By Cathy Schweitzer, MS, LMHP and Stefanie Armstrong, MS, LIMHP

We hear a lot these days in the mainstream media about positive self-talk.  Motivational speakers talk about positive affirmations and the power of positive thinking.  It isn’t very often, however, that we hear about children and what they say to themselves.  Just as adults have struggles with positive self-talk, children struggle as well.

What is your child’s foundation–love or fear?

When considering  children’s core beliefs, it is important to reflect upon their early development.  Children who have experienced instability, frightening events, or inconsistent care likely live with a foundation of fear.  On the other hand, children who were born into safe, stable environments with consistent nurturing and care operate from a foundation of love.

Beliefs which come from a foundation of love are positive, such as:

  • I am lovable
  • I belong
  • It’s safe to have feelings
  • It’s safe to trust

Beliefs which come from a foundation of fear tend to be negative, such as:

  • I can’t trust adults to take care of me
  • I have to be in control to stay safe
  • It’s not safe to love or be vulnerable

Understanding your child’s core negative beliefs and the origins of those beliefs provides insight into your child’s behaviors.  The child who carries these core negative beliefs tends to display concerning behaviors such as stealing, lying, defiance, etc.  By looking beyond your child’s behaviors into core beliefs and emotions, you can make sense of your child’s actions.  By gaining insight into the feelings and perceptions at the root of your child’s misbehaviors, you can shift from viewing your child as manipulative and controlling to viewing your child as hurt, confused, and sad.  As you replace punitive methods with patient teaching, careful listening, empathy, and positive structure, over time, you will build a new relationship based on a foundation of trust and connection.