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Managing Negative Self-Talk

Children can sometimes believe negative things about themselves. Negative “self-talk” may include thinking they are dumb, ugly, mean, or a bad person. They may say things like “No one likes me,” or “I hate how I look.”

It can be hard to hear your child talk this way about themselves, but you can support them to manage it so they can work through their feelings. This week, we offer tips for helping your child manage their negative self-talk.

We all make mistakes

As humans, we all make mistakes.  As adults, we can learn from the experience and grow. We keep trying or we problem solve and do something different. Kids, however, may have a tougher time moving on from the experience. Learning that mistakes are normal (and sometimes frustrating), not bad and  to try again or try something else. Learning to say “yet” can be a big motivator. “I am not riding the bike yet, but I’m learning. I’ll keep trying.”

When your child spills or drops something and they say, “I’m so clumsy,” you can normalize that mistake for them, and help them move on. “Everyone drops things once in awhile; let’s just clean it up and then we can start our game.”

It can help to talk to kids about what it means to make mistakes. Talk about mistakes you have made and how you handled them. Admitting your own failures and frustrations, or times when you felt down on yourself and how you worked through it can teach your child that everyone experiences failure, embarrassment, and negative thoughts at some point in their lives. Here are other points to keep in mind:

  • When they say, “ I’m dumb” or “You hate me,” can sometimes be reactions to being disappointed or not getting their way.
  • Some children learn that criticizing themselves gets attention. Take that as a cue that they could use some one on one time with you and emphasize positive attention.
  • Encourage your child to try again after a setback. “You’re not doing it yet, but you are learning!”
  • Teach your child how to have fun in a game even if they aren’t the winner. Tell your child that you understand their feelings and help them work out a way of coping with the situation. “Games are like that: sometimes we win, and sometimes we don’t.”

Remember that young children think in all-or-nothing terms.They may think that if they do poorly on one school test, they will fail all their tests. Some children are also “perfectionists” and want to do everything right on the first try. Children can set impossible standards for themselves, which is why it’s so important to be there for them when they struggle.

For more tips and to view the complete article, visit lanekids.org.

This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).  Parenting Now is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now please visit their website (https://parentingnow.org/) or contact us at info@parentingnow.org

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