What This Situation Is Like for Parents

 

You know your child isn’t perfect. But when you hear them saying how bad they are at everything…

…or how ugly they are.

…or how they can never do anything right…

Your heart breaks to see how much your child appears to not like or respect themselves.

And no matter how much you point out your child’s good qualities, they can’t seem to hear you.

 

What This Situation Is Like for Children

 

Although children hear things about themselves that are both positive and negative, for some children it is easier to believe the bad things.

It is easy to find evidence that others are more attractive, or smarter, or better at sports or other activities.

It is easy to think bad things about yourself to avoid being hurt if you are judged or criticized by others.

So when others tell them how great they are, they feel misunderstood and frustrated.

They feel like those people don’t “get it,” and they don’t believe (or even trust) all of the positive things others are telling them. 

 

 

How It Usually Goes

When Your Child Says Bad Things About Themselves

 

Scenario:

Annie’s birthday is coming up and Annie’s mom asks if she wants to plan a birthday party. Annie tells her mom that she doesn’t want one because no one will say yes to her invitation. 

 

Mom: Annie, why do you think that no one would accept your invitation? 

Annie: Mom, I don’t have that many friends.

Mom: Sure you do. Who do you play with at school?

Annie: I play with Sarah sometimes. But when she gets to choose who to hang out with, she always chooses other people. Not me.

Mom: But she still likes you.

Annie: No she doesn’t.

Mom: Well what about our neighbors? You play with them.

Annie: Only when they don’t have their friends from school over. No one chooses me.

Mom: Well are you friendly to them?

Annie: YES. It’s just me. I’m boring.

Mom: You’re not boring! You’re lots of fun. I love playing with you.

Annie: Well you’re my mom. The people my age don’t love playing with me. So the birthday party is stupid and I don’t want to have one.

 

A More Effective Way to Respond

When Your Child Says Bad Things About Themselves

 

Scenario:

Annie’s birthday is coming up and Annie’s mom asks if she wants to plan a birthday party. Annie tells her mom that she doesn’t want one because no one will say yes to her invitation.

 

Mom: Annie, why do you say that no one would accept your invitation? 

Annie: Mom, I don’t have that many friends.

Mom: Sure you do. Who do you play with at school?

Annie: I play with Sarah sometimes. But when she gets to choose people to do things with her, she always chooses other people. Not me.

Mom (although upset, she reminds herself that everything will be OK and speaks calmly): Want to tell me more about that?

 

CALM

Annie’s mom is incredibly sad to hear what Annie is saying. She worries about Annie, but she knows that if she focuses on her own fears rather than being with Annie, the conversation will not go well.

She squeezes her hands together, tells herself she can handle the situation, and focuses on what Annie is saying.  

 

Annie: There’s not much to tell. Sarah doesn’t pick me. I always have to go up to her and ask her to play. Sometimes she says yes, if she’s not busy.

Mom (staying with Annie in her world): That must be hard.

Annie (quietly): Yeah.

Mom: So you play by yourself.

Annie: Yeah.

Mom: And you feel sad.

Annie: Yeah.

CONNECT

Annie’s mom is talking through what is likely Annie’s experience. She knows that even though Annie may feel lonely at school, she doesn’t need to feel lonely with her as well. She respects Annie’s perspective without trying to change it.

If she doesn’t connect with her, Annie will remain in Yuck and will not be open to considering other perspectives.  

 

Mom (keeping her voice neutral and not patronizing): I’m really sorry to hear that, Annie…. Can I give you a hug?

Annie: Yeah. (Annie starts crying. Her mom lets her cry for a few minutes.)

Mom (when she notices Annie is calmer): Annie?

Annie: What?

Mom: What would make you happy to do for your birthday?

Annie: Well I would want some people to celebrate with me.

Mom: OK. Is there any way you could make that happen? You’re in your class every day, not me, so I’d love to hear your perspective. 

Annie: I don’t want to ask my friends from school. But maybe I could ask just one or two neighbors. The ones I usually play with.

Mom: Do you think they’d come?

Annie: They might. Even though they have other friends from school, we do still have fun together.

Mom: Would you like to do that?

Annie: Yes.

CORRECT

To improve Annie’s self-esteem, her mom knows that she needs to empower Annie rather than solving her problem for her. Therefore, she treats her as the expert and lets her come up with the solution.  

 

How to Make In-the-Moment Parenting Work

 

Though Annie’s mom used Calm, Connect, Correct, the “proactive deposits” discussed in the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If your child believes bad things about themselves and you want to help them consider a different perspective, remember:

 

Depositing into CALM

Annie’s mom will not be able to stay calm if

a.) her own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are low (if she feels like Annie’s feelings about herself are a sign that she is a bad mom)

b.) she has the expectation that Annie will always feel good about herself

When she makes sure her own needs are met and sets realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, Nadia’s mom is more likely to be able to stay calm.

See Step 1 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap for help meeting your needs and setting expectations proactively so you can stay calm.

 

Depositing into CONNECT

Annie’s mom will be able to connect if

a.) she respects that all behavior has a reason and

b.) she understands those reasons (in this case, that Annie needs someone to listen to her and respect that her experience is real to her)

When she becomes comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, she will be able to connect more effectively.

See Step 2 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap to learn the reasons for children’s behavior so you can connect more effectively.

 

Depositing into CORRECT

Annie’s mom will be able to correct behavior by offering a tool if

a.) She has demonstrated consistently in the past that she can  help Annie work through her difficulties

b.) She has made enough deposits into Annie’s emotional needs that asking her to find a solution doesn’t cause Annie to resist her suggestions more

When she demonstrates that she means what she says and when she makes deposits into Annie’s emotional needs PROACTIVELY, she will be able to correct Annie’s behavior more effectively.

See Step 3 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap  to learn more about improving your influence so you can correct behavior.