Harnessing the Power of Positive Affirmations in Parenting blog feature image

Harnessing the Power of Positive Affirmations in Parenting

Parenting is an incredible journey, filled with joys, challenges, and countless opportunities for growth. As parents, we often find ourselves navigating a huge range of challenging emotions and situations, all while striving to provide our children with the love, support, and guidance they need to thrive. And whenever I speak to parents about the challenges they experience on their parenting journey, there is often one powerful tool that tends to go underestimated – positive affirmations.

What are positive affirmations?

Quite simply, positive affirmations are statements or phrases we repeat to ourselves that challenge our negative or limiting thoughts and beliefs. These simple yet profound statements have the potential to shape not only our own mindset but also that of our children, fostering resilience, self-esteem, and a positive outlook on life.

The science behind the practice

Before diving into how positive affirmations can benefit parents and children, it’s important to understand the science behind them and how they impact the brain. Because research in neuroscience does tell us that positive affirmations change the brain.

In fact, MRI research has shown that our thoughts have the power to shape the structure and function of our brains via a process known as neuroplasticity. When we consistently repeat positive affirmations, we stimulate the brain’s reward centres, which triggers the release of feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.

In addition to this, positive affirmations can help rewire neural pathways associated with negative thinking patterns. This effectively changes the narrative we have about ourselves in our head, and helps us to replace self-doubt and criticism with confidence and self-assurance. This rewiring process not only enhances our mental well-being but also cultivates a more optimistic and resilient mindset, which is invaluable in navigating the ups and downs of parenting.

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How do positive affirmations work?

Positive affirmations shape our mindset and change our behavior due to several key factors:

  1. Repetition and reinforcement: Consistent repetition of affirmations strengthens neural pathways associated with positive beliefs and self-perception, reinforcing a more positive or constructive internal dialogue about ourselves.
  2. Focus and attention: Affirmations direct our focus and attention towards our desired outcomes and qualities. They help us focus on where we are going or what we want, rather than where we’ve gone wrong or what we don’t want. This allows us to be more aware of our own strengths, opportunities, and potential for growth.
  3. Emotional resonance: Affirmations evoke positive emotions and feelings, fostering a sense of empowerment and confidence.
  4. Self-fulfilling prophecy: Believing in affirmations can influence our behaviour. When we align our thoughts and actions with our beliefs, we increase the likelihood of achieving the outcome we want. Quite simply, if we believe something to be true, we are more likely to act as though it is!

The Benefits of Positive Affirmations

They can reduce stress and anxiety: Regular practice of positive affirmations has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress levels. Affirmations help us shift our focus away from worrying and negative thoughts and towards more empowering and positive beliefs. When we beat ourselves up or speak unkindly to ourselves, we create more stress. When we offer ourselves compassion, we reduce it!

They can boost self-confidence: By repeatedly focusing on our own positive qualities and strengths, we create a stronger belief in ourselves and our capabilities. This improved self belief allows us to take more action towards our goals, which then creates a positive feedback loop that encourages and motivates us.

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They enhance physical health: Research suggests that affirmations can even improve physiological responses, such as reducing blood pressure, boosting the immune system, and promoting overall physical well-being, including engaging in healthier behaviours.

Ultimately, affirmations impact our own sense of self and the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and how we respond to situations. This broadened self-concept helps us feel better about ourselves and makes us more resilient and adaptable when challenges arise.

How to ensure your affirmations actually work:

While affirmations have the potential to positively impact our well-being, there are instances where their efficacy may be limited. It is important to understand that the way we use affirmations impacts how effective they are. Here are some tips to ensure your positive affirmations are hitting the mark:

They must be aligned with your own beliefs and values: If affirmations conflict with deeply held beliefs or values, you may struggle to internalise and act upon them. Your brain will simply dismiss them as untrue!

You must actively engage with them: Simply reciting affirmations without active engagement, reflection, or effort towards behavioural change probably won’t work. Affirmations work best when we reflect upon and remind ourselves of all the evidence we have that our new belief is true. Our brains try very hard to hold onto our old beliefs – so we have to be intentional when it comes to changing them.

