On Sunday, I was moving about the house listing off my “to dos” for the week when my daughter asked, “Who are you talking to, Mom?” I didn’t even realize it, but I was saying all my thoughts OUT LOUD! Lolololol. I usually try to keep my thoughts to myself because I’ve seen others talk to themselves and admit that they look like weirdos. I am definitely not a weirdo. Ok, I am. We all are in some way. The fact is we all talk to ourselves, out loud, in our heads, or a little bit of both; and this is actually a good thing! YAY!
The stream of thoughts you have with yourself about what you’re going to make for dinner, how you’re going to share some bad news with your kids, or how you think the conversation with your spouse SHOULD have gone goes by many names: internal dialogue, inner speech, self-talk, you name it. Research suggests that these internal conversations can play a major role in self-regulation and motivation. It can help us work through new problems, gain perspective about a difficult situation, or keep us on track when we get distracted or lose steam.
As adults, we have spent years honing our self-talk; how great would it be to pass some of this knowledge on to someone besides out pets? Just kidding. When you self-talk in front of your children you are giving them a glimpse of one way to problem solve, organize/prioritize, and relate experiences. Sharing the dialogue then becomes the perfect way to start working on their problem solving skills and help them begin to harness the power of the internal dialogue.
Here are some simple ways you can start:
You’re planning a trip to the grocery store. You might say something like, “This week we’re going to have X.Y, and Z for dinner. Let me check the pantry before I start my list to see what we already have. Okay, here are the things I’m going to need for this week.” Then list out the items as you write them. If your child is old enough, have them look in the pantry or have them create a list with you.
It’s Saturday morning; the sun is shining but the chore list is pretty long. You might say something like, “Hrmph, it’s gorgeous outside and I need to be out there but there are so many chores I need to get done. How about I do X,Y, Z and then take a break and we go to the park. Then I can do the rest after lunch.” You could even be the super prioritizer (which is totally not me) and say that you are going to do all your chores so you can spend an extra long time at the park in the afternoon. You get the idea. You are expressing how you work through everyday scenarios in real time. It shows that sometimes we have inner conflicts, such as the sunny day versus chores, and talking yourself through these conflicts can often result in a positive outcome.
We all know that internal dialogue can switch to the negative side super fast. Maybe you have a fight with a friend and are now embarrassed by something you said. Meaning, you don’t think through the situation and you just blurt out what you are feeling. Ugh. Once it is out there, it is hard to take it back. Unfortunately, our children are not immune to these negative thoughts.
SUPER PARENT TO THE RESCUE! Time to use the power of positive thinking! Help your children by demonstrating your affirmative thinking in a bad situation. This can be really empowering to your child. The example you set in that situation can be really powerful in helping your child navigate how they will perceive the world when things don’t always go as they imagined or expected.
Here’s an example.
You’re cut you off in traffic and, of course, your kids are in the car. First instinct is to mutter some choice words. Most likely your kids have that selective hearing and have totally heard every bit of what you said. Lovely. Hey, my daughter did a mean impression of me and my favorite curse word for awhile. If only I said something like, “Lots of people pretending to be racecar drivers today. That lady was definitely in a hurry. I wonder where she’s going. Better slow down or she’s going to get a ticket.” Nothing amazing or super insightful but you’ve just shown your child that a negative situation doesn’t always need a negative thought.
Hopefully once you start practicing this with your child you’ll see their inner dialogue become more automatic, stronger, and more positive. Hooray!