Learning Years: How Negative Self-Talk Affects Children

learning years

It might surprise you to know that your child is often their own worst critic. If the stream of unspoken thoughts inside your child’s head is habitually negative, an array of psychological issues can arise. In this article, we’ll discuss how negative self-talk can impact your child’s learning years and what you can do to reinforce positive self-talk practice.

Negative self-talk can result in low self-esteem and low self-esteem can cause the following problems:

  • Higher risks of aggression – verbal and physical.
  • Problems in relationships.
  • Negative effects on performance at school.
  • Increased likelihood of depression.
  • High levels of stress, loneliness and anxiety.
  • A high risk of alcohol and drug abuse later in life.
  • An inflated sense of helplessness in stressful situations.
  • A curbed ability to cope with stress.

A Simple Formula for Banishing Negative Talk

Cally Worden, contributor to the Positive Parenting FAQ series, suggests the following formula:

  • See Negative Thoughts For What They Are

    When your child voices their concern that they “can’t do” something, avoid denial and swamping them with affirmation. This will make them feel unheard. Rather say, “I hear you and your thoughts are making you sad…” Address the thoughts: “Let’s do something different with those sad thoughts!” The goal is to help your child recognize that some thoughts are not helpful and to curb them.

  • Recognize The Ring-Tone of Mr. Negative

    Once your child recognizes negative self-talk when it is happening, they can manage it by turning the message into a positive or by ignoring it altogether. If your child says, “I can’t do it, it’s too hard,” try responding with, “I can hear that Mr. Can’t has come to play again. We should choose not to listen to him. Maybe we can zap those bad thoughts with something awesome like your robots do! … ‘Pow!’ to Mr. Can’t. Shall we try reading those words again and see if your robot mode has worked?”

  • Flip The Negative To A Positive

    When your child’s brain is negatively wired, its natural response is to play down a compliment. When you say, “That’s a lovely drawing of a cat,” you might be met with, “It’s silly, it doesn’t look like Fluffy.” Step in and remind your child to take the kindness. Point out that you recognized the cat as Fluffy. With practice, accepting compliments can become the new default for your child.

  • Throw Those Mean Words Away

    Negative self-talk is a subconscious choice until we recognize it and then we have the choice to kick it into touch. Tell your children that harmful words – whether from your own self or others – only have power if we choose to give it to them. Don’t listen to haters, love yourself, be kind to yourself, and speak to yourself like somebody you love.

Teach your Child Positive Self-Talk

Identify the areas of attitude in your child’s life that need to change. Does your child think negatively about school, tasks or friendships?

Help your child turn their negative thoughts into humor. Teach them to laugh at and make light of a negative situation.

Healthy eating and plenty of exercise are good sources of feel-good endorphins.

Separate the child from negative relationships and surround them with people who are positive and supportive.

Teach your child positive self-talk. Teach them not to say anything to themselves that they would not say to anyone else. If they express a negative thought, evaluate it rationally and give them affirmations instead.

Put Positive Thinking into Practice

  • I’ve never done it before (It’s a chance to learn something new!)
  • It’s too difficult (Let’s try it a different way!)
  • No one plays with me (I’ll think of something fun and invite someone to play with me!)

Create age-appropriate Mindset Posters stating: “I Can,” “I am Amazing,” “I am Enough,” “The more I try, the more my brain grows,” “I forgive myself my mistakes,” “The hard tasks make me grow,” etc.

One Word to Flip the Negative Talk

Author of Happy You, Happy Family, Kelly Holmes, has identified a useful word.

  • When your child says, “I can’t do this,”
  • You say, “…yet!”

This one word will give your child a vision of a future where they can do it.

For best results, follow up the word “Yet” with these two actions:

  • Empathize. Say, “I can see that you are sad/angry.” Or, “You seem worried that you won’t be able to do this.” Even, “You feel bad that you made a mistake.”

  • Then Turn it Around. Ask your child to use her problem-solving skills. “How can we try this in a different way?” or “What part is difficult?”

Help Your Child Define Themselves Positively

Pick three words that describe your child positively. Ask your child to choose words to describe themselves. Do they match? Tap into these attributes. If your child is caring, express gratitude when they show they care. If they are funny, ask them to make you laugh. Talk about their talents. Foster their talents whether they are numbers, reading, playing, caring for animals, taking care of their dolls, art or helping in the home.

The Effects of Outside Influences

Parents, put the spotlight on yourselves to ensure you are not sending the wrong messages to your children. You are their role models. If you engage in negative self-talk your children may adopt this as the norm.

Watch what you say about your children. Apologetically telling strangers that your toddler hiding behind your legs is “shy” and “doesn’t like meeting new people” will subtly implant that message in his head.

Finally, reflect on the following:

  • Do you negative self-talk? Are you kind to yourself?
  • How do you speak to your child? Teasing should not leave children feeling bad about themselves.
  • How do you respond to your child’s negative self-talk? Should you do it differently?

Is your own model of positive thinking one you want your child to copy?

Your Child’s Learning Years At Parkland Children’s Academy

Parkland Children’s Academy is a family-oriented daycare and preschool that is committed to establishing strong foundations through education in a safe and healthy environment. For more information about our all of our programs, call 954-688-5877, today!


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