I am currently struggling with my 9-year old daughter’s negative self-talk. Here’s a common scenario: Julia will be the last one out of the house to get to school. She’ll immediately take her frustration out on herself and call herself “a jerk.” No amount of reassurance helps, and I’ve tried many different techniques from reassurances to affirmations (which I will revisit again with her) to ignoring her behavior (I will not feed the negative self-talk beast).
I want to help my child be kind to herself. Maybe you find yourself – or a mama you know – in a similar situation. It is heartbreaking to see your precious child being so hurtful to her/himself.
Why is my daughter hard on herself? What makes some kids target anger on themselves? In really thinking this through, I believe there are several scenarios at play. I think she is truly disappointed