Importance of “Self-Talk” for Children


Inner life, self-talk, and the ability to ponder develops a sense of self in children.   In essence, inner dialogue works toward a child developing self-awareness, anticipation, organization of ideas, emotional regulation and resiliency.   Children that develop inner dialogue tend to have higher self-esteem and show greater confidence.  This is quite a role in the life of a developing child.

The enhancement of inner life suggests a need for a well-developed vocabulary to enable inner dialogue. Vocabulary is the “pool” of words we use and understand.  The larger the pool, the more complex thoughts we can think.  A young child has a very small pool, and thoughts are simple.  A university professor has a large pool of words, and thus thinks very complex thoughts. The expansion of vocabulary is essential to a developing inner life.  The better a child is at naming ideas, thoughts, and feelings with words, the more self awareness, planning, and emotional regulation they will have.  In children, one way to develop vocabulary is through reading and being read to.  Choosing books for children with more complex vocabulary is an excellent way to increase brain development.

When children’s inner dialogue skills are lagging, the inability to effectually express themselves triggers “explosive” styles of behaviour.   Ross Greene, in his book The Explosive Child, advocates a collaborative problem solving approach to help these parents and children cope.  The collaborative method supports children to verbalize their inner thoughts and generate new ideas.  The method itself aids children to further develop the inner discourse they need to cope on their own.  Children must also learn to use inner dialogue to organize ideas and plan ahead.   When children lack inner dialogue and do not anticipate an outcome before acting, they find themselves struggling with impulsivity.

 The media and use of media in the home can have a profound influence with regard to developing inner life in children.  One of the main impacts is the amount of time that a child spends watching TV or playing videos.  Time spent with the brain being filled with images and voices does not allow for much of the child’s voice to develop.  In addition, these media activities provide a heightened level of stimulation on auditory and visual levels.  When children are constantly overly stimulated, it becomes difficult to sustain attention for introspection and thought. 

The level of vocabulary on T.V. is fairly simple, and only requires a passive receptive understanding.   Children are not required to use these words in a dialogue or in a responsive way.  Expressive vocabulary, the type needed for strong inner dialogue, must be developed through personal interactions.  When children are involved in screen activity, personal interactions are limited.  I have witnessed this in action; when children have friends over to play, one child plays the video game while one watches.

 Suggestions for parents:

  • Read books to your children which are rich in vocabulary, even if they can read themselves
  • Turn the TV. off when their child is playing
  • Allow enough time in the week for creative play, quiet time
  • Wonder with your child about the natural world
  • Wonder with your child about God
  • Riding in a car is a great place for reflection.  Allow time in the car to be quiet time instead of playing the radio, watching a DVD, or DS.


Questions to Consider:

  • How can you and your child wonder today?
  • What would happen if you asked your daughter, “What are you telling yourself about …?”
  • How can you invite your child to brainstorm a solution?
  • How can you encourage your child to take time to quietly think?In what ways can you find more introspection in your own life? 
  • How can you find a time in the day that would lend itself to quiet time for your children?
  • In what ways can invite your child to solve the problem?



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