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Opinion / Partnerships and Building Relationships

Building Strong Self-Esteem – Teaching Kids to be Their Own BFF

positive self-talk

There’s nothing like best friends –

They see the best in you, believe in you, and pick you up when you feel down. Wouldn’t it be great if your BFF was always with you? And wouldn’t it be great if our children’s BFF was always with them as well?

Well that can happen, when you become your own BFF!

Now this might sound a little silly but please hear me out. Teaching kids to become their own BFF is the secret behind strong self-esteem. The key is to teach them about the power of positive self-talk.

Self-talk refers to what we say to ourselves – both verbally and through our thoughts. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are constantly “talking” to ourselves. Every day, every hour, and every minute, we are saying something to ourselves that is either building us up or tearing us down. And so are our kids.

Self-talk is one of the most powerful influences on children’s emotions, mood, self-esteem, self-confidence, actions, and therefore what they create in their lives.

There are two types of self-talk – negative self-talk and positive self-talk.

Negative self-talk is the self-esteem crusher and it includes statements, observations, and judgments that bring kids down – “I can’t do it,” “I’m going to fail this test,” “They won’t like me,” etc. Negative self-talk creates an undercurrent of self-doubt which erodes self-esteem and self-confidence.

Positive self-talk, on the other hand, is the self-esteem enhancer. Positive self-talk includes statements, observations, and affirmations that support kids in their lives – “I can do it,” “I’m going to ace this test,” “I’m smart,” etc.

Here’s the critical decision – kids can either choose to think positive things about themselves or they can choose to think negative things about themselves. It’s completely up to them. The challenge is that it isn’t natural for most kids, or even most grownups for that matter. Kids are bombarded with messages from outside of themselves that they don’t measure up – “Your grades are too low,” “You’re not a good enough to make the team,” “You’re too fat,” etc. These messages may come from their peers, the media, their teachers, their coaches, and even from family members. Kids can’t help but wonder what the truth is.

As an after school professional, you have a unique opportunity to teach kids that the only opinion that matters is the one that they have of themselves. And the good news is, they get to choose what that opinion is.

So why is positive self-talk so important?

Positive self-talk is important because it has a positive impact on both your body and your brain!

Each time you use positive self-talk, it releases endorphins in your body which helps you feel good about yourself. It also builds connections in your brain called neural pathways. This is where the “magic” happens.

Neural pathways are connections in your brain that are created every time you learn something new or have an experience. The more you think about something or do something, the stronger those neural pathways become. As neural pathways get stronger and stronger, they become your pattern of thinking which becomes your habits and your comfort zone.

For kids to develop strong self-esteem, they need to create a strong foundation of neural pathways that are based on positive messages about themselves. And the key to laying this foundation is positive self-talk. The more kids practice positive self-talk, the more it will become their normal way of thinking. Positive self-talk will actually become their habit.

To help kids develop a habit of positive self-talk, the first step is to teach them how to notice and stop negative self-talk. The second step is to teach them how to proactively start developing positive self-talk.

Let’s talk about stopping negative self-talk first.

The key to stopping negative self-talk is to notice it. At Adventures in Wisdom, we teach kids to spot negative self-talk by looking for the “grungies.” Grungies are negative feelings such as fear, embarrassment, shame, guilt, anxiety, helplessness, anger, etc. Grungies, or negative feelings, are caused by negative thoughts. And in most of cases the negative thoughts are negative self-talk.

Once kids spot the grungies and identify the negative thoughts behind the grungies, the next step is to gently shift their thinking to positive thoughts or supportive thoughts. There is no need for self-beat-up because of the negative thinking, just notice and gently shift to positive thoughts.

The second thing we teach kids is how to proactively develop positive self-talk.

A fun activity for developing positive self-talk is to have kids create a “mirror mantra.” A mirror mantra is a positive statement that kids can practice saying to themselves every time they see their reflection. For example, a child might something like, “I’m a superstar learner” or “I rock it out.” If a child plays a particular sport, she might pick something like, “I am a superstar hitter and a rock star on my team.”

By practicing their mirror mantra, kids are building those neural pathways, rewiring their brain to feel great about themselves, and becoming their own BFF.

If you would like to bring this powerful way of thinking to the kids you serve, I’d like to invite you to download a free story from Adventures in Wisdom called “Choosing Your BFF (Best Friend Forever).” Through the story, kids learn that what they say to themselves is more important than what anyone else says to them. And with your support, kids can develop a habit of positive self-talk and create soaring self-esteem!

For breakfast I had an egg white taco complete with hugs and kisses from my hubby and kiddos.

Author: @renayethornborrow

This post originally appeared on the BOOST Breakfast Club Blog on April 5, 2014.

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