Raising Confident Kids by Q&A Speaker, Dr. Toni
Our Community Manager, Morgan Oteba, sat down with Dr. Toni Warner to discuss raising a generation of confident and positive kids.
Q: Can you talk about the connection between positive talk and kids’ confidence? I also have a teenager and this is so hard!
This is a great and relevant question because research does show that self-esteem and overall confidence can be impacted by positive social support and relationships.
When it comes to how you can use elements of Positive Psychology to change how your child (or someone else) feels, there are definite limitations. That’s because we can’t actually control how anyone else feels, no matter how hard we try. The power of positivity first and foremost impacts our own internal state of being as a parent, which sets us up to be more present and equipped to support our children during tough times.
There’s a lot going on in the teen and pre-teen years. Besides hormonal changes, school pressures, and social challenges, they are internally trying to figure out who they are separate from their parents and their family. While this plays out differently for different teens and different families, it’s pretty well expected that they’re going to “push” or behave “differently”. Some may push boundaries and buttons more than others. Some may withdraw emotionally or lash out more emotionally. It’s a tough time for them, which can make it a tough time for us, as parents.
It’s because these tough times are bound to happen in parenthood (and life), that our ability as parents to find a way to remain clear-headed and emotionally regulated, is all the more important. By practicing elements of Positive Psychology, you’re more likely to feel better about how you handle yourself and your teen during the toughest moments. It will be how you show up and interact with them from this more grounded place that will most influence (not control) their sense of self and confidence.
While there is a much deeper conversation that could happen here, it does take time, patience, and self-care for you as the parent. Those are non-negotiables. I share more about such practices in my new book, which can be found here.
Q: How does positive talk affect the brain?
In the past decade or so, our understanding of the brain has grown significantly from where it was before. That being said, the brain is complex, and we certainly will always have much, much more to learn about it. Previously, it was believed that brains kind of got “fixed” or “set in their ways” by adulthood, and that left little hope for change among adults and scientists alike. But, with the information we have gleaned more recently, a great deal of evidence has demonstrated that we can change our brains across the lifespan. I’ve also seen evidence of the brain and nervous system getting rewired in my own personal life as well as in my professional work. So, we know it’s possible!
Our brain’s ability to be rewired over the course of our lifespan is called neuroplasticity, and that is a major reason why positive self-talk can be so powerful. If you have a habit of talking to yourself negatively, which ultimately makes you feel bad and impacts your relationship with your partner, kids, friends, family, or in the workplace, you’re not “stuck” that way. The brain rewires based upon repetition and emotional charge, so when you’re practicing healthy self-talk that feels good to you on an ongoing basis, you’re rewiring your brain!
Dr. Martin Seligman created Positive Psychology, and he has described himself as someone who was just more geared to be grumpy, but even he was able to benefit from positivity practices, and he reports that it has and continues to change his life.
Q: How do you break the cycle of negative self-talk as a parent?
This is a bit similar to the answer I shared for the question above. Breaking any cycle, mental or otherwise, that has become a habit, takes time and intention. There is no “magic pill” or “quick fix”, despite what is often promised by advertisements. The brain gets rewired through ongoing practices that we as parents intentionally build into our days and lifestyles. When the practice feels good or relieving (positive), the brain and body want more of it, which is evidenced by the release of certain chemicals within the system.
Negative self-talk is a mental habit that has been wired in based upon experiences you’ve had and messages you’ve received over your lifetime, coupled with genetics. Changing that setup, after it’s been used so frequently for so long, requires some compassion for yourself. Let it be okay that it’s not easy right away; it’s not easy right away for anyone. Maybe start by finding one positive thing that you do genuinely like or love about yourself, and writing that down or saying that out loud to yourself each day. Model the practice for your kids by making genuinely positive statements about them and about yourself, on a regular basis. Don’t force it here; it’s important that you mean what you say. I offer support with how to do this in my new book, The Reset, A High Achievers Guide to Freedom & Fulfillment, which can be found on Amazon.
Q: Does positive talk make kids more confident in themselves?
This question is partly answered in the first question above, and the answer is yes, it can. When we talk about “positivity” though, we need to be clear that this does not mean denying all other emotions. There are no “good” and “bad” emotions. All of our emotions are valid and need to be acknowledged so that they can be better understood and expressed. It’s especially important that we let our children know that it is okay to not feel good or positive at the moment. If children get the impression that they must always feel or act positive, no matter what, then they may find a way to push down other emotions that come up. Pushing down emotions is not a healthy habit. Emotional regulation is essential for all of us, parents or children, who want to experience quality life and relationships. Kids, teens, and parents can’t learn how to regulate emotions if they’re being denied, avoided, or labeled as “bad” or “wrong”. Positivity practices include nurturing and acknowledging the emotions that are hard too.
Q: I try to come off as optimistic to my kids, but I’m now realizing that it may be considered toxic positivity. How can I pivot and be better for them?
This is such amazing insight! I love that you’ve asked this question. This question is answered in part, by my response to the question right above it. However, I’d also like to provide a direct response to this poignant question that you’ve so courageously asked.
First, you just started pivoting by simply being aware of what you were doing and getting curious about how to do it differently. Self-awareness is a key piece of life that is so often swept under the rug. Give yourself some credit for your awareness here!
Secondly, I’d encourage honest conversations here. You are IN it right now, and since there is no switch to go from one place to the other, you will be practicing how to shift from toxic positivity to healthy positivity. That will take time, patience, compassion, and intention, in order to rewire your brain to set at that different place you desire. Since you’ll be practicing, you might as well talk with your kids about what you’re doing. Be open and honest (in a developmentally appropriate way of course).
Q: How can I make positive talk feel like it is second nature to me so I can help my kids? Do kids see themselves in a better light when their parents speak positively in general?
I currently have three children, aged 4, 8, and 12, and they each have their own personalities, strengths, and challenges. I was at a different place in my life mentally, emotionally, professionally, and relationally when each of them was born. As my relationship with myself has grown healthier and wiser, I’ve been able to become more aware of ways that I can continue to grow how I show up for them and how I experience my relationship with them. Yet, they are still each their own individual person, and they do and will always still have their own individual challenges to navigate in life, both internally and externally.
I share this personal response with you first here, because I think it’s important to normalize the fact that no one can or will ever be the “perfect” parent and “get it right” or “always be positive” all of the time. It’s not possible. Our kids don’t need us to be perfect and positive 24/7. They need us to be present, to show compassion, to be honest when we mess up, to forgive, and to be both safe and reliable pillars of love for them.
When we accept that we can always learn and do better as parents, but that we can’t and won’t ever successfully achieve the “perfectly positive” milestone (because it does not exist), then a wave of relief can sweep over us. When we feel less stressed and more relieved, we show up better. Period.
So, to answer the question about making positive self-talk second nature, I’d first encourage parents to practice accepting imperfection and embrace some grace for themselves. From there, positive self-talk won’t feel like such a battle to overcome.
When we practice more grace with ourselves, we are more likely to practice it with our children as well, and yet, that can absolutely influence how they view and feel about themselves.
I offer a step-by-step roadmap on how to incorporate practices that can help with internally rewiring the ways to navigate these kinds of challenges, so you can reset at a baseline that feels and works better for you. You can find The Reset, A High Achiever Guide to Getting Unstuck on Amazon here.
Disclaimer: this does not serve as medical advice or personalized treatment.
About the Author:
Dr. Toni Warner is a multi-business owner, mom, author, success + satisfaction coach, and practicing psychotherapist who has personally experienced what it feels like to achieve outward success while feeling like an inward mess. Even after overcoming burnout, she felt like there was “something more” for her, which is the journey that led her to where she’s at today. She’s ventured the path of toxic relationships, anxiety, depression, and more. Having both learned and taught how to boldly be herself, while establishing a balance that actually works in the modern world, she’s now on a mission to help thousands around the world do the same.
Today, she infuses brain, body, soul, and science to help her clients break the molds that have kept them feeling stuck so they can step up and out into a more aligned, more powerful, and more satisfied version of themselves than ever experienced before, thru private coaching, consulting, courses and speaking engagements.
Dr. Toni has earned her Masters in Clinical Social Work, her Masters in Education, and her Doctorate in Human Sexuality, although she believes her lived experiences are what make her relatable and allow her to help her clients experience the deepest levels of transformation. She wants you to know and believe that whether you’re building a business, a family, or a new lifestyle, you CAN redefine balance for yourself and move towards your ultimate life dreams without sacrificing yourself, your health, or what most matters to you.
Coaching- & Consulting- www.boldandbalancedcoaching.com
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