we behave impacts how we are treated.
How we are treated impacts what we tell ourselves.
Welcome to the vicious cycle of self-hate and negativity.
So how do you help your child get off the hamster wheel of negative self-talk?
It is not that easy. For starters, they aren’t going to listen to you. After all, you are their parents. You have to like them. So that cancels anything you say out.
That doesn’t mean stop trying. You just have to do it more subtly.
Creating Genuine Self-Confidence to Counteract Negative Self-Talk
Superficial compliments aren’t going to kill your child, but it waters down the quality of what you have to say.
If you are drooling with:
You’re so awesome!
You are great at everything you do!
You are the best at everything!
They aren’t going to take you too seriously when you are truly wowed by something they did or accomplished.
The more specific you are with a compliment the better. For instance, let’s say your child was nervous to be in a play. They didn’t want to go, but you talked them off the cliff and they reluctantly went on stage. Their mouth barely moved, while everyone around them sung their hearts out.
You can say:
“Wow! You were so amazing up there!” (Which you and the child knows is complete BS)
Or you can say:
“You know I was impressed with what happened today. You were terrified of going. You wanted so badly to just avoid the whole thing. It took tons of courage to go and stand on the stage feeling that scared. You were brave today and I hope you feel pretty proud of yourself for that!”
Now that second compliment has some pretty good meat on the bone. And even if your child shows no outward appreciation for your amazingly insightful and well worded compliment, the seeds were planted. Every seed has long-term power, so keep planting.
Help Your Child Define Themselves
All too often we let other people define us. This is especially true with those suffering from social anxiety, but we all do this to some degree.
Help your child define themselves. Not with your words, but with your actions.
What’s are three words that describe your child’s character? Here are a few to pick from:
You get the point. There are positive words that can describe every human being. What are the words that fit your child?
What words would your child pick to describe themselves? Ask them. Does it fit with the words you picked?
You want to hone in on what your child already believes about themselves and tap into that further.
Do they feel like they are funny? Then have them tell jokes. Ask them if they want to share one joke at dinner each night since they are so good at making people laugh.
Do they feel like they are caring? Highlight when they do something that goes above and beyond what others would do. Express your gratitude when they show care for something you are struggling to handle.
Now that you covered personality attributes, what about talents. What are they good at? Think out of the box. Ask them what they would say.
Are they good at:
Playing and caring for animals
Playing an instrument
Playing a video game (yes, this can be a talent! Have you tried to beat a Boss lately or build something on Minecraft?)
Creating things from Legos (future architect anyone?)
Taking care of their dolls
Playing a sport
Helping around the house
Pick a few (or better yet get a few from your child) and throw all you have at that talent. Foster what your child’s interests are and watch them take off!
If they love art, ask them to make art for the house and frame it and hang it up.
If they love to cook, ask them if they can make a meal once a month.
If they love to play video games, ask them to show you their skills or their creations.
If they love legos make a lego museum on a bookshelf where you display their work.
The point is – you want to water the seeds that are already planted. It is easier to harvest something that is already growing, then to forcefully try to plant something on top of it.
Teach Your Child the Power of What They Tell Themselves
Kids don’t often realize that how we talk to ourselves has power. Heck, even grown-ups don’t realize this much of the time! What we tell ourselves creates our world.
Ask your child – would you talk to your best friend that way? To me that way? Then why is it okay to talk to yourself that way?
Some kids may not realize the amount of negative self-talk they are doing. Have them take one day to pay attention to their inner dialogue. Ask them to count every time they make a negative comment to themselves. See how many points they have at the end of the day.
The next day have them do the same thing, only reverse. How many points did they get for saying positive things to themselves?
Self-awareness is key.
Practice is also important. Many kids (especially the super nice ones) feel like it is self-centered or cocky to say nice things to themselves. I’ll often hear kids tell me, “I don’t want to brag or be selfish.”
I explain to kids that when we treat ourselves kindly and highlight what awesome things we do (even when we mess up), the more we boost our self-confidence. When we walk around with an air of self-confidence, people respond well to that. They believe in us because we believe in ourselves. That is powerful stuff.
Okay, so maybe your kids aren’t going to sit through long talks about this. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. I made a Kids Youtube video on this. It is short. It is sweet. And it is right to the point.
Do they have 10 minutes?
Have your child watch this video:
Do you know someone who has a child with negative self-talk? Share this article and video with them.
Other Article to Help with Self-Esteem:
Books to Help Self-Esteem and Self-Image: