Thomas the Tank Engine is my son’s favourite TV programme, and that naturally means it had to become mine too. At the moment, I got to the point in which I can stand Thomas’ voice without feeling like screaming, and to me that is progress. But if you have never seen Thomas, bear with me for just a little longer (and consider yourself lucky).

In one feature-length movie called “Misty Island Rescue”, the Fat Controller (in short, Thomas’ boss) compliments Thomas on his ability to take good decisions, which in hindsight turns out to be a mistake. From that moment on, Thomas goes around repeating to himself “I make good decisions, that’s what I’ve been told, I will not be fearful, I’ll be brave and bold.” every time his poor decision making lands him in trouble, which amounts to dozens of times throughout the whole 60 minutes movie, and somehow seem to increase at every watch.

The reason I’m writing about Thomas is because I found myself thinking about that movie while reading a book called “What To Say When You Talk To Yourself”, another jewel of self-help literature I recently added to my library.

Some folks like nothing more than ridicule people who–like me–believe that one can better oneself by following the advice a book. To that I say, why not? I became a better parent by following the advice I read on a heap of books, why shouldn’t the same principle apply to me? Well, they can keep laughing, I still prefer to believe we have the ability to improve ourselves, because the alternative is just too depressing.

Coming back to the book, its premises are really simple: our self-talk, the way we talk to ourselves, affect who we become and what we will be able to achieve. It’s based on the principle of self-affirmation, which is used successfully by sport and business people. It’s not a new idea at all, but as it turned out, athletes and CEOs are not the only people who would benefit from it.

Growing up, we learned to distrust what other people tell us, stranger danger and all that, but we tend to trust a lot of what we say to ourselves, and often what we say to ourselves not only is wrong, but is also unhelpful. The unhelpful things we tell ourselves often spawn from the offhand opinions of important people in our youth, like our parents calling us “lazy-bones”, or overhearing our teacher telling our parents that we are “unable to focus”. I remember to this day the discouraging comments I heard growing up, and for a very long time, I believed them.

The content of our internal dialogue might seem immaterial to us, but our brain take note of every single word, and given enough repetitions, it can be easily persuaded of all the nasty things we say to ourselves. By changing our internal dialogue in the right way, we can change our negative beliefs into positives, improve our attitudes towards us, what we do, or who we are with. Our attitude affects every action we decide to take, or more often decide not to take, and our actions in turn affect our outcome. So, yeah, our internal dialogue matters 🙂

What about Thomas then? In the story, the Fat Controller makes a simple comment on Thomas’ ability to make decisions and Thomas immediately believes it as true (against all practical evidence), in the same way any young child would. Why not take advantage of that, then?

We could become more intentional in the way we talk to our children and use positive affirmation to build a better self-image of themselves. Simple phrases like “You are a kind and gentle child”, reused long enough, can have a huge impact on the opinion a child secretly hold of himself, of which we might not be aware at all.

This is what we parents do. We make sure our children know how important they are, not just for us, but just are. Suggesting the right script for their internal dialogue is another way to set them on the right path and, with any luck, in time it won’t be just a script anymore, but what they’ll become in reality.


From this article

Team Foster: The Coach Approach to Foster Parenting

What to Say When You Talk to Your Self
Click on the book cover to purchase a copy of the book, at no extra cost to you, and help support this website!

Team Foster: The Coach Approach to Foster Parenting

Thomas & Friends – Misty Island Rescue [DVD]
Click on the DVD cover to purchase a copy of the movie, at no extra cost to you, and help support this website!


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