Changing negative self-talk in kids

Recently a pattern has started emerging at our house, one that I won’t sit by and let continue. If Princess has gotten into trouble, whatever it be for, lately she has responded with negative self talk that she verbalises out loud.

It started off small, but grew within a few weeks. She would be spoken to and reply in various ways, “It’s because I’m stupid”, “I don’t know why you still love me”, “I hate me”, “I’m so naughty, I shouldn’t be in this family” and they kept coming. And I’ll admit, it was so shocking to me. Initial I would growl at her for saying those things, but it continued and the insults grew. I needed a different tack!

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My strategy might not work for you, but at the moment it seems to be working for us. The next time I witnessed Princess talking negatively, my reaction was calm and really quite simple. I sat her down, ignored the negative talk and turned it back around. “Right now, I want you to tell me three things you love about yourself” I told her. When she asked me why, the answer came to me so simply, “Because I wouldn’t let you say those nasty things to anyone else, why do you think I would let you say them to yourself?”. How very true that is!!

The same process continued for a couple of weeks, and now, I rarely hear negative self talk. Each night at bed time, I now encourage her to say one thing she loves about herself before she goes to sleep, I’ve been modelling this for her too. Depending on the day, her responses vary, “I love how I was a good sport when I helped that girl up at netball”, “I love that I helped Dad out in the garden and he was so happy”, “I love that I was a good sister to Ragamuffin and gave him the toy I was playing with that he wanted”.

I’ve been employing a similar strategy at work lately too. It was particularly great when we took our Grade 6’s surfing recently on school camp. When I heard kids saying “I can’t do it!”, I would yell out to them “I can’t do it YET!”. We would then work together to set a smaller goal and build up to the bigger one, which was standing up to surf. As soon as they started to rephrase what they were saying to themselves, the change was almost instant. They couldn’t do it yet because they didn’t have all the skills, enough practise or even the right wave, once they had these, they could do it!

Have you had something similar happen in your house? Did you deal with it differently and find that something worked well?

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16 thoughts on “Changing negative self-talk in kids

  1. We are a big fan of “YET” in our house too. Negative self talk is such a hard habit to get out of, if our kids can figure out how to talk positively to themselves, it will be of huge benefit when they are older.

  2. So good to read what you are doing to make changes…so much of what we tell ourselves becomes belief. I am currently (at 67!) learning to be less self-critical and more kind. Perhaps using the words “how could I say that kindly” to myself could help your child and others..We are ‘programmed’ for the default of negative so catching our thoughts and words is a training in itself. Best wishes! Denyse #teamIBOT

  3. Pingback: Yearly Wrap  | Life at no. 2

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