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5 Negative Self-Talk Parents Don't Realize Are Damaging To Their Children's Mindset

Taylor and his mom were watching “Jeopardy” together when he asked, “Mom, why don’t you try out to join the show?”

His mother responded, “I can’t. There is no way, it would be too hard and that would just stress me out. I’d feel stupid because I’m no good at those stuff.”

Too often, we don’t realize how our words impact our children’s mindset. We don’t want our children to limit their potential, criticize themselves through labels, and underestimate their capabilities YET they hear all of it from us.

When we hear our kids comment on their weight or call themselves stupid, we may wonder where they got such ideas about themselves. We may never call our kids the things they call themselves, but we can certainly recall the many times we’ve criticized ourselves for being fat or stupid in front of them. -Dr. Lisa Firestone, Psychology Today

Our children’s beliefs are formed through their environment and that includes our home. They listen to what we say repeatedly, so we need to be aware of how our self-talk can plant limiting thoughts into their minds.

The following is an inventory of words that are damaging to our children’s mindset. If you frequently use these statements, learn to use their replacement phrase. Here are five negative self-talk scripts we should eliminate, use sparingly, and substitute with positive words.

I Can’t (Limits The Possibility)

Each one of us is unique. My weakness could be your strength and vice-versa, which means there really are legitimate things that are well beyond our capabilities. However, we must be careful in creating a culture where the automatic response to any challenge is, “I can’t.”

To venture outside our comfort zone feels like an impossible and scary task but that is exactly where our growth and dreams become a reality.

Replace this script with, “How can I?” Your goal is to cultivate a culture in your home that takes on challenges and makes room for discomfort. Ultimately, you want your children to push past their fears so they can achieve their dreams.

I’m Stupid/Such A Mess (Self-Criticism)

We usually utter this statement under our breaths without realizing that our children are actually listening. And yes, they absorb everything!

Teaching our children to be kind to themselves will allow them to survive in this vicious world that’s full of criticism. We must model self-compassion by being gentle to ourselves when we commit an error and by fighting negative self-criticism that hampers growth.

We can replace this script with, “I require a bit more practice.” Remember to say this with a smile, even if it means that you have to fake it at first.

It’s So Hard (Dreading Attitude)

This one goes under the radar. Life does get hard but perspective determines how we respond to life’s challenges. Complaining they’re difficult means that we find these obstacles to be daunting and that our automatic response is repulsion from even trying.

In our home, the word “hard” is a banned term. When things do get more bumpy than usual, we say, “It’s a bit of a dance party these days.” That positive phrase changes everyone’s mood and makes something daunting a little bit more fun.

Here’s something to try with your children. Why don’t you replace that word with “a bump on the road” or “a challenge?” That way, our children would learn to welcome their own challenges with an optimistic mindset.

I’m So Stressed (Promotes Anxiety)

Guilty? This statement is perhaps the most common script that we use on a daily basis without thinking about how dramatic its effect is to our children’s mindset. When they hear you say it frequently, they will start to believe that stress is normal and that it’s okay for them to always feel stressed out.

Being a parent, I know that raising children is filled with stressful moments but we can train our minds to see them as opportunities for growth, not as recipes for anxiety. Remember, our mindset becomes the framework of our experience and what we focus on expands. When we express our stress into words, it becomes worse. Instead of the usual script, just say, “I’m having some growing pains right now.”

I’m Just Not Good At… (Labels)

Labels stifle our growth so we must be careful how we use them in the home front. If you really think about it, such statements actually serve as excuses to remain in our comfort zone and to refuse from having new experiences or learnings.

When we say that we’re not good at something, we give our children the permission to assume their own self labels. Replace it with, “I just need more time to learn this.”

We have a self-image crisis in our culture and if we are not deliberate about teaching our children how to see themselves, being worthy of good, then we risk having the world dictate how they should see themselves. - January Donovan, This Is Me

Our children should be our motivation to grow into a better version of ourselves and we can begin this positive change by being gentle when we talk to ourselves. We impact our children both in many ways but our words, above all, have a major effect in their lives. Words become flesh. Be mindful that what you say around your little ones make up the foundation of their success.