Using positive statements such as affirmations are one of my favourite tools to promote positive thinking in children. They are actually one of the simplest and easiest ways to help your child generate a positive mindset and with a little imagination, this simple tool can be turned into a fun activity for everyone to enjoy.
So what is an affirmation?
Affirmations are positive statements or short sentences that children can repeat to themselves to help them record over any negative thoughts or worries, replacing them with positive thoughts and expectations.
For example, a good affirmation could be ‘I enjoy handing my homework in on time’, or whatever is relevant to the particular challenges of the moment. With repetition, they can be a great asset in helping your child to build up a positive mindset, and of course, they don’t just work for children, you may well like to experiment with them too.
One of the really great things about affirmations is that they can be used at any age. Even if your child is still too young to read or write they can still benefit from hearing you repeat some positive affirmations for them. Helping them to develop positive expectations will also go a very long way to boosting their self-confidence as they learn how to change a negative thought into a positive one.
Here are a few key points to bear in mind to get the best from affirmations.
- To be truly effective affirmations must be specific, accurate and measurable.
- They must also be stated in the present tense to indicate actual rather than potential achievement.
- They must also be balanced and realistic
- They should always focus on what is to be achieved rather than on what is to be avoided. For example, rather than saying ‘I don’t want to finish in the cross-country race today’ it’s better to say ‘I find it easy to maintain a good speed when I’m running’.
The first example only serves to focus their attention on potential failure, on the very thing they want to avoid, whereas the second statement helps them keep their attention firmly focused on a positive but realistic outcome.
But do affirmations really work?
This is a question I am often asked and the answer is, yes, they do, but just reading an affirmation over and over again has little effect.
Recent research in the field of psychology shows us that just repeating an affirmation, again and again, will only be about 10% effective overall. Better than nothing of course but not really good enough. The trick to making affirmations really effective is to encourage your child to add vivid and colourful imagery to their affirmations whilst holding an image of success in their mind. Just as you would encourage them to do if they were completing a mental rehearsal or guided visualisation exercise.
Then, with repetition and over time, affirmations are known to become about 70% effective. This is because the right side of the brain tends to process information in the form of pictures rather than in a linear way and so with repetition this becomes a powerful way for the mind to take on new suggestions.
Best of all though is that if you encourage your child to repeat their affirmation regularly (and over a period of a couple of weeks is ideal), with lots of vivid imagery, and you encourage them to add the feeling of success to that, it becomes just about 100% effective. In other words, the mind assumes that what it is experiencing is real.
One of the lovely things using about affirmations for your children is that they are simple to create and can be used in all sorts of fun and imaginative ways. For example, if your child is struggling with their spelling you could help them come up with a simple affirmation such as “I’m improving my spelling every day” or “spelling is getting easier for me now”.
Affirmations can be adapted to any age group and can be used in many creative ways to give your child’s self-esteem a gentle boost throughout the day.
You could help your child to write or draw their affirmations on brightly coloured cards and display them somewhere obvious. Or, perhaps you could write out a new affirmation for them each day and hide it somewhere where they will find it later such as in their lunch box, or under their pillow.
Depending on the age of your child you could also leave them a message on their mobile phone, reminding them to think positive thoughts. Or for very young children you could even make up a song or rhyme with their favourite affirmation.
Before moving on I’d like to briefly mention another technique that I’ve found to be incredibly valuable in helping children of all ages to develop a positive mindset. It’s called EFT, or Emotional Freedom Techniques and it’s a great way of quickly and easily replacing a build of negative emotions with positive mental energy.
In essence, EFT involves gently tapping with your fingertips on some of the acupuncture points of the face and hands. In fact, it is often referred to as acupuncture without the needles and it is an easy and effective way to help desensitise painful emotions or negative beliefs held on a subconscious level.
Emotional Freedom Techniques are easy to learn, very easy to use as a self-help tool and a delightful technique to use with children of any age.
If you feel that you would like a little extra assistance to help your child release any fears or worries that might be spoiling their happiness then it may well be worthwhile contacting an EFT practitioner who is local to you and asking them more about how this works. You can also find many free or low-cost resources on the internet if this is of interest to you and I’ve listed a few of them at the back of this book for you.
Another reason I wanted to mention this here is that if you are already familiar with the tapping points used in EFT, then you might like to show your child how to tap along with their affirmations to enhance their effectiveness.
There are endless ways you can make these techniques fun. Enjoy being creative and making up your own list of simple ways to remind your child of their natural brilliance. They are bound to delight in your encouragement.
Creative ways to use affirmations
Spend a few moments thinking up some creative ways that you can use remind your children about a positive affirmation for the day.
What would appeal to them?
Would they respond better to a written reminder such as an affirmation written on a post-it note and left for them to find in an unusual place? Or would they prefer a spoken message such as a voice mail message, or just a loving reminder to hold a positive thought in their mind for the day?
Think about your own child’s natural preferences for a few moments and see if you can come up with some more ideas to bring positive affirmations into their day.
“Teach only Love, for that is what you are.”
A Course In Miracles (T-6.I.13:1)