Help kids know if their self-talk is truth or myth

mother and sonIf we are going to help children find the misbeliefs in their self-talk and get rid of them, we should understand how they got there in the first place. They are not arbitrary. They come from somewhere, commonly from….

  • Hearing something repeatedly
  • Not being told something they needed to hear
  • Being left on their own emotionally when they were very young to handle a traumatic life event

Truth or Myth?  How can they tell the difference?

Consider this standard of evaluation and tailor it to fit your values and beliefs.



TRUTH. . .

  • are judgmental
  • are critical
  • are accusatory
  • tear down
  • destroy
  • produce fear
  • take away hope
  • is forgiving
  • gives value
  • allows mistakes
  • builds up
  • strengthens
  • gives peace
  • gives hope


“The lies we tell other people are nothing compared to the lies we tell ourselves.”
Derek Landy

Where can children look to find truth about themselves?

father and baby (3)Kids find truth about themselves in the faces and words of loving, caring adults.

Be intentional about noticing the child’s most intense feelings: hurt, embarrassed, angry, ashamed or afraid. That’s when they are more likely to tell themselves a lie and believe it.  As the adult, speak up with short, truthful statements during these experiences. For example:

  • Parents fighting or arguing: “All parents fight sometimes,“ or “Parents can argue and still love each other.”
  • Child admits she doesn’t want to like her new stepdad because it’s unfair to her dad and it would hurt his feelings if he knew: “It’s okay to let yourself love your stepdad. You can love your dad and like (or even love) your stepdad at the same time. You can never have too many people to love and who love you in your life!”

sacred writingsKids find truth about themselves in sacred writings the family looks to.

As an example, for families who name the Bible as a source of truth, they find statements about themselves – I am God’s child; I cannot lose God’s love; I have a purposeful future; God doesn’t always answer my prayers the way I want, but I know God is still watching over me.

“You desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” Psalm 51:6


Conversation starters and games to increase a child’s positive inner speech

Ages 2-5

  1. Taking the photo: “You can do lots of things well. What are some of them?” Guide the child to think of something he or she does well. Then take their picture– running, jumping, riding a bike; or let them choose an object depicting what they do well, such as a ball, spatula or puzzle. Let the child decide who to send the picture to.
  2. Talent Show (at a family gathering or with neighbor kids): Each (preschool) child tells one of the things they do well (e.g. twirling, hugging, whistling, somersault). Give them time “on stage” to do it alone. Then ask him/her to lead the others in doing it too.
  3. Story book: Franklin Rides a Bike

Ages 6-11 – Game: Truth or Lie

(best with extended family or friends) Each person makes a true statement (e.g. favorite color, food, activity; where they go to school). Explain that we will go around again and have them share another statement, only this time they can say something that is true or not true. The others have a chance to guess which it is.

Tweetable: 4 games and activities with kids to strengthen positive self-talk. Go here. Click to Tweet



Becoming aware of self-talk

child upside down standing on head 2Whether it’s “I’m the stupidest kid in my whole math class” or “Okay, I can do this,”   we’re familiar with the collection of messages children play in their heads. Self-talk is everything a child believes to be true ….

  • …. about the way things work in the world
  • …. about themselves in relationship to the world
  • …. about a higher power, and that being’s impact on their lives

Self-talk statements usually go unchallenged

Self-talk messages are powerful because kids believe them to be true and consequently, act as if they are true. However, their interpretations can be wrong, causing them to accept as truth conclusions that are actually myths.

For years, I’ve been teaching this in support groups for children, using curriculum by Linda Sibley, who has given permission to share these solutions. I’ve seen firsthand how they work.

Over the next several weeks we will dig into our role in helping children challenge their developing self-talk so they learn to evaluate whether what they are saying to themselves is accurate. Conversation starters and games will give you moments to build on in the years to come.

But first, reflect on your own self-talk as you respond to your life experiences.

father and baby (2)You may want to increase self-awareness by answering some of following questions as they relate to your growing-up years:

  1. What were the verbal messages given to you? (take care of yourself; you’re clumsy; you can do no wrong; get lost)
  2. Was it okay to be good in some school subjects, but not in others?
  3. Were you teased by your peers for anything?
  4. Were you part of the in-crowd – or the out-crowd?
  5. What did you learn from media about money, violence and sex and the part they play in life?
  6. Did you measure yourself by rich, famous or beautiful people?
  7. Was your church or temple accepting and empowering? Judgmental and strict?
  8. Were you ever shamed, embarrassed or put down by clergy or a self-proclaimed religious person?

