As parents we want the best for our kids. I hear many parents say they want to raise kids with good values and high self-esteem. After I wrote Build Emotional Intelligence: How to Teach Positive Self-Talk I received a lot of good feedback and parents wanted to know more.
Emotional intelligence (EI) is a new buzz word among parents and educators. How can we teach kids to be value themselves, understand their feelings and express their emotions in an appropriate way? This is all part of EI.
Today I want to share with you how you can use self-talk as a tool for building self-esteem in kids. Positive self-talk is a great tool to teach your kids!
What is Self-Talk?
First, a brief overview to define self-talk. For both adults and children, self-talk is what you say to yourself out loud or what you think to yourself in your head. It can be positive or negative. Here are two examples: “I can’t take this whining anymore. Don’t they ever stop? All I’m asking for is two minutes of peace and quiet,” and “I’m so aggravated. Okay just breathe Lauren. Walk away. Take a minute. It will be okay.” These are thoughts I often have as a stay at home mom. Can you guess which is positive and which is negative?
Kids and many adults are not aware of their inner dialogue or personal conversation.
Whether you realize it or not your inner dialogue never ends. We constantly make quick judgments, encourage ourselves and/or complain throughout the day. When you become more aware of your inner thoughts and catch yourself thinking “negative” thoughts, you are able to change your self-talk.
Recognition is always the first step.
What Does the Research Say?
I did a brief search to find specific research on this topic. There are more articles out there, but here is a highlight. George Mason University conducted a study in 2007, published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, on preschoolers and self-talk. They found that 5 year olds did better on motor tasks when they talked to themselves out loud versus when they were silent. The study also found 78 percent of the children performed either the same or better on a performance task when speaking to themselves than when they were silent. The author believes we should encourage this type of self talk in kids.
Another study done by Burnett & McCrindle (1999) found that positive and negative self-talk has a mediating effect on children’s self-esteem. Further, they believe their results highlight the importance of parents and teachers saying positive things to children and reducing negative statements made to children by their peers in terms of self-esteem development. So what does this mean? It means self-talk affects or alters self-esteem. Here are a few more studies on self-talk and self-esteem.
Building Self-Esteem With Self-Talk
If you are looking for simple suggestions on how to teach your child about self-talk I suggest reading, How to Teach Kid’s Positive Self-Talk. Now most kids probably don’t need a significant amount of intervention when it comes to positive self-talk. If you are really concerned I suggest talking to your pediatrician or if your child is in school the counselor or school psychologist.
If you are looking for an easy way to encourage positive self-talk, one of the best tips I heard as a school psychologist was to ask your child questions. Praise is good from parents and teachers, but it’s even better when kids say positive things about themselves.
Here are some examples:
- “How did you pull off that difficult task?”
- “I know a lot of kids who would have given up by now. How did you manage to keep going?”
- “That was frustrating. How did you stay calm?”
- “I know you were really disappointed you couldn’t play with the toy. How did you make yourself feel better?”
These questions get kids to think about how they were able to do something hard. When you ask questions like this your kids also discover their strengths. It may also help them identify their best coping skills. Every child deals with stress, anxiety and disappointment differently.
What works for one child may not work for another. It’s best to keep an inventory of what works and what doesn’t so you can encourage skills such as counting to 3, ripping paper, screaming into a pillow or walking away the next time your child gets frustrated.
What tools do you use when building self-esteem in your kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!