Self Talk, it is easy to teach at any age

Larissa Mills, founder, B.A., M. Ed.

“It’s very important that your child sees that they always have a way to influence the outcome of things with their own effort, and how they look at things,” says parenting expert Laura Markham, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting.

Let’s all Learn to “Self Talk”

  1. What is SELF TALK?
  2. How is it helpful? 
  3. How self-talk changes your mindset as a child, parent or employee.
  4. What is negative self talk?
  5. Various Self-talk methods to implement.

1. What is Self talk?

Self Talk refers to the ongoing internal conversation with ourselves, which influences how we feel and behave. For example, you find yourself in a traffic jam while rushing to work one morning. Your self-talk could be pessimistic and you might think, "My whole day is ruined” or you say to yourself, “I will just push things all back today and make the time up later.” How we talk to ourselves all day determines our mood and productivity, our relationships and overall, our mental health.

2. How is SELF TALK helpful to our lives?

Children need to learn self talk to make decisions, like, “Should I hit him for taking my toy? “ ”Should I wait my turn for the toy? “ The first quote is impulsive and is a younger child’s natural thought, as they age they learn that there is a consequence for hitting.  The second quote states their new level of reasoning and cognitive development. Making the right decisions is a skill they will need to have with friends, at school, during activities, with family and at work.

If your child starts to play on a sports team, they will need to learn self-talk to develop sportsmanship, better their skills and reach a higher level of play that happens at competitive levels where pressure and handling criticism are more focused.

Self-talk can help us react positively to chaotic or dangerous situations. Perhaps you are on a hike and need to balance on a log crossing a river. Weighing your options like, “Should I go this way or wait to see how someone else does it?  Being prepared for any situation can only happen if a child or adult has more experience in different situations. This can be from joining summer camps, sports camps, karate, music lessons, school, daycare, anything that involves organized social activities or travelling. 

If we wish to raise children to be employable and stable, mentally, we need to teach them to self-talk. It is a  key factor for them to be happy and manage any situation with a backbone or make a quick moral decision.  If work is stressful,  your productivity may not be less efficient. How we talk to ourselves all day about everything determines our level of efficiency. We also need to learn how to interpret and filter feelings to manage scenarios. However, no matter what level of employment you hold, you need to hold it because you can always be replaced. So, be someone who can work easily with others. Don’t fake it, just make it. Be civil and kind, but if you negative self talk at work all day versus positive, you will determine your fate. Positive people who can manage their thoughts are more likely to be promoted than people who negative self talk all day. Who do you want your child to be? Who do you want working for you?

Children who can manage their own decisions and choices can complete tasks at school more competently. They react positively and proactively in various situations at school. These invariably happen all day at school all day long. For example, “Do I bud in line? Do I let him go ahead of me? Do I help the teacher clean up? Do I complete my work now or do it later at home? Do I hit her to stop following us around at recess? Literally, these questions float around in their head all day. By starting Self-Talk early, children establsih an inner dialogue that processes faster and more efficiently. Metaphorically, a wheel that starts turning and just keeps turning faster. 

By talking to ourselves in a healthy manner, we ensure that we, ourselves are capable of reacting to situations in a proactive manner and going with the flow. “All things in life change,” they change all day within our routines. By being positive and changing our mindset, we have to filter and process our thoughts and reactions into our filing cabinets so we can either deal with that feeling later, think about it right away or,, manage it and put it away in a filing cabinet.

3. How does Self Talk change your mindset?

Here is an example of a scenario:

  • A little girl doesn’t want her little sister to play with her toy that she is currently playing with and is becoming frustrated. She hit her sister on the head for her to go away.

At an early age, try talking to your child about choices. How many times have you heard of this scenario?  “If you throw a book at your sister because you are angry, you will hurt her and she won’t play with you. Ask your child, “Why did you hit your sister?” At ages 3-4 they can start with simple choices and questions. This must be parent guided and it takes patience.  Ask them why they are angry, ask why they didn’t choose to find mommy, or give her another toy to play with?  This takes years to encourage and progress.  Self-talk starts young, at 3 years old children can reason on a different level and have less impulsivity but complete cognitive development occurs 11-16 years old. 

Here is the same scenario from another angle. 

  • A little girl doesn’t want her little sister to play with her toy that she is currently playing with and is becoming frustrated. She hit her sister on the head for her to go away.

Parent: “Should you hit your sister when you’re mad?

Child: “She always wants my toys”

Parent: “Well, next time tell yourself in your head, you don’t want to hurt her, so come and find mommy to talk about what is making you mad. You have to make choices, your little sister can’t reason yet and she wants to do everything you are doing because you are a cool, big sister to her. You have to make different choices, play with something else, move to a different room, go outside, there are lots of different choices, no need to become angry over something like this.” Keep saying these options out loud to your child. “What are my options to solve my problem?” I still do this with my 3 kids,  I do it all day. The more we talk to our children about choices and develop their outer dialogue, they will eventually start using it as their inner dialogue.

Avoid teaching your children to feel they are always right or that we want them to be perfect.  We aren’t always right. We are not perfect beings, we all make mistakes, learning from them is more important. We will never be perfect even as adults.  If a child says, “ I can’t read and I never will” out loud, you know they are negatively self-talking. This is what happened with our little guy. He would be in tears crying that he couldn’t read like his older siblings. Below are various methods to approach a situation like this scenario.