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They must be accompanied by actions: Affirmations are most effective when accompanied by intentional actions and behaviours that are aligned with your goals. After all, the more you behave in alignment with your beliefs, the more evidence you collect that they are true! Try setting yourself small goals that support your new affirmation.

They must be realistic and believable: Setting unrealistic or overly ambitious affirmations without considering your own capabilities or circumstances may lead to frustration. If your new belief is too different to your current belief, or too far out of reach for you – you’ll never believe it, and your brain will begin to gather evidence that opposes instead of supports your new belief! Try shifting your beliefs in small increments, rather than all at once.

They can’t fix an underlying mental health condition: At least not on their own. If you are struggling with depression, anxiety or significant trauma, positive affirmations are not a standalone intervention for you. Please reach out to a healthcare provider for additional support.

How to use positive affirmations as a parent:

Positive affirmations can be integrated into various aspects of parenting, offering support and encouragement during both ordinary, everyday moments and the more challenging times.

During the morning routine: Begin each day by reciting positive affirmations together as a family, which can set a positive tone for the day ahead and help you focus on what you want to achieve or how you want to show up for the day.

As part of the bedtime routine: Wind down the day by reflecting on affirmations that reinforce feelings of gratitude, love, and security. This is a great way to send your children off to bed feeling cozy, loved up and safe.

During difficult situations: Use affirmations to provide reassurance and encouragement during moments of stress, conflict, or uncertainty. Difficult parenting moments are made more difficult by our own negative self talk – when we beat ourselves up or tell ourselves it’s too hard, or we’re failing, we increase our stress and decrease the likelihood that we will manage a situation calmly.

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During transition periods: Whether it’s starting a new school year, moving to a new home, or welcoming a new sibling, affirmations can help children navigate transitions with confidence and resilience.

As an act of self-care: Encourage children to develop their own set of affirmations to boost self-esteem, promote self-love, and foster a positive body image. And while you’re at it, try to practice what you preach and incorporate some meaningful affirmations into your own self-care routines too!

To celebrate achievements: Celebrate milestones and achievements, both big and small, with affirmations that highlight your child’s strengths (and your own!) affirm their capabilities, and acknowledge their effort.

Positive affirmations for parenting:

Need a few ideas? Here are 7 to get you started. But remember, before you adopt these as your own, ensure they feel meaningful for you and are based on your own strengths and values as a parent!

“I am a loving and capable parent, and I can handle any challenges that come my way.”

“I trust my instincts and intuition to guide me in making the best decisions for my child.”

“I am patient, understanding, and compassionate towards myself and my children.”

“I embrace the imperfections of parenthood, knowing that they are opportunities for growth and learning.”

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“I create a nurturing and supportive environment where my children feel loved, valued, and accepted.”

“I am grateful for the precious moments I share with my children, cherishing each milestone and memory.”

“I lead by example, embodying the values of kindness, empathy, and resilience for my children to emulate.”

Positive affirmations serve as invaluable tools in the parenting journey, offering a pathway to resilience, self-belief, and emotional well-being. By understanding the science behind their effectiveness while recognising their limitations, parents can harness the power of affirmations to nurture a positive mindset in themselves and their children. I encourage you to embrace affirmations as practical tools for fostering growth, connection, and resilience within our families, empowering each member to thrive in the face of life’s challenges.

Sarah Conway is a child and adolescent psychologist, mother of 4, and founder of Mindful Little Minds. She has over 15 years of experience working in mental health with children, teenagers, and families. Sarah’s mission is to help parents move away from punitive parenting strategies and towards mindful, intentional parenting that builds emotional intelligence in children and parents alike. As a busy mum herself, she knows firsthand how difficult mindful parenting can be, particularly when it was never modelled by our own parents. That’s why she provides parents and children with simple, practical strategies and tools that help them learn to manage emotions – together. She believes that changing the way we parent will change the world


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