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Natalie Costa, the leading Education Expert on the Zoono Family Panel, an initiative that supports the wellbeing of families, offers her advice to how to stop children thinking negatively about their own abilities and advises on ways to encourage them to be more confident and empowered. 

We have all been in a situation where we’ve managed to talk ourselves out of doing something because we felt we weren’t good enough, wouldn’t succeed or didn’t want to look silly if we failed. 

For children, these unhelpful and disempowering thoughts can also creep in and give them a real knock of confidence. These nagging thoughts may stop them from speaking up, giving things a go, and stepping outside their comfort zone, which may, in the long term, hold them back from achieving their full potential. 

I’m sure we’ve all heard our children say things like:

“I won’t be good at this so I’m not going to give it a try’

‘If I get it wrong, they’ll laugh at me’

‘I’m not very good at maths’

Every child is different, but for some this negative internal voice can be on full volume, taking away their ‘power’ and leaving them feeling deflated, disempowered, and scared to give things a try.  

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The good news is, with a little bit of patience, effort, and practice, we can encourage every child to thing differently. By introducing ‘rational thinking’ techniques, children can be taught to reframe their unhelpful internal chatter, questioning and replacing negative thoughts with powerful statements instead. 


There are several techniques that can be used to help children distinguish negative self-taught –untrue thoughts that are all in their head – from real positive thinking. 

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  1. Flag Negative Thoughts 

Notice when negative thinking is creeping in. On average, we have up to 80,000 thoughts a day, many of which are unconscious thoughts. 

Talk to your child about their negative thoughts and ask them to tell you when they have one. See if they can tell you how it makes them feel and where on the body they feel it (for example, butterflies in their tummy or their heart is beating faster). 

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Armed with a deeper understanding the connection between the mind and the body, they can start to understand the effects of negative thinking and begin to put a stop to it. 

  1. Share Mind Tricks

Our minds have a big old bag of tricks it likes to play on us. By sharing these with your child, they can quickly identify each negative thought and stop it in its tracks. 

The Mind Reader

This is when we think we know what other people are thinking. For example, “everybody will think I’m doing a bad job” or “they will all laugh at me when I share my presentation.”

The Fortune Teller

A sneaky mind trick that makes us worry about things in the future that haven’t even happened yet.  For example, “what if nobody likes me at my new school?” or “what if the test is too hard?” or “what if I forget all my lines in the school play?” 

The Name- Caller

Calling ourselves mean names, especially when we’ve made a mistake or when we’re facing a challenge. For example, “I’m boring, nobody wants to play with me” or “I’m rubbish at spellings.” 


When we compare ourselves to others and, as a result, we feel left out. For example, “they’re smarter than me,” or “I’ll never be as fast as them in PE”. 

  1. Question the Truth 

Finally, ask your child to challenge whether the negative thought holds any truth. This will help them question the validity of their thoughts. Record the thoughts by writing them down, then use the following questions to get to bottom of whether it holds true. 

  • Is this thought 100% true? 
  • When I think this thought, how does it make me feel? 
  • How would I feel without this thought? 
  • What would I tell my best friend / brother / sister if they had this thought? 
  • How will thinking this thought make me feel? 

Shifting your child’s perspective will take time, patience and practice, but the long-term benefits are immeasurable. By teaching them how to fight back against negative thoughts now, they will grow into confident and empowered individuals in the future. 

About Natalie Costa

With a background in psychology, Natalie has also spent 12 years within the educational sector and is an accredited performance coach.  Natalie offers coaching to both children and parents to help give children the ‘power’ over their own thoughts and the tools to help cope and thrive in the modern world. She is thrilled to now share these strategies with you and your child as a part of the Zoono Family Panel.

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  1. Tim

    My 5yr old son constantly doubts himself and hates being out of his comfort zone whereas his twin sister would happily take on the world. I’ll use these tips to identify his negative thought processes and talk them through with him.

    • Al Ferguson

      That’s such a strange natural phenomenon when, presumably, you parent them both exactly the same and they’ve had pretty much the same experiences etc.

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