Let’s face it. Life can be hard sometimes! For kids and adults alike, we all struggle with our own unique challenges and triggers that put us over the edge. It shouldn’t surprise us when it happens. We need to be prepared for how we are going to respond. Our kids watch us as we react to our frustrations in life and they will follow suit when facing their own struggles. Nothing can be more convicting than seeing your child mimic the ugly responses they have heard with their little ears. The fact is, if WE don’t model positive self-talk for children, they won’t magically learn it on their own.
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It’s a sobering fact that whatever our children see us do, they will do. Whatever we say, they will say. And however we respond to life’s challenges, they will respond accordingly. As parents, we are well aware of this fact. We try so hard to be good models for our children. What trips us up are those moments of frustration, when we are just plain exhausted and pushed to the limit. That’s when it happens. We slip up with an unfavorable response. We might not even realize the impact that even the subtlest negative response can have on our kids.
We aren’t perfect. We are going to make mistakes. So what can we do?
Here are 3 Simple Ways to Model Positive Self-Talk For Children
1. Be Prepared
It is very common to have times where you lose self-control, and you respond negatively to a frustration or challenge in life. The best thing you can do is take stock of your typical responses to life’s challenges and replace them with positive responses. You literally have to retrain your brain here. You need to be prepared to use pre-determined positive responses instead. Take time to write some down and post them where you can remember and use them in the heat of the moment.
One of the statements I have always struggled with is saying, “I’m so dumb” or “I’m such a loser” when I make a mistake or accidentally do something stupid. This summer I did the Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Study with my adult girls. We went through the book, Me, Myself and Lies: What to say when you talk to yourself by Jennifer Rothschild. I highly recommend this book. It talks a lot about what Jennifer calls “our thought closets,” taking an inventory of what is in there and noticing the lies we repeat to ourselves and believe. Then we need to clean them out and replace them with God’s truth.
Well, there is no better accountability than doing a study like this with your own daughters who are living with you and witnessing your every response. Man, it made me aware of how much I resorted to these statements in the midst of frustration. I don’t know about you, but when I am doing a study like this, it seems like I struggle more. Maybe it is because I become more aware — or maybe it is spiritual warfare. I know there’s an enemy who wants to trip me up at every turn.
Anyways, I had to take notice of my tendency to respond this way and to replace these negative statements with positive ones, like “I am a child of God” or “I am the workmanship of God.” I finally had to write down positive statements and verses to replace my go-to negative ones, and make a concentrated effort to practice and use the new ones instead. (For a downloadable list of suggestions, please see our resource library).
2. Live in Grace
When you make mistakes, forgive yourself and don’t be afraid to admit that you were wrong in the way you responded. Then ask forgiveness from those around you. Make sure you share what a more appropriate response would have been. Use it as a time to teach your kids how to respond positively in the future. It’s also a perfect time to teach grace, repentance, and forgiveness as well.
When your kids make unfavorable responses to life’s challenges, don’t come down hard on them about it but teach them some other responses to use instead. Help them come up with a list of positive responses so they can be prepared as well. If they struggle a lot with this, you can post a list of positive responses and set up a sticker chart or put a quarter in a jar to reward them for using positive self-talk instead.
3. Teach in Non-Conflict Times
This was one of the best parenting tips we ever received as young parents in a parenting class we took years ago. Let’s face it: our kids aren’t that teachable when they’re upset about something, or when you’re in a conflict with them. Choose a later time when you notice the “window to their heart” is open. For us, this usually was at bedtime. We would sit at the edge of their beds and talk to them before they went to sleep. These were the times we would speak into situations that arose during the day, and we would give them “little life lessons.”
So if you witnessed a negative response to a frustration they had during the day, it might be a good time to talk about it. Ask them why they were frustrated and how that made them feel, and why they responded the way they did. Remind them of God’s truth and help them to come up with a better response for next time.
WARNING: Beware of the most harmful negative response to life’s challenges
This one is my personal soapbox… and that is the use of suicide statements. Believe me, it frequently comes out of the mouths of babes. I’ve heard it many times from little children in the heat of frustration. I am particularly sensitive to this after seeing the progression of these statements in my own son’s young life. Sadly, over the years, these statements took root in his mind and grew into life-threatening consequences. We eventually lost him to suicide in 2010 when he was only 19 years old.
It is so, so important to nip these statements in the bud as soon as possible and work diligently on retraining and reframing self-talk. This one is definitely a spiritual battle that needs to be fought with diligence and prayer. Also, it is so important to make sure these words are not thrown around your house frivolously as statements, responses or jokes. This sort of talk has infiltrated every part of our culture and has subtly crept into our vocabulary. Surprisingly, no one even notices. I challenge you to put your antenna up and listen for these statements. You’ll be shocked to find out where you hear them.
If you want more information on this, you can check out this post: Frivolous Suicide Statements
And if you want to learn more about our story and how we lost our son you can check out this post.
Words Have Power: Let’s Work on Modeling Positive Self-Talk for Children
Words have power in our lives. Nothing can make or break us more than the words we use to talk to ourselves. They are seeds planted in our brains. They grow and either build us up or they can choke us and tear us down. So, I challenge you to make an action plan for modeling positive self-talk to your kids. Teach them positive responses to be prepared for the inevitable challenges they will face, day to day.
What about you? What are your go-to responses in the heat of the moment when you’re most frustrated with yourself? How about your kids, what do they say? Which words would you like to see used instead?
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Laura has supplied us with Free, Downloadable Cheat Sheets: 10 Positive Responses to Life’s Challenges & 10 Positive Responses to Life’s Challenges for Kids. They are available in the Resource Library until Monday. After that they will be available at www.naturalhealinghope.com
Laura Mapstead is the founder of Natural Healing Hope, a health and wellness blog emphasizing natural solutions for abundant living. Laura is a Christian and former homeschool mom, who has already raised her kids and is enjoying the new role of grandma. In this next chapter of her life, she is focusing on blogging and writing a book called Lost and Found: A journey through losing a child and saving another. You can find Laura by visiting the links below: