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  • Writer's pictureWenna

Getting a Grip on Self Talk

kid paying attention to positive self talk

What comes first; actions, thoughts or feelings? Most people believe that feelings drive thoughts and then actions.


It seems that way because feelings are intense, and likely the first thing we are aware of. In fact, thoughts are what drive our feelings.


Thoughts happen in a split second, so we are not generally consciously aware of them. Learning to catch those thoughts before they develop into feelings is a challenging but vital tool for helping us control our feelings, rather than letting our feelings control us. It takes a lot of practice and persistence, but over time, it is possible to develop a strong awareness of, and to start to filter out a lot of the unhelpful negative self talk.

Imagine having both a self doubt monster and a personal coach on your shoulders, whispering into your ears. As we already know, we are hardwired to pay more attention to the negative thoughts. Below are a couple of situations that could easily produce negative thoughts and feelings in tweens…

“I volunteer an answer in class that I think is really clever but it is wrong and people laugh.”


“I ask to go out with me, and they say no. I hear giggles from their friend.”


“I’m an idiot and I wish I had just kept my mouth shut”


  • embarrassed, dumb


  • disengagement, not willing to take that risk again

kid with devil on their shoulder saying that was stupid

Catching self talk is really hard at first, because it happens so quickly. It is usually easier to begin by thinking about the last time you had a strong emotion (positive or negative) and ‘walk it back;

What did I say to myself that led to that feeling? What else could I have said to myself that might have altered that feeling?

Try playing out the above scenario with a more optimistic thought; Think of this as the inner coach on your shoulder cheering you on.

kid trying again


“OK that didn’t work out the way I hoped, but it isn’t that big a deal. People giggling doesn’t mean they are laughing at me. Nothing ventured nothing gained. I am stronger than this and THIS happens to everyone sometimes.”


  • hopeful, determined, resolute


  • willing to try again


What Can You Do?

  1. Regularly ask kids to think/write down the last strong emotion they remember.

  2. Ask them to see if they remember what led to the feeling (exterior trigger).

  3. Ask them to remember what they said to themselves in response to that trigger.

  4. If they could go back, what are more optimistic thoughts that may have reduced the negative feeling.

  5. IMPORTANT QUESTIONS to help kids shift the negative self talk:

  6. Is my response logical/rational?

  7. Am I exaggerating the importance of the situation?

  8. Is this a last chance, or a one of many opportunities?

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