Responding to Your Child’s Negative Self Talk

Responding to Your Child’s Negative Self Talk

Nobody likes to hear their child use negative self-talk phrases like “I’m dumb,” “I’m foolish,” or “I’m giving up!” or “I Can’t Do It”. It crushes your heart as a parent, but here are some strategies to employ when reacting to your childrens negative self-talk in order to help them develop better self-esteem and a positive attitude.

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How to React to Negative Self-Talk in Your Child

“I have no idea how to accomplish this.” I tried, but it didn’t work. I’m a complete moron!” My kid flung his pencil down, and I could see tears streaming down his flaming red cheeks as I looked over at him.

He was completing his writing assignments at the time.

I sighed deeply and mentally prepared myself.

Writing isn’t his favourite subject, and he had an assignment due.

He’d gotten halfway through the page tonight when I heard him become fired up and then call himself foolish.

“I’m such a moron!” Except for me, everyone can perform writing. I’m done!”

I know that schools teach writing differently now than they did when I was in elementary school, so I can’t say if it’s the method he’s being taught or if he’s having problems understanding how to find the solution, but one thing I can say is that he’s not dumb.

He isn’t a moron. He isn’t a moron. I’m just annoyed.

I dropped my head and put down the wooden spoon I was using to stir the soup, thinking to myself, “surely, he doesn’t believe he’s stupid… “However, what if he does?”

When he says things like this, I want to step in and help, but I know that expressing all the things I appreciate about him and telling him he’s wrong won’t improve (growth mindset) his poor self-esteem.

Giving An Objective Response

When your child engages in negative self-talk, your first impulse as a parent is to rush in and point out all of their positive traits while also interrupting the flow of harmful comments.

Trenton has labelled himself “dumb” or “stupid” when doing math homework, and I know that was my initial reaction.

We may try to reassure them or persuade them that they are incorrect, but the words we use to persuade them aren’t likely to help while they are vocally berating themselves.

This is why.

In those instances, a kid’s choice of words does reflect their sentiments and self-perception, and while this is a startling realization for parents, you can only aid once you’ve distanced yourself from the situation rather than rushing into the love bomb your child.

It’s your duty to play detective and figure out where those sentiments originate from, work out a solution with your child, and then encourage your child to question those thoughts and feelings.

As difficult as hearing these comments about yourself from your child might be, I’d want to provide some suggestions for addressing what’s behind the surface emotion of feeling “dumb,” “stupid,” “worthless,” and “not good.”

It’s essential to adopt an impartial perspective before jumping in to repair problems by praising your child for how great they are. Only then can you begin to chip away at what’s actually beneath the negative self-talk.

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment.
Negative self-talk is a clear sign of poor self-esteem, and as upsetting as it could be to hear it said out loud, it’s critical to step back from your feelings for your kid and assess the issue rationally.

For a minute, put yourself in your childrens shoes.

Do they want you to shower them with words of encouragement and tell them how “great” and “amazing” they are, even though these words won’t mean much to them while they’re using negative self-talk, or do they want you to listen with a sympathetic ear so they can get it all out and seek your help?

Replicate the circumstance for your child to demonstrate that you understand their displeasure and are willing to listen.

Consider the following scenario:

  • “That appears to be a difficult math issue, huh?”
  • “That appears to be a difficult skill to master.”
  • “I can see how hard you’re trying, yet you’re becoming frustrated.”
  • “That’s a difficult task. Is there anything I can do to assist?”

Listen to what they’re saying and acknowledge what they’re feeling.

What your child is truly expressing is that he or she is experiencing a surface feeling. Only the top layer is conveyed in what you see and hear. To assess the situation sympathetically, you must go to the core of the motion.

Consider the following scenario:

  • Is the problem connected to his math assignment or his feeling inferior to his peers?
    – Is this a scenario where you’re feeling foolish, or is it something else?

Finding out what’s causing your childrens emotions might help you figure out the truth of the problem and what’s really troubling them.

Then you may assist your child in resolving the issue, which is unrelated to their self-worth.

Discover Where Things Became Difficult.

Playing detective and asking when the problem began will help you and your child recognize when things were going well and when they started to get tough.

Consider the following scenario:

  • “Did you get stuck (fixed mindset) on any section of your arithmetic homework?”
  • “Could you show me where things become difficult?”
  • “What was the question that you couldn’t answer?”
  • “What was the most difficult aspect of your day?”

You can use questions to assist you and your child pinpoint where things became tough while discussing challenging scenarios such as arithmetic assignments, coping with peer and social settings, athletics, and activities.

You can prepare appropriately once you know which portions of the day or job are tougher than others, but it also teaches children that not every day, or every circumstance, is frustrating – just a part of it.

What Does It Mean to Have a Growth Mindset? (And Not a Fixed Mindset)

You may try out different phrases to employ that foster a development mentality rather than a fixed attitude once you’ve gone back through the entire issue and sorted out sentiments.

You may incorporate daily affirmation cards for kids into your daily routine to provide your children with a consistent dose of optimism and a positive mentality.

Consider the following scenario:

“I know I can do it if I keep working at it.”

  • “Making mistakes is a necessary part of the learning process.”
  • “All I can do is give it my all.”
  • “I’m putting in a lot of time and effort into my .”
  • “I’m not sure what you’re talking about, Mom, can you assist me with this math problem?”

