Casey (age 9) has been learning to plan ahead so he gets to school on time. [see previous post]. But when he hears his 6:30 alarm, his self-talk thoughts begin:
- “It’s warm in my bed and cold in the house. I’m going to stay here and sleep just a few minutes more.”
- “I’m not hungry, so I can skip breakfast and stay in bed a little longer.”
- “I won’t take a shower because I didn’t get very dirty yesterday. I don’t have to get up quite yet.”
- “The carpool will be late and I don’t like waiting for it, so I’ll stay here for just a minute or two more.”
Casey’s parents are helping him change his self-talk about wake-ups to:
“I know I would enjoy sleeping longer, but it is more important to comb my hair right now. I don’t want to spend all day with hair problems. I want to eat a good breakfast so I won’t feel hollow inside. I’m going to stick with the plan.”
Reinforcement encourages Casey to continue.
When he carries out his plan, Casey’s parents reinforce the behavior. “You did it!” or “Way to go!” But more importantly, they show them him how to listen for his own inner voice–his human spirit–telling him, “Well done! I did think about sleeping a little longer but I told myself that I wanted to have time to eat a bowl of cereal and I did!”
His parents show him how by practicing self-talk themselves.
When Casey is around, his mom says things like,”I controlled my anger. I did get mad at that kid, but I told myself not to yell at her and I didn’t! I put up with my frustrating feelings and they went away.”
They include a provision for what to do in case Casey fails.
They know it’s not the end of the world when Casey doesn’t do it perfectly. Casey’s father said, “We’ve been talking together at the dinner table almost every night about what Casey has been planning and doing. He wants to be responsible and independent.”
“Today he was late for the carpool and we asked him what he said to himself about it. Casey told us, ‘I told myself I want to hang in there. I’m not going to quit trying. I will teach myself to do what I really want to do.’
“I think Casey’s brain is gradually rewiring itself so he can think and plan.”
Tweetable: Self-talk helps children teach themselves to do what they really want to do. Here’s how. Click to Tweet
Psychologist Candace Backus shared these principles before she passed earlier this year.