The power of positivity isn’t just a cliché: It’s a scientific fact. Indeed, research shows that self-affirmation alters brain response and behavior, which reduces stress and increases contentedness along with potential for achievement.
Establishing an early precedent with positive affirmations can set kids up for a lifetime of confidence and mindfulness. To get you started, here’s our primer on positive affirmation for kids, including how it works, how to get into the practice at home, and 12 simple affirmations to try.
What are positive affirmations for kids?
“Positive affirmations are words we use to encourage, uplift, and inspire our children,” explains child psychologist Dr. Stacy Haynes of New Jersey-based Little Hands Family Services. These positive phrases are recited frequently to underscore the ideas and encourage the practice.
Affirmations needn’t come from books or professionals — and they don’t need to be over thought or overwrought. They can be simple statements, phrases, or ideas meant to bathe kids in positivity and help them feel in control of their emotions.
Why do affirmations work for kids?
“They work because they help teach positive self-talk,” Dr. Haynes says, noting positive affirmation is what forms the very foundation of cognitive behavioral therapy. “We can change our feelings and behaviors just with thoughts.”
Michele Tripple, the blogger behind Confessions of Parenting, has lots of experience using the practice with kids, and explains more about why it works. “Positive affirmations are effective because kids thrive on repetition,” she says. “Having a phrase that they say every morning helps them internalize what they are saying.”
She says that these simple phrases help kids regulate their own feelings: “It’s an easy way for them to make sense of all the emotions that they deal with each day.”
Tripple likes to use them as part of the family’s morning routine. “It’s a great way to start off the day in a positive way,” she says. “Simply set aside a few minutes and recite simple phrases with them each morning.”
How to do positive affirmations with kids
Jessica Rolph, co-founder of the cognitive development research-based toy company Lovevery, explains that affirmations can look different depending on your child’s age. “A good approach is to offer encouraging feedback that’s specific and supports a growth mindset,” she says. “Just like adults, children appreciate positive affirmations for their hard work and kind acts.”
A key part of the practice is “being specific and naming details,” she underscores. That lets children know you really see them and what they do. And it makes the affirmations truly genuine.
“It also helps your child connect your affirmation to their specific actions or behaviors. This makes it more likely they will repeat the exact action or behavior you find noteworthy.”
Put simply, if kids know what earned them the praise, they can keep doing it. This parental reinforcement, Rolph says, is deeply meaningful — and “much more powerful than cookies or gold stars.”
Daily affirmations to try with kids
Ready to get started at home? Here are some easy affirmations you can recite with your kids. Or they can turn them into “I” statements and repeat these inspiring affirmations themselves.
- I am unique.
- I am brave.
- I am strong.
- I am loved.
- I am accepted.
- I am in control.
- I can achieve my dreams.
- I am going to have a great day.
- I am always growing and learning.
- I believe in myself.
- I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.
- I am special exactly as I am.
Along with soothing bedtime audio stories, Moshi offers positive affirmations that can help build kids’ confidence and reduce anxiety. The clip below is from “ShiShi’s Soothing Anxiety Shrinker” which helps kids affirm they have all the tools they need to feel OK in times of stress.
Shifting kids’ mindsets through positive affirmations
No matter what specific affirmations you choose, go with growth-oriented language like, “you worked so hard,” instead of “you’re so smart.” This encourages the child to be proud of something they think they can control, rather than something that is innate. “This is called a growth mindset, and children who have it tend to persevere through more difficult tasks,” Rolph explains.
Dr. Hayes shows an example of using positive affirmation as a way to turn around a child’s struggles in school. “Teach children the power of their thoughts,” she says. “[If] the child says ‘I am terrible at my math,’ [redirect this langage to], ‘You are learning your math and you will get better as you practice.’ We can teach them to catch the negative thoughts and to turn them into positive thoughts.”
To keep the affirmation practice top of mind, our experts suggest creating journals for kids with positive statements to read, or posting them on display on walls in their bedrooms.
For more ways to uplift and inspire, try these self-esteem building activities for kids.