How To Crush Your Child’s Negative Self Talk And Why You Need To Do This

negative self talk

Table Talk Conversation: What does negative self talk mean to you? Your Family’s Table Talk “Talking Points” are in the Conclusion below.

Negative self-talk is something that we all experience from time-to-time.

It’s that inner voice inside all of us which, at times, can be positive or negative.

When that voice is negative it can be harmful and disruptive.

Negative self-talk creates higher levels of stress which impacts daily performance, lessens self-esteem and decreases motivation, limiting your ability to experience the joys of everyday life.

Our inner voice can also be our own best cheerleader, rooting for us to win at life each and every day.

Why You Need To Address Negative Self-Talk in Kids

Every day we all are being graded, either in school, at work or in our home.

Now, as parents and/or teachers, we’d never say “you’re stupid” to a child (hopefully).

But when we assign a grade in a class or, as a parent, make a comment like “you didn’t do the …..” the child has an internal voice that turns on.

When that internal voice goes negative it may result in:

  • Self-Criticizing: The voice may begin to criticize you, saying that they’re no good, which will create more of the same result
  • Play Victim: The effort may have been 100% there, but now they feel no one appreciates the hard work they put in and they retreat
  • Fear & Worry: It may begin to consume a child’s thinking that they can’t do this. These thoughts begin to then manifest more of the same result
  • Frustrations leading to jitters, anxiousness, and anxiety
  • Sadness that we’re disappointing the ones we love
  • Depression: Research shows that too much negative self-talk leads to exhaustion, depression and heightened anxiety


It’s important to note that constructive feedback and “grades” are a part of life. We can’t just be a child’s cheerleader, we need to be their coach.

Thus, it’s important that we check in with our children daily (it’s why we created Table Talk) and share with them strategies for overcoming negative self-talk.

3 Ways for Overcoming Negative Self Talk

Use the Possible Thinking

We always hear “think positive.” But, let’s face it, when something is bothering us or has gone wrong and that negative self-talk starts to kick in, “thinking positively” can be a lot like lying to yourself. In other words, telling yourself that “everything is great” when a million things went wrong in your day isn’t going to help you.

Instead, use “Possible Thinking” (instead of positive thinking). This involves using neutral words and naming the facts.

So instead of saying “I look fat in these jeans… I should wear a baggier shirt,” you would say, “I need to lose 10 pounds. But I know what changes I need to make and I know I can do it.”

Or, instead of saying, “I can’t believe I did so badly on that test… I’m such an idiot,” say, “I really didn’t do well on that test, but I know what/how I should have studied differently, so I’ll do better on the next one.”

Ask “What Would My Best Friend Say?”

This is one of the best ways to squash negative self-talk. We’re always so hard on ourselves… much harder than our friends would be. So the next time something goes wrong, ask yourself what your best friend would tell you as a response. Or reverse the roles and imagine what you would say to a best friend if they were in your shoes.

Chances are it would be something like, “oh, please, it wasn’t that bad!”

Also, be mindful of the words you’re using when talking to yourself. If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, you shouldn’t be saying it to yourself!

Put it in Perspective

Our mind is so great about blowing things out of proportion, isn’t it? However, it sometimes takes a bit to really see that.

Some great questions to ask yourself are:

  • Is this situation really as bad as I’m imagining?
  • What is the worst thing that could happen? AND how likely is that worst case scenario?
  • What is the best thing that could happen?
  • What is most likely to happen?
  • Is there anything good about this situation?
  • Will this even matter in five years time? (This one is a personal favorite.)

Final Thoughts on Negative Self-Talk in Kids

Negative self-talk can affect us in some pretty damaging ways and this is multiplied for kids.

Studies have linked it to higher levels of stress and lower levels of self-esteem. This can lead to decreased motivation as well as greater feelings of helplessness.

Mark Twain famously said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do than by the ones you did do.”

Don’t let negative self-talk hold you or your kids back from taking chances and trying new things. Instead try using

  • Possible thinking
  • Asking “What would my best friend say,” and
  • Putting it in perspective

Try bringing up the Table Talk question of, “What does negative self-talk mean to you?” over the Dinner Table. To make this conversation easy, share the story of Robin Williams. In a previous Table Talk we shared his fight with negative self talk as one example to use when checking in on this topic with your child. It’ll make for a more meaningful conversation and one where your children can learn a lot.

If you found the discussion and talking points interesting, then we would like to invite you to take a look at our Table Talk. Conversations have been proven to help kids perform better academically, reduce the likelihood they will engage in risky behavior, and strengthen the relationship between teens and parents. Click here to learn more.

negative self talk



About The Author

Michael Kawula

I’m a husband and father of 3 amazing children. For the last 20-Years I’ve been a serial entrepreneur. My goal is to help parents empower all our children to achieve their inner greatness.I’m an author, Inc. 500 featured Company, have been interviewed by Anthony Robbins, CNN and featured in over 100 publications over the last few years.