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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

  This content is selected and controlled by WebMD's editorial staff in collaboration with Sanford Health Systems.

When Can Kids Use Positive Self-Talk? continued...

The first step is to recognize negative thoughts. Maybe your son wants to play soccer and you think playing a great way to encourage a life-long love of being physically active. But recently he’s been having a hard time and you’ve heard him say, “I always mess up when I try to pass. Nobody’s going to want to play with me. I won’t make the team this year. Why try?”

As an outsider you may be able to see that’s pretty extreme and not likely to happen. You want to teach him to recognize when he’s saying and thinking negative things so he can find motivation to keep going.

However, sometimes recognizing negativity can be tricky, especially if it’s something that you or your kids do out of habit.

How Do You Recognize Negative Self-Talk?

Negative thoughts tend to be sweeping, all-or-nothing statements that jump to conclusions. There are certain words that are flags for negative self-talk.

Listen for “I can’t,” “I never” or “I always.”

  • "I can’t score any goals!"
  • "I never have fun because I don't play well!"
  • "I always look bad. I'm the slowest one!"

When your kids say things like this, stop and talk to them. Then you can help them find more positive thoughts to think and say instead.

How Can You Help Your Kids Come Up With Positive Thoughts?

When you hear them say something negative, take a three-step approach: Find out what's wrong, reassure them, and help them choose a positive statement to say instead.

First, ask why they said what they did. You may learn they are focused on something they “messed up.” Or maybe another child said something mean, like “You’re slow.”

Reassure them that you love them. Then:

  • If another child said something mean, try putting that in context. Say, “They must have had a bad day or feel bad about themselves.”
  • If they feel that they “messed up,” remind them that they’ll have another chance to try again and that there are plenty of things they do well.


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