Ministry of Education, Guyana

How to Teach Your Kids about Positive Self-Talk

Kids face new experiences all the time. Making changes, like trying something new or starting healthy habits, can test even the most seasoned grown-ups. So how do you teach kids to motivate themselves in the face of a challenge?
That's where the power of positive self-talk comes in. Whether you’re trying to get your child to try a new sport so they can be more physically active or remind yourself that you can make healthy food choices, positive self-talk can give your family the motivation you need to succeed.

It can build your family’s confidence that you can indeed make healthy changes. If you teach your kids about positive-self talk and how to do it, it can give them the ability to change feelings of “I can’t” to “Yes, I can.”
What Is Positive Self-Talk?
Positive self-talk is a way people can encourage themselves. Tell your kids that lots of professional athletes use it to keep themselves motivated, confident, and focused on their goals and what they want to achieve. It helps them succeed. For example:
  • NFL quarterback Tom Brady has been known to say: “Try the best you can.”
  • Beach volleyball Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings says: “Breathe, believe, battle.”
 You kids may feel better to learn that everyone has doubts – and even pro athletes have setbacks. Positive self-talk can help them keep going. World-class skier Lindsey Vonn says: “When you fall down, just get up again.”
Let kids know that using positive-self talk takes practice. Just like they need to run and play to make their muscles and heart stronger, practicing positive self-talk helps their minds get stronger so they can make healthy choices.
“It’s very important that your child sees that they always have a way to influence the outcome of things with their own effort, and how they look at things,” says parenting expert Laura Markham, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting.
When Can Kids Use Positive Self-Talk?
One of the best times is when something seems too hard or makes them nervous. When doubt creeps in, teach them they can do something about it.
The first step is to recognize negative thoughts. Maybe your son wants to play soccer and you think playing a great way to encourage a life-long love of being physically active. But recently he’s been having a hard time and you’ve heard him say, “I always mess up when I try to pass. Nobody’s going to want to play with me. I won’t make the team this year. Why try?”
As an outsider you may be able to see that’s pretty extreme and not likely to happen. You want to teach him to recognize when he’s saying and thinking negative things so he can find motivation to keep going.
However, sometimes recognizing negativity can be tricky, especially if it’s something that you or your kids do out of habit.
How Do You Recognize Negative Self-Talk?
Negative thoughts tend to be sweeping, all-or-nothing statements that jump to conclusions. There are certain words that are flags for negative self-talk.
Listen for “I can’t,” “I never” or “I always.”
When your kids say things like this, stop and talk to them. Then you can help them find more positive thoughts to think and say instead.
How Can You Help Your Kids Come Up With Positive Thoughts?
When you hear them say something negative, take a three-step approach: Find out what's wrong, reassure them, and help them choose a positive statement to say instead.
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