How we view ourselves directly impacts how we feel and behave. If we regularly tell ourselves, “I’m an amazing person!” we achieve amazing success. If we tell ourselves, “I’ll never amount to anything,” we won’t—because we’ll never try very hard. And if you’ve met (or seen on the news) people who seem to hate everyone, chances are they’re constantly telling themselves, “Everyone is against me, and I can’t do anything about it except try to get even.”
As a parent, what do you want your children to get into the habit of telling themselves about themselves? Self-talk—the ongoing conversation we have with ourselves—is in constant danger of being influenced toward the negative by bad news, complaining acquaintances, indiscriminate criticism, or just plain frustration. We must consciously decide to keep our self-talk positive, and the younger we start, the better.
You’re in the perfect position to influence your children’s self-talk by introducing them to some very powerful tools.
The first thing to put in the self-talk tool belt is the habit of active recognitions, such as “You’re amazing, I see you helping your younger brother with his homework” “You did a great job, 98% on your Chemistry test, wow this tells me you really understood the material!” Think of it as a running video camera with you as the narrator. By pointing out irrefutable proof of your child’s greatness you will quickly allow them to step into their greatness!
Visualization is another great tool for creating positive self-talk. Encourage your children to make vision boards depicting their dreams (most kids love collage-style projects) and to display the boards where they’ll be seen every day. You’ll all soon see for yourselves that what is envisioned, clearly and specifically, is what comes into your lives.
Another effective tool is service, also known as helping others. Giving somebody else a hand results in shared joy and lets both the beneficiary and the helper feel happier and more satisfied. Helping others does wonders for a person’s self-respect and for relationships with humanity as a whole.
Finally, teach your children the tool of confidence—of believing in themselves and not giving more credence to others’ opinions (especially others’ critical opinions) than to their own. Confidence is essential for recognizing and stopping negative self-talk before it gains a foothold.
I remember one day when I was walking by the kitchen table where my daughters were working on their homework. As I passed, I said, “You girls are working really hard.” They immediately put down their pencils, turned to me, and said “Thanks, Mom!” They heard my comment, ran it through their “filters,” and decided they were working hard and that was good. Their self-talk, not my words, “praised” them. (If you doubt that, think of how many times you’ve paid someone a similar compliment and gotten an answer like “Really, I’m not doing very well.”) What my daughters learned is exactly what you want to instill in your children through self-esteem tools: the ability to self-determine what they have done well.