Feelings Don’t Define You

We all have sentiments and times when we feel out of our depth, when we confront difficulties we don’t know how to solve, and when we doubt our own brilliance, but it doesn’t make us who we are.

Feelings are complicated, but they do not determine who we are, including our character, skills, successes, or setbacks.

It’s not true just because your kid thinks he or she is foolish, unintelligent, or unlovable.

Working hard to conquer a problem, deal with a tough circumstance, or simply learn how to articulate feelings will make your kid feel more confident, resilient, and able to discern between good and negative language and self-talk.

Showing your child that a difficulty, obstacle, or trouble area is just a blip on their day might help them understand that the five or ten minutes they’ve spent berating themselves is a little part of their day, and even smaller in the grand scheme of things.

Is There Anything Else You Can Do to Stop Negative Self-Talk?

You could be quick to squash negative self-talk when you hear your child utter it, but hearing and accepting comforting remarks from a parent while you’re in a negative frame of mind isn’t always easy.

In reality, some kids, especially those who do not perceive themselves in a good light, may rapidly shut off those comments.

Don’t give up hope; there are things you can do to improve (growth mindset) your self-esteem and put an end to negative self-talk for good.

Boost Your Self-Esteem with a Positivity Jar

  • A positivity jar is a family note jar where you may leave positive notes about effort, persistence, strategy, compassion, and encouragement for your child. Once a week, or whenever your child needs a boost of optimism, read the notes around the dinner table.


  • Praise a child for their accomplishments, victories, exam scores, and goals achieved is ineffective. This is because it isn’t precise enough, and you don’t want a child to feel their value is based on these things.
  • Rather, commend their effort, persistence, dedication, drive, talents, tactics, compassion, and attitude.

Create a Warm and Positive Environment in Your Home

  • It’s crucial to provide your children with a secure, happy environment in which they may open up and speak.
  • Parents who are loving, embrace frequently, reward efforts, sympathize with their children, and encourage them to attempt new things even if they may fail… are establishing a good environment in which children feel comfortable and safe to express themselves and come to you when they need to chat or share.

Have a Positive Attitude

Those with a positive outlook have been proven to be more resilient. Children can learn from adults who model an optimistic outlook.
Optimistic people are more inclined to rise to a challenge rather than run away from it because they feel they have the ability to learn, grow, and change.
Teaching children to develop an optimistic yet realistic attitude requires the use of a growth mindset. For example, “You don’t know how to read yet, but when you keep practicing, you will.”

Look for the positive in every situation.

  • Our brains are really built to focus on the negative, which is why we tend to get caught up in difficult situations, unpleasant encounters, and occurrences. It’s because our brains are designed to keep us safe in order for us to survive. When we are exposed to “threats” in our surroundings, we are considerably more sensitive to negative associations.
  • This occurs to us as parents as well. Instead of focusing on a childrens qualities, we tend to focus on the difficult aspects of parenting or problems with them. That is why, when terrible behaviour occurs, we are aware of it! When wonderful things happen, we tend to notice them and go about our lives as usual.
  • When we are conscious of how we react and respond to situations, we may learn to focus less on the bad and more on the positive occurrences, excellent behaviour, and treasured memories.
  • Instead of focusing on roadblocks, this attitude change allows you to focus on your childrens skills and hobbies. It also helps you practise everyday appreciation for the little things that happen in your daily life that you may otherwise overlook if you were just focused on the negative.
  • Children pick up on what kind of behaviour you acknowledge – whether it’s good or bad – and act on it. When you focus on the positive, you’ll find that not only will you witness more positive behaviour, but you’ll also discover that they’ll begin to look for the positive in their surroundings.

Teach coping and relaxation techniques.

It takes practice to develop a toolbox that allows you to calm down, respond to difficulties, and keep your emotions in check.
Calming techniques are taught, but these calm down image cards give children the ability to choose what they want to do to calm down or redirect their emotions. It teaches students how to change their negative self-talk and emotions into positive ones.

What You Should Do Next:

1. Subscribe To My Parenting Newsletter

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2. Register For A Pretty Awesome FREE 60-Minute Class:

Register for a free class called GET KIDS TO LISTEN THE RIGHT WAY; an exclusive FREE class from nationally recognized parenting coach, Amy McCready.

3. Sign Up For A 7 Step Positive Parenting Course

Enroll now in the most in-depth parenting class. After discovering these common sense, easy-to-implement, research-based tools you can learn how to:
  • Easily get kids to listen – the FIRST time. No yelling or reminding…not even once!
  • Put an end to daily power struggles. Bedtime became a breeze, and all the dawdling, chore wars, sibling rivalry, and mealtime meltdowns disappeared.
  • Reduce backtalk by HALF! It’s simple once you know the secrets of these two ‘buckets.’
  • Say goodbye to punishments that DON’T work. There’s a 5-step formula that works WAYYY better than time-outs.
  • Feel amazing, confident, and empowered as a parent, every day. I NEVER go to bed feeling guilty anymore! (Okay, well maybe sometimes…’ mom guilt’ is still a thing.)
Got a threenager? You want this class. Got an actual tween or teen? Then what are you waiting for? Sign up for the webinar right NOW and watch the BEST, most life-changing parenting video ever.

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