The Underlying Psychological Benefits of Positive Self-Affirmations for Children
What are Self-Affirmations?
“I am loved, I am smart, and I will never give up”. As children, these are words and feelings that are fundamental to be instilled within their belief systems as they undergo their developmental period. Throughout an individual’s growth, past experiences and conditioned responses result in the development of various self-talk or self-directed speech habits.
Unfortunately, the human mind tends to favour negative self-talk because its sharp emotions elicit a more considerable impact than its positive counterparts. Whether it arises from mistakes, judgements or other adverse life situations, our brain is hardwired to focus more on the bad than the good. This is what psychologists refer to as a negativity bias, meaning that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are more sensitive to negative forms of stimuli (1).
Effectively, a child’s mind is no exception to possessing a negativity bias. Because of this, it is crucial that they develop a healthy habit of integrating positive self-talk during their developmental period, where they are most sensitive to learning and understanding new information. This is where positive affirmations come into play.
Broadly defined, positive affirmations are short and concise statements that individuals repeat to themselves to challenge negative thoughts and instill positive alternatives. Take, for example, our opening statement: “I am loved, I am smart, And I will never give up”. These self-affirmed statements are positively weighted and foster a positive outlook in a person’s mind and belief system.
How do Self-Affirmations Work?Positive affirmations have been extensively studied in psychological and behavioural sciences, leading to their implementation in multiple contexts such as parenting, schooling and even athletic performance. (2&3)
Research has shown that daily repetitions of positive affirmations in children help them develop stronger self-esteem, increase psychological wellbeing, and significantly improve their educational performance and motivation to participate in the classroom. (4)
These profound benefits stem from the ability of daily affirmations to influence a child’s thoughts, which subsequently influence their emotions and feelings, which act as driving forces to how that child will behave within their environment. Ultimately, the affirmations promote positive change by influencing a child’s underlying thought processes that form the basis of their entire behaviour. (5)
Studies have also shown that positive self-affirmations can improve how children respond to challenges during their developmental phase. (6) As a child grows up, they are constantly learning and integrating new information that is highly foreign and confusing to them. As a result, this can be extremely challenging and lead to adverse outcomes such as fear and even instances of trauma.
The severity of these outcomes depends on how the child responds to the challenges, which can be exacerbated by negative self-talk but improved using positive self-talk. (7) This is crucial to remember as this period of response can have significant ramifications on how their personality will form during later years.
Why are Affirmations Beneficial for Children, and in What contexts Should I use them? Affirmations are crucial for children for many reasons. However, one factor which makes children extremely receptive to positive affirmations is because they are at an age where their neuroplasticity is at its highest. Simply defined, neuroplasticity is the brain’s method of learning new information by re-wiring and forming new connections between its different areas.
Since neuroplasticity is rampant in a child, they are susceptible to learning new information and creating new habits that their adolescent personality will form around. However, this is a two-sided coin – If the child has a strong negativity bias, then this is what their brain will remember. On the other hand, if they had an increased positivity bias through the use of positive affirmations, the brain would use this to create the foundation of their development. (7)
Coming back one more time to our opening statement, if a child feels loved, smart and courageous, this is how they will behave. However, if they feel scared, unimportant and worthless, they will behave in a way that is congruent with those feelings.
Hence, this is why research highly recommends positive affirmations to be used in school and within the family where children go through their most memorable and important experiences. Confidence, joy and a positive mindset are all key for children to perform effectively and feel happy being in the classroom, despite all the daunting challenges that may sometimes arise. It is a simple yet profound method that can be used to positively impact a child in many aspects of life.
Talking Hearts is an audio device tailored to provide children with positive affirmations to aid them in their developmental journey. The device is specifically shaped to be visually attractive, containing over 30 pre-recorded positive affirmations that have been thoroughly tested and picked to elicit the most impactful benefits for children. With the goal of being implemented in diverse contexts such as school, parenting and play, talking hearts will provide children with the opportunity to develop healthy thinking patterns that will boost confidence, self-esteem and wellbeing.
Children's personal, social and emotional development, (PSED), is crucial for children to lead healthy and happy lives, and is fundamental to their cognitive development. Underpinning their personal development are the important attachments that shape their social world. Strong, warm and supportive relationships enable children to learn how to understand their own feelings and those of others.
Practical PSED Applications
For more information, please visit the Talking Hearts PSED applications Blog Page and browse the different ways in which Talking Hearts can elicit positive change.
Article written by Matthias Laroche, (B.Sc. – Psychology and M.Sc. – Neuropsychiatry)
We also wish to extend our special thanks to Tamara Bogan, LPC, (Ed.S. Argosy University, Atlanta, USA). Tamara Bogan is a licensed psychotherapist in Coastal Georgia. She works with individuals, couples and parents. Tamara is also trained in Brainspotting and Trauma-Informed M-CBT. Please visit her website for more information: www.seatofresilience.com
1. Vaish, A., Grossmann, T., & Woodward, A. (2008). Not all emotions are created equal: the negativity bias in social-emotional development. Psychological bulletin, 134(3), 383.
2. McLean, S., & Dixit, J. (2018). The power of positive thinking: A hidden curriculum for precarious times. Adult Education Quarterly, 68(4), 280-296.
3. Pelin, F., Predoiu, R., Mitrache, G., Predoiu, A., & Grigore, V. (2018). Generation of efficient behaviors in the case of performance athletes. Discobolul–Physical Education, Sport and Kinetotherapy Journal, 3(53), 31-38.
4. Downing, C. J. (1986). Affirmations: Steps to counter negative, self-fulfilling prophecies. Elementary School Guidance & Counseling, 20(3), 174-179.
5. Chopra, K. (2012). Impact of positive self-talk.
6. Ivanoff, S., & Ullrich, T. (2020). Hopefulness: Explaining the Link Between Self-Affirmation and Self-Esteem.
7. Steele, C. M. (1988). The psychology of self-affirmation: Sustaining the integrity of the self. In Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 21, pp. 261-302). Academic Press.