How you talk to yourself can either uplift you and help you achieve your goals or drag you down and make everything more difficult. It’s important to teach children the power of positive self-talk early on. Positive self-talk can help many, and is particularly useful for young athletes.
You’ve probably heard the old expression, “get your head in the game,” and for good reason. If you’re not on top of your physical and mental game, you’re not going to improve. Young athletes need to develop mental toughness as well as physical skills to do the best they can at their chosen sport.
Here are some ways to teach your young athlete how to practice positive self-talk.
Choose Friends Wisely
We all know someone who is a perpetual pessimist. Negativity is contagious. Teach your children to choose their circles wisely and avoid people who are consistently negative. Fortunately, positivity is also contagious, so your child can help learn positive self-talk by surrounding him or herself with optimistic, positive people.
Teach your child to think of three things he or she is grateful for every day. According to a study in Psychology Today, “Young adults assigned to keep gratitude journals showed greater increases in determination, attention, enthusiasm and energy compared to the other groups.” Talk as a family about what you’re thankful for and model this practice for your children.
Flip the Script
Ask your child what kinds of things he or she thinks about on and off the field. If your child is in the habit of negative self-talk, you can help turn things around with a simple role-playing exercise.
Let’s say your child missed a goal in soccer. She is beating herself up about it by internally chastising herself. Have her pretend that a best friend made that same mistake in a game. Would she say the same things to her friend that she’s saying to herself? The chances are no, she would not be so negative with a friend.
Helping your child reframe negative thoughts this way can sometimes lend some perspective and encourage positive self-talk.
Make a List of Positive Affirmations Together
Like any new habit, positive self-talk can be tough to start. Your child may not know what to say to him or herself to get the ball rolling. Sit down with your child and ask where he or she struggles. Then make a list of positive, go-to affirmations that can rewire those negative thoughts. Here are some examples. You can write them on sticky notes and put them on the mirror or put them in a notebook for school as little reminders for your child to practice positive self-talk.
- I am intelligent.
- I am powerful.
- I make good choices.
- I am creative.
- I am lovable.
Make it a Family Activity
Kids pick up on what you say and often what you don’t say. If you aren’t also speaking to and about yourself positively, they will pick up on that. Put these positive self-talk practices in place for the whole family and make it a habit together.
Competitive Edge aims to develop the “complete athlete” using performance sports training in Woodbridge, VA and surrounding areas. Members are able to enhance their athletic performance and develop a competitive edge to excel in their desired sport.