What wisdom did you gain from the above life lessons and personal experiences?  How did you learn to change your negative self-talk to positive?


  • Kids believe self-talk is true causing them to accept as truth conclusions that are actually myths. Click to Tweet
  • You can do something to quiet the negative, critical voice in a child’s inner speech. Click to Tweet


Results from your child-centered spirituality approach finally appear

stunt bikeA grandmother in our blog community shared her birthday request with us. She asked her teenage grandsons (currently in foster care) for a special gift that she would appreciate more than any kind of present — a letter telling her how they feel about her.

She told them that the letter could be short or long, handwritten or emailed. With permission, here are lightly edited excerpts from one boy, meant to encourage each of us as we seek to do the best for the children we love.

Dear Grandma,

From Day One you have been there for my brother and me, never giving up on us. Even if we make mindless decisions, you believe there’s good in us. I couldn’t believe it myself a few years ago. Things have changed a lot between the last 4-5 years, for better or worse, but not you.

heart puzzleYou’re still involved in our lives, still reminding us to strive for greatness. I don’t understand how you do it. I truly don’t. Your job as a parent is done; you raised two children already and worked more than half your life. Your hip is not what it used to be and you’re still able to come out to our football games and track meets. You really show us the meaning of family.

We live with people who care for us, sure. They have a role in our lives that’s important. The point is they get paid to house us and provide us with the basic things we need. You never got a thing for what you’ve done for me. It’s a small fact that goes without being said, but it makes all the difference.

I don’t need to remind myself of my situation or my past. My world has had pain in it, has had addictions in it, and it has had hate in it. I regret too many things I’ve done, things that shape who I am today.

But I know what kind of person I want to be, what kind of future I see for myself, and everything I have accomplished already wouldn’t be possible without you. I drive you insane most of the time, but nothing is stronger than the bond we have. Grandma, I will love you forever.

Tweetable: Ask & you shall receive. Smart grandma asks teen grandson for birthday letter instead of gift and wow! Click to Tweet

Silence: a great gift to a child’s inner life

vu-meterMost of us have experienced first-hand, in our lifetime, the disappearance of silence. Our distracting and distracted culture influences the children in our lives. As Glenn Hinson said,

“Noise desensitizes; silence sensitizes.”

We recognize how uninterrupted distraction diverts attention away from the most important matters in a child’s (and our) life:

  • emotional upsets needing perspective
  • decisions calling for wisdom
  • important relationships deserving time and effort (including God)

How hard it is for me to catch on!

Silence allows me to maintain the connection between my inner life and my many activities. Whenever I get to spend time with the children in my family, or with family friends, I usually think first of what fun activities we can do together. Yet I’ve seen how a quiet car ride home gives the children time to process the events. I’m learning to pay attention to silence, and not to fill it with chatter.

What can we do about it?

Practical ideas for different ages:

Ages 1-5

pillowsCreate a Quiet Place. Have a few inspirational books, a plush animal, a small blanket, a favorite toy, a bean bag chair or large pillow in an area of the home. Kids can use their creativity to add simple decorations. Let them know they can go there when the noise level in the house is uncomfortable or when they are sad or mad. (This is not time-out; the child is not sent there.)

Ages 5-10

In addition to a Quiet Place in the home, where they go without handhelds, plan intentional one-on-one time for nature walks, bike rides, lying in the yard looking at stars. Teach them some simple relaxation techniques. 

Ages 11-17

Isilent retreatf parents provided opportunities like a Quiet Place in the early years, teens may have internalized the rewards of silence and know how to provide it for themselves as a means of self-care. Encourage teens to take a “digital fast” away from the demands of their phones. Even a few hours can be a restful respite. Some may want to try a “silent retreat,” like this one described in HuffPost.

“God is the friend of silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” –Mother Teresa


  • A wise person said, “Noise desensitizes; silence sensitizes.” A few ways to provide children with silence. Click to Tweet
  • Ideas about how silence can have a powerful role in a child’s active, noisy life. Go here. Click to Tweet