7 Ways to Respond to Your Child's Negative Self-Talk
Maybe it’s after asking your kids to do their homework, or when they're trying something new, or when they’re simply tired and getting ready for bed—it's in these moments when we, as parents, can hear their negative self-talk loud and clear. “I’m so dumb,” or “I can’t do anything right,” or the infamous, “Nobody likes me.”
As parents, we might instinctively want to bubble wrap them from any pain or discomfort. We naturally might want to react impulsively about a negative situation they were involved in. In general, it’s SO easy to get sucked in when our kids are feeling badly about themselves.
However, when your child is hurting, it’s much more productive AND empowering if we can keep our emotions separate and respond to our child’s negative self-talk in some of these ways:
1. Acknowledge the feeling, not the words: If you can help your child to search for what they’re feeling and identify what’s bothering them, then you can separate the problem from their own self-worth.
2. Use humor to help them see things differently: Role-playing a situation while using the funniest possible circumstance can help them to see the bigger picture and that maybe things aren’t quite as bad as they thought.
3. Use specific praise to show your child how great they’re doing:
Praising your child’s efforts will help both you and your child to focus on the problem solving tools they’re using to get through a situation. When we share what we notice about their efforts and attitude, it can help them to feel more positive.
4. Talk openly about negative self-talk: Realize that negative self-talk is usually a symptom of fear. With your child, explore what they might be fearful of. By addressing the fear, you can help them to find useful strategies to deal with it.
5. Talk about having a growth mindset: Practice a growth mindset by being resilient and persistent about your goals. Let them see you make mistakes, while still keeping your goal in sight! [For more information about a growth mindset, you may want to visit the Big Life Journal.]
6. Discuss your “best failures”: Ask everyone at the dinner table to share something they failed at that day. Empathize with each other openly and celebrate what each is learning—despite any setbacks or failures.
7. Create an affectionate, welcoming home: When you provide a strong, warm base, children are able to explore and experiment because they know they’ll be loved—regardless of the results of their efforts.
Next time you hear your kiddo putting themselves down, instead of avoiding it because you're unsure what to do or trying to "fix it" for them immediately, try responding in one of these ways. Teaching kids to work through their discomfort instead of avoiding it is a powerful life lesson.
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[This article does not create a client-counselor relationship. This article is general counseling information and is not to be considered legal or medical advice. Please consult with your mental health professional before you rely on this information.]