NLP for Kids: Changing Behaviors Technique


“How can NLP be used for kids” is a question I often get from people around the world. Before anyone works with children, I do suggest someone takes quality NLP training. It isn’t necessary to take one especially geared towards children, though one should probably not take an NLP course specifically focused on business, for instance, and take NLP training that can be equally used for work or life.

One of the techniques taught in a quality NLP Practitioner course is perceptual positions: the different viewpoints by which we can see the world. An ideal technique in using these different points of perception is called the “New Behavior Generator”. Though it is designed for adults, it works wonderfully on kids as well with some adaptation.

In using NLP for kids, we often work with different age ranges. The way you apply NLP for kids must be age appropriate.

In this adaptation of the “New Behavior Generator” a model needs to be picked (preferably by the kids and otherwise by the coach). A model could be:

  1. A super hero from a movie, animation, comic book or cartoon.
  2. A sports star, someone who the child admires.
  3. Someone in their family or group of friends who they admire and has model behavior.
  4. A teacher or a mentor they admire.
  5. Someone who all kids admire, based on recent popular toys or movies.
  6. A sibling, if the (often older) sibling is admired, and has model behavior in a certain context.
  7. The best version of the child themselves, where they show model behavior or behavior that they are proud of in a certain moment in their life or a certain context.
  8. Many more

Practically any model can be used in NLP for kids, though it is important that they are picked for their behavior.
It is true that certain models have super powers, mastery, or knowledge that the child doesn’t have. This needs to be navigated wisely:

  1. Having the child imagine to have a super power and use this in their mind’s eye in the moment does work.
  2. Suggesting that the child can acquire this mastery through learning and practice.
  3. Teach the child the knowledge or skill first.
  4. Etc.

This can be used for presenting problem behaviors they wish to change, like a child being unable to say no to their friends, what to do when you are being bullied, how to make a new friend in a better way, dealing with anger, etc.

Step 1: The Problem Behavior
Let the child experience a moment where they have a behavior they don’t like (or the parent doesn’t like). It is important that they re-experience this moment either by visualizing it, or by talking about it in a way that they not only feel the emotion, but that they see, hear, and feel that moment again as if it is happening again.
In NLP we use the term “1st perceptual position,” or association, but I wouldn’t mention this to the child.
This is the version of the child where they currently are. Where they feel no other option. You could say to young children, that they are in a bubble in which certain things don’t work and where some behaviors aren’t cool.

Step 2: Learning from the Problem Behavior, Disconnect the Emotion
Step the child out of this place (into another bubble), so they can imagine that they can look at themselves. Like a scientist or a professor who has no emotion, leaving emotion in the previous bubble.
Let the child see or imagine a movie of themselves in this situation. They can see themselves in this movie, in the same context. And by asking age appropriate questions, ask what specifically happened. Like how are they behaving? With their words, their bodies? What is the response of the other kids or adults? What is the result of this behavior? And is that what they want? In NLP we call this the outcome.
In NLP this position is called the third perceptual position, the observer.

Step 3: Learning New Options from a Model
Ask the child to select a model (as mentioned above), or give them a model if they can’t come up with one, or if you feel they are better served with your choice.
The child is replaced inside the “movie” with the chosen mode.
Now, the child is going to imagine the same movie, but starring the mode.
You run the same questioning again. What specifically was the behavior here? Their bodies, their words? What is the response of other kids or adults? What is the result of this behavior? What specifically did the child learn? How was the outcome different?

Step 4: Learning and Adopting New Model Behavior
Let the child “watch” the same movie again, from the same place. Where they child is now using the same model behavior.
Is this something they wish to do?

Step 5: Practicing the New Behavior and Connecting into the New Self
Step back into the first place/bubble where you started at the beginning of this NLP pattern. However, this bubble has an entirely different quality now. You could say it has colors, magic, or power, that it has transformed in some way.
Rehears the new behavior, while looking through their own eyes.
Again explore this. What specifically are the outcomes?

Step 6: Future Pacing
Let the child imagine the future where this behavior is needed again, as if they have an imaginary time machine going into the future. Practice the behavior again.
In NLP we call this a future pace.

  1. What works really well in changing behaviors of kids using this NLP pattern is to use several models.
  2. You could physically act out the behaviors in the first perceptual positions, rather than just imagining it from the mind’s eye.
  3. In order to switch emotions, the NLP practitioners may want to use anchoring, or a circle of excellence (which also lends itself well as a tool for kids).

Please note that they way you talk, and elicit their emotional states, is really important to keep age appropriate, to be a great story teller for children. In Using NLP for kids, especially in changing behaviors, make it playful and fun.


  1. This is the first useful article found in nlp for kids. I’m following a lot the Dilts and Gillighan s 2.0 approach. And thinking how to adapt certain techniques or exercises so that kids will love to do them without feeling forced or confused.
    .the perceptual position one is a good idea.

    I wonder though, if the kid is resistant to play or participate, or face/recall the challenging situation, how would you deal with it?

    Ps: where else can I find nlp for kids application or variations?
    I can make my own one but I’m happy to use what’s already being created or adapted without starting from scratch.

  2. As a coach I have always done things age-appropriate, whether my client is 21 or 51, or 11. With kids you need to make everything very playful, fun, magical, etc. When you do that then it makes a huge difference. Children rarely feel being forced in to playing or confused. I tend to go the route “do you want to know a secret?” Think magic with the brain. Think super heroes. Maybe unglue yourself a little from Dilts, he isn’t really known to teach NLP in a way that it makes you laugh, or say you had fun. Think of how a super hero, a clown, a person a kid loves to spend time with would do very simple versions of NLP.

    If you look for the search function on this blog for things like kids, children etc. I know you can find more articles. The thing is I personally design all my interventions most of the time. And I teach my NLP training students the same. It is rare for me to do techniques like the ones described in this article without tweaking it somehow to make it more custom.