Some healthy choices are easier than others. Kids often enjoy choosing activities like soccer, ballet, math, or playing the piano. They may even choose carrots over chips! When children make healthy choices, they may hear a voice in their head saying “You’ve got this!” or “I rock!”

However, other choices are not as easy. This is when kids may hear a negative voice in their heads telling them, “No, no, no!” or “I can’t!” 

No one is good at everything, and making healthy choices can be hard. That does not mean kids should give up when something is difficult. Teach kids to be their own cheerleaders by telling that downer voice in their head to be quiet.Here are three positive self-talk phrases to teach kids to say when they are faced with something hard. Instead of saying, “I can’t,” try…

"I know I can."
Let kids know that they cannot do anything unless they truly believe in themselves and are willing to give it their all. Remind them of the story about the little engine that could. A small, little engine was able to pull a big, heavy train over a high mountain. He kept telling himself: "I think I can. I think I can." He believed in himself and was able to do something no one else thought he could. The first step is choosing to believe by saying the positive statement, "I know I can."

"I am going to try."
It is easy for kids to give up before they even try but then they will never get to see what they could have done. For example, maybe they want to learn how to play baseball but are afraid that they will not do well hitting or throwing the ball. Tell them not to worry about doing it well or getting it perfect. Teach them to say to themselves, “I am going to try.” When they are trying something new, trying is the only thing that counts – and it can be fun!

Are they still having trouble taking that first step? Remind them that they do not have to do things all by themselves. Are they trying to learn how to play a new sport? Have them ask a friend for help. Do they feel that they cannot handle a big school project? Encourage them to ask a parent or a teacher to help get organized.

"Focus on right now."
Sometimes kids look at something new and think it is too big to handle. For example, maybe they want to run a race, but they think there is no way they will be able to go that far. That is when they need to say, "Focus on right now." Help kids to achieve goals by choosing to do one thing at a time. Start by choosing to run for just 5 minutes at first and then slowly add a few more minutes each time they head out to run. In time, the entire goal will be achieved.

So remember, when that internal voice says “I can’t,” answer with “I can’t… yet!