4. Negative Self Talk and how to change it.

  • Depression and anxiety are linked to negative self-talk.
  • It is the internal chatter or dialogue we talk to ourselves in the head with. Overwhelmed by this negative talk, people can spiral down into despair and wallow. Cognitive behavioural therapy can help. Changing this inner dialogue is one key to becoming happier and changes how you approach life in general.
  • Recognizing this inner dialogue and changing it is the key to turning it over to positive self-talk. 
  • Try this method, speaking in first person or third and repeating certain mantras. Here are some examples,
    • “I can handle change”
    • “I can solve problems”
    • “I will practice patience”
    • “I don’t need to hit, I need to talk”

These are some simple, easy mantras to start with. As a coach, I ask people what do you feel better talking to yourself as, first person or third? Once you figure out which one you prefer and one that  feels natural, roll with it.  Say the Mantras at night right before bed are very reaffirming and positive motivators, they tend to help one relax.

5. Try implementing these various methods to solve your negative self talk issues at home.


Tell them you see they are angry and I hear what they are feeling.   Say to them, “You are upset, I hear you and see you are angry”, let's hug and we will talk about ways to think positively about your new goal.


This helps to work your way through. My little guy went through this. It took a few months of teaching self talk to him. He repeated mantras like,” I am only young but I am learning new words each day.” “It will take months, not minutes to learn to read.” When we gave him age level appropriate books, he did well, and he started to become confident with the repetition of words and sounds. Gradually, he read to his level. He simply had it in his mind that he should be reading the books his older brother was.
We also taught him night time mantras, I am NAME, I have super powers like strength and problem solving, I am fast, I am a problem solver. THIS WORKED WONDERS. IT WORKS WONDERS!!!!!


Children need to know that they are loved and welcomed. I wait for my kids at the bottom of the driveway or walk and meet them with the dog. My littlest guy doesn’t want mommy to pick him up anymore. This is not an everyday thing, but I try because of my schedule. I have always owned a business from home to be at home with the kids and teach during the day. We decided that it was best for me to be home. It was the smarter route to provide consistency for our children as my husband has shift work.
Hugs and kisses when they are home, but not in public anymore, they are older now. This affection and security gives them the confidence and reassurance needed for a jumping point, now they can socialize and be happy without me there. No, helicopter parenting please, this simply delays your childs development. Be happy to see your kids when they come home. Avoid being on your phone and looking up and saying hello. Turn off your phone, and hug them. This is a big gesture. If you want them off their phones then demonstrating proper manners is our job.


Choose a long term goal and talk about it often. Their ability to grasp working towards this goal and working through the failures to reach it is crucial to the development and future mental health. For example, my middle son tried out for a competitive soccer team when he was 9 and 10, he made both teams, but at 11 years old, he didn’t. This devastated him. We sat down and talked about the coaches suggestions for next year. He made a team level lower and didn’t like that at all. However, with guidance, he managed it. He worked on his footwork, his left foot and right foot, his speed and he tried out for that team again the next season and made the level above that. Failures are our biggest challenges but they bring the best rewards and accomplishments. Now, he was beginning to understand long term goals. We worked on it all year and it also overlapped with school work goals too. A double win. His Mantras before bed were, I am NAME, I am fast, I am skilled, I am a good worker, I am a good listener. Etc. He excelled.


Having all of our children in sports exposes them to goal setting, working hard, group work, socializing, listening, sportsmanship, time management and more. In any sport there are wins and losses. Some children handle losses well, while others simply do not. Some losses like 6-5 are easier to take, while a 9-2 loss is thumping in hockey or soccer. Individual mistakes and team mistakes need to be addressed and fixed. Speaking with positive self talk in these situations makes the difference between remaining a houseleague player, competitive player or beyond. The mental part of any sport is what separates real athletes from just talented ones.


I was doing this part all wrong with my children. I had to alter my praise to be more specific to effort. Saying, “Good job”, “Great job,” is fine, but If you praise their effort, they connect with it and take that moment in as a memory. That specific behaviour for example, “You worked hard studying for that test and disciplined yourself and you received a 92. You must be very proud of your hard work.” If you praise your child in a general way, they won’t know exactly what they did to achieve that goal. Some parents would say good job, now, this is fine, but if you want to encourage hard work or the fact that they organized their sports and homework all on their own and received an A, that is worth mentioning. Praising our children more specifically is a much more effective use of our words and their time.

Teaching Self-Talk can start any time, at any age, in fact, here are some resources to start at home. See the online course, on it will be loaded soon.

5. Put self-talk into action.

Now you have some methods, processes and procedures to follow and implement. Use self-talk in different situations for example, when you are standing in line waiting at the grocery store, managing your family on a trip, dealing with an irate customer, it will change your happiness. Your children will be able to handle situations with maturity and newfound confidence in making their own decisions. This method takes time but it will provide them with a lifelong skill to be happy. This is the best tool you can give to aim for a happy lifestyle.


Larissa Mills, B.A., M. Ed
Parent Coach & Educational Consultant
Founder of
Helping families balance life with Tech
Corporate Support Services and Training.

Comments 2

  1. Man kann jeden Tag etwas Neues hier lernen. Ich bin ein regelmäßiger für die meisten von denen Blogs, aber immer noch nicht um ein Paar von ihnen wissen. Trudi Carolus Ozkum

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