Most parents understand that calling a child ‘stupid’ could affect their perception of themselves and adversely affect their attitude of trying something new or challenging. But did you also know that a child calling themselves ‘stupid’ can have the exact same effect?
There is a danger in negative self-talk, especially in children. The danger lies in the possibility of this self-talk becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. So ‘I can’t do it’ is no longer a thought but a behaviour.
When my daughter is learning something new on the piano and prepares to give up, it’s always preceded by the words ‘It’s too hard, I can’t do it’. As a parent trying to build self-esteem and confidence, it seems logical to follow that comment with something like; You can do it! You will learn this piece. I know you will! Our loving response is to convince them what they’re feeling isn’t true. Have you noticed however, that dismissing your child’s negative talk with your own positive talk doesn’t work?
What might happen if we validate their feelings of frustration instead of turning it into a power struggle?
When your child is saying ‘I can’t do this!’ what they’re really saying is:
‘I’m so frustrated. I don’t like the feeling of making mistakes. What if I can’t figure this out?!’
So, when we respond with positive affirmations, this is what our kids hear:
‘Don’t be frustrated! Don’t feel bad! Don’t be afraid!’
So, what we missing here? What might we be able to say that will flip your child’s negative self-talk.
I think one little word might help us. YET.
It speaks to the essence of resilience, that attitude of perseverance and passion towards a long-term goal. It builds self-belief and fosters problem-solving.
Carol Dweck’s work on Growth Mindset highlights this in the best possible way.
· Talk with children about the critical nature of mistakes, how they are essential to learning.
· Praise the process rather than the end-goal, praising effort and goal-setting.
· The brain can grow! Remind kids that intelligence is not fixed, each time you learn something new, you’re making new connections.
So next time your kids tell you it can’t be done. Tell them….’not yet’