Developing ‘Can-Do’ Thinking in your Child

by Cary Zavala /

Self-talk is basically our inner voice, the voice in our head, the subtle running commentary going on in the background of our minds. Everyone has this happening, often without us even realizing it. And what we say in our mind greatly influences our feelings and behaviors. Positive self-talk tends to make us feel good, more positive and optimistic, whereas negative self-talk often leads to anxious and distressed feelings, and can make us feel pretty crappy. Learning to notice and change up our self talk when needed, can help us to feel better about ourselves, boost our confidence to try new things, help with relationships, and allow us to feel better able to manage our lives and accomplish our goals.

This month’s Early Childhood Education Series focused on helping parents understand the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. A long-time favorite children’s book “The Little Engine that Could,” helps give us a way to teach the concept of positive self-talk to little ones. Another favorite, “The Can Do Duck: A Story About Believing in Yourself” was read aloud and parents were shown how books may be used as a tool to open the door for discussion about positive self-talk and its benefits.

The Can Do Duck by Ducktor Morty, MD  can-do-duck-musical

This extraordinary little duck and his mama taught us some ways to learn to overcome fears and a process for achieving new goals. Other helpful lessons throughout the story included:

  • The importance of planning ahead
  • Breaking tasks down into smaller steps and encouraging each step along the way
  • Using visualization or imagining yourself getting through difficult tasks (a skill used by Olympic athletes!)
  • The use of modeling gentle, positive, persistent encouragement to build up children’s courage and confidence
  • The importance of unconditional positive love – “I love you for being you, not because of what you do.”

Thank you Ducktor Morty, M.D. for writing this wonderful, gem of a tale and for the encouraging, positive words:

“I say, I CAN.Ducktor-Morty
I make a plan.
I get right to it.
And then I do it!”

And many thanks to Great Start for giving each parent a book to take home (“I Knew You Could!: A Book for All the Stops in Your Life”) to encourage the practice of this skill with their child(ren).

How is your self-talk? There are ways you can develop better, more helpful self-talk, including just listening to what you’re saying to yourself each day. It’s worth practicing positive self-talk, as feeling good about yourself (and passing these good feelings and skills on to your children) is worth the effort.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACary Zavala (MA, LPC, IMH-E(II)®) is a licensed professional counselor and a skilled parenting educator. Cary is joining with Lenawee Great Start in presenting a series of Parent Education talks during the 2014-2015 year (register here to attend!).

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