Positive Self Talk for Kids: A Lesson About Your Inner Coach Vs. Inner Critic

Positive self-talk worksheet for social emotional learning lesson.

INCORPORATE POSITIVE SELF-TALK INTO YOUR DAILY ROUTINE AT SCHOOL

There is no age early enough to start incorporating activities for kids to encourage positive self-talk. However, talking about internal conversations can be a bit tricky with elementary aged kids.  It’s such an abstract concept, right?   But also so important.  Because how we talk to ourselves matters.  

My favorite way to teach kids about positive self talk is to introduce the idea that everyone has an inner coach and an inner critic.  And depending on “who” we listen to, it will impact our motivation, resilience, self-esteem, and skills to make connections with others.  

Building Your Inner Coach

Have you ever noticed silently telling yourself something or thinking thoughts that you don’t necessarily say out loud? Like you’re having a private conversation with your brain that only you can hear?

How we talk to ourselves directly impacts our overall happiness and ability to have strong relationships. When you speak to yourself in an unhelpful and hurtful way, this is your inner critic talking.

 It can be judgmental, blaming, shaming or discouraging and put you in a funk. When a classmate or peer is in this spiral, it makes them hard to partner up with and may negatively impact others in the classroom, on the court, or at their sweet 16 birthday party.  

I wish I would’ve heard and understood this quote earlier in life, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Because how true is that? Access to media and a deep dive into the lives of others has become part of our daily routine. And as fun as it is to keep up with “Fancy Like” dances on TikTok and style trends like the rebirth of wide leg jeans and crop tops, if we are not careful, feelings of inadequacy can consume our young people.

This is why incorporating positive self talk for kids into daily lessons is critical, now more than ever before.  When we rely on our internal locus of control to help us feel good about ourselves and cope with the big feelings (which are always allowed and valid), we can learn to transform our inner critic into an inner coach and support us through hard situations and emotions that bring us down.

How To Teach Positive Self-Talk

Talking to yourself gets a bad rap, but you’ll change the narrative by bringing to light everyone’s self-talk when you use this social emotional learning lesson in your classroom to help students identify their inner voice. 

This fun, animated SEL lesson about positive self talk teaches students how to identify the difference between the negative self-talk that comes from their inner critic versus the positive self-talk, which comes from their inner coach. 

Events that bring out the inner critic may be facing off with your biggest challenger in a game of chess, standing in front of the class to present your speech on George Washington, or overcoming your fear of heights at the top of the water slide. 

These are typically situations that are challenging or when you have made a mistake. The things your inner critic says can be hurtful and are mostly NEVER true. This inner critic can bring up emotions such as helpless, depressed, or not worthy. 

But, with solid coping skills we can pull ourselves out of that emotion using our inner coach to feel courageous, enough, and strong. Your inner coach believes in your goodness, worth, and lovability….no matter what!

Encouraging a Growth Mindset Attitude in Kids

Teaching kids and teens that they can be in control of how they respond to their thoughts helps encourage a growth mindset attitude and allows them to take risks. When our students know they have the skills to redirect their inner critic, they will be more willing to exclaim, “I love a good challenge!” and give the task their best effort. And when it doesn’t go well the first time around, they will be able to pick it back up and try again. 

This lesson is great to do with your whole class, but it also includes added materials to revisit with small groups and individual students. 

And in all honesty, even as adults, we need a reteaching of this lesson once in a while, too!

Posters to Support Positive Self-Talk

In order to feel success, we first must become really good at making and recovering from mistakes. And your inner coach, or use of positive self-talk is the most critical piece of this strength. It is a rare occasion that something goes perfectly right the first try. That’s why I created this always-free positive affirmations for kids resource to help teach this growth mindset skill. 

For older students, teens, and even adults, this also free Reminders for Hard Days poster has deeper phrases for building your own inner coach and encouragement for when the hard things happen over, and over, and over. Or when we have a really big hard thing happen and we need our inner coach to step up their game. 

After you have taught the SEL lesson, these resources give teachers, school counselors, administrators a one-pager for incorporating positive affirmations into their daily routine.  Having visuals of positive self-talk examples will help students to better challenge the negative thoughts that pop up, and redirect them to a more positive outcome. Have kids memorize one of the self-talk phrases that speaks to them as a way to build their inner coach. When a negative or comparing thought pops up in their mind, they can repeat the phrase to themselves until the thought has been released. 

You can also print these posters to hang in the classroom or your office (they make great classroom decor), put in your student lockers, or stick to their bedroom mirrors at home. The more practice students have repeating these phrases over and over, the more they become natural and their go to phrases when negative thoughts creep in because of the comparison game, or because life is just hard sometimes. 

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