Updated: Jun 8, 2021
As crucial as it is for parents to encourage, love and support their children, it is just as important that children learn to develop positive emotions within themselves. Developing positive thoughts and feelings of self-worth can be empowering for a child and help build emotional resilience.
We all develop internal belief systems, which can stay with us for years. As adults, we know how negative beliefs can impact our lives and be harder to shift when we're older. People in our lives and the wider environment can be hugely influential on how we view ourselves. By taking control of our beliefs at a young age we give children a chance to grow up with a powerful set of positive beliefs about themselves. This helps nurture their wellbeing and belief in themselves and can have a lasting impact throughout their lives.
What is an affirmation?
Simply put, an affirmation is to affirm to one’s self. Positive words that are absorbed by the mind to create a positive belief system. Affirmations are positive phrases or statements that a person repeats to them-self to challenge unhelpful or negative thoughts. Choosing positive affirmations can motivate, boost self-esteem and help combat negative self-talk. They teach children to talk positively and kindly to themselves. Regularly stating affirmations helps train the brain to think in a more positive and beneficial way to promote wellbeing.
How do affirmations work?
Once affirmations are learned, they work by coming to mind when a belief is challenged.
If the affirmation is "I am wonderful just the way I am", and you are told you are stupid, the affirmation will be recalled to remind you of your belief. Instead, you will think, "I’m not stupid, I am wonderful!”
Without a positive belief, you may take on the one you just heard and start to believe that you are stupid. The more an affirmation is repeated, positive or negative, the stronger it becomes.
Developing a child's inner confidence can shape their whole life. Every aspect of life is affected by our self-confidence or lack of it. It affects our ability to learn and participate at school, socially, creatively, our relationships, achieving our goals and dreams, and most importantly our standards. With little self-confidence, we often lower our standards or ‘settle’ for what we believe is achievable.
A personal perspective
A few months ago I came across a children's book on affirmations in Aldi for a few quid and thought, why not (yeah I know, it was in the middle aisle and I couldn't resist the 'bargain'). I took it home and lost it on our bookshelf for a while. Then a few weeks later I had been noticing my son's behaviour and negative ways of speaking about himself. I remembered the book and thought I'd get it out. My son (4 in June) and I spent an hour writing out all the affirmations that we liked from the book. He then used his developing scissor skills to cut them up into individual statements. We then found a suitable sized container and put them in. Nothing fancy to it. Just scribbled statements on paper and an old jam jar. Since then, once a week on a Sunday we have picked one out. Now he sometimes doesn't like the ones that come out of the jar. I've noticed there is a definite pattern to the ones he rejects and feels uncomfortable saying. I don't push things with him; I just let him find one he does connect with and then we try to remember to say it every day.
For me as an adult I've found it hugely beneficial. I've struggled with negative thoughts all my life and this exercise has been fantastically helpful for starting to change the language I use about myself and see myself in a more positive light. I will admit I had always been extremely sceptical about things like affirmations before and it's taken me a while to feel comfortable saying things out loud. I did feel silly to start with, but that changed and I felt the change in me.
It's wonderful when I hear my son say these positive statements. It's giving him an extended vocabulary and phrases that I can see are having a beneficial effect. We will definitely carry on with this exercise as part of our larger home education on emotional intelligence, feelings and self-esteem. It's a wonderfully simple way to help both of us feel confident and see ourselves in an affirming and positive light. I recommend it to anyone.
Co-authored and edited by Mie Mari Sløk Rusdal and Jude Saffron
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