Tips to Erase Negative Self-Talk in Children

10 Jun

Children carry inside their heads numerous beliefs about themselves and their abilities, some of which are self defeating, unhelpful and ugly.

‘I don’t think I can ever do math’; ‘I’ll never get selected to the team’ ; ‘I’m so dumb’- Are some of the things they say aloud .On hearing these statements parents swoop in to convince the child that these negative remarks are untrue but, its an almost impossible task to get the child to see his parents perspective.

Over time these unhelpful beliefs get large, like a greedy giant monster sticking its head out at every given opportunity. This monster doesn’t sit still; It grows quickly on a steady diet of unsupportive words or unjust criticism and each time our children think of trying out something new or challenging, this monster is right there throwing its weight around, creating dread and visions of scary outcomes.

For eg — Just before the day of the elocution competition, this monster is back in action convincing your child that its no use taking part —’ You are bound to forget the lines, the audience will definitely laugh’… It even gets fear to step in and set up butterflies in the childs stomach or prompts the child to scamper away to the nurse for a sick note.

Another time: Before the Math exam this monster is once again up to its no good ways, convincing your child that he is a complete loser and Math is just not his cup of tea. This time he gets fear to throw in a panic attack which only convinces your child that he can never do math.

The presence of this monster make children feel worthless and sets them on a spiral of negative self talk which over time gets automatic and permeates into every area of their lives.

So how do we teach our kids to shrink this monster? To be able to face the day to day challenges of life with an open mind.

Few tips coming to my mind would be- Teach your child to

· Accept the feeling coming through the negative talk and name it.

Instead of ‘I’m no good at Math’ , teach your child to say aloud or to himself — ‘I feel nervous about…. or I feel frustrated that I …. and the issue at hand. This way he will know that feelings are transient and they don’t define him

If required, play back what they are saying like — Are you saying that you are feeling worried about the math exam? Then without offering solutions help your child to generate options like — Maybe I could learn a few topics thoroughly or I’ll master the easy problems.

Recognizing that being nervous or worried or frustrated is natural, help children learn not to give in to the barrage of negative thoughts that cloud their thinking.

· Use Humor. Give this monster a name and ask it to stop hassling you. After all, this isn’t how you would talk to someone you love and surely you need to treat yourself with love. So let’s say we call this critical monster George. Now every time you feel that buzz of negative talk in your head- notice that George is trying to dial in. Remember you have the choice. You can choose to let George jeopardize your moving ahead or politely ask George to step aside. Initially may be you need to yell at George, after all he is quite used to succeeding in running you down. Each time you succeed to push George out of the way, he will begin to shrink and your self confidence will begin to grow.

· Talk about your monster and its chatter with caring adults. Look for support from people who care about you and will help you navigate through your negative self talk.

· Wear your armour on days that your monster wont keep shut. Remind yourself of things you have done well in the past Strengthen yourself with visions and reminders of things that went well thus challenging your inner bully.

· Value the process. Focus on the little steps done well rather than just the end result. Phrases like ‘That took a lot of hard work’, helps in learning to value the process.

· Familiarize your child with various calming and coping skills. Affirmations like ‘I am feeling uncomfortable. Many others also feel uncomfortable in these situations. I can handle this issue’, spoken aloud helps calm the child and quietens his negative self talk.

· Parents, check how you talk to your children, and about your children. What are the messages you consistently implant in their heads? Watch how do you handle your own negative self talk. As parents we are their role models and our kids are watching us and many a time imitating what they see.

Some amount of negative self talk many of us indulge in but when its seen on a regular basis, then its time for concern.

It may be due to the presence of a low self esteem, anxiety, learning disability or even depression.

The good news is that children can learn to weaken this internal dialogue. With consistent effort and patience, children will be able to recognise and chase away this monster, thus erasing negative self-talk.

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