As an adult, it’s easy to be your own worst critic. But, as a parent, there’s nothing worse than hearing your child put themselves down. Whether they’re elementary age or a teenager, hearing them say things like, “I’m so dumb,” or “No one likes me because I’m not good enough” can be heartbreaking.
Unfortunately, comments like these often go deeper. If your child is saying these things frequently, it’s likely they’re struggling with their self-esteem. That can lead to lasting problems that stretch well into adulthood.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to help your child overcome negative self-talk, no matter their age. By encouraging a growth mindset and trying to understand where the negativity is coming from, you can stop the effects of this kind of talk before it takes a long-lasting toll.
Let’s cover a few of the effective strategies that can make a big difference.
It can be difficult to look past the words your child is saying. Your immediate reaction might be to “argue” and suggest that they don’t have those negative qualities. But, those arguments will likely fall on deaf ears, especially with older kids and teenagers.
Instead, try to look deeper into those words. Ask your child how they are feeling and why they think those negative things. Often, if you can get to the underlying cause of the problem, you can help them work through it. You can separate the problem itself from the negative self-talk it’s causing.
Be Specific With Your Praise
As a parent, your child might expect you to praise them no matter what they do. They’ll use the old, “you have to say that, you’re my mother” statement. So, get specific with your praises and encouragements.
Instead of saying something like, “You’re so smart,” be detailed about why you believe that. Instead of focusing on outcomes, focus on effort. Tell them that you’ve noticed how hard they’ve been working at school, or their favorite sport. Pay attention to their strengths and help them focus on the things they’re gifted in.
Encourage a Growth Mindset
What exactly is a growth mindset? It’s the practice of moving forward and building resiliency, no matter what. You can foster it in your child, especially if they’re speaking negatively about themselves, by helping them create long-term goals.
Lead by example when it comes to a growth mindset. Let your child see your failures and how you overcome them. Remain confident in the things you do, even when there are setbacks. Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about your personal setbacks, either. Showing them that failure can actually be used as a learning tool can make a big difference in their willingness to keep moving forward.
Give Them a Safe Environment
Your child needs to feel safe and accepted at home. That kind of environment is essential for them to learn and grow, and feel comfortable in their own skin. Maybe they’re struggling with academics or friendships in school. Maybe they feel like they’re not good at a particular sport or instrument.
Whatever the case, fostering a warm and comfortable home environment will give them the chance to explore who they really are without fear of being judged. It’s a simple thing that goes a long way in the mindset of a child.
Reach Out for Help
Unfortunately, sometimes, you might notice that the negative self-talk continues. It could be a sign of a bigger issue going on in your child’s life. While it’s difficult to hear, that doesn’t mean you need to give up when it comes to helping them.
In fact, it might mean getting a little help for them.
Having your child meet with a mental health professional can often be the solution for negative self-talk. A therapist can get to the root cause of the negativity and help your child develop age-appropriate strategies to overcome that kind of self-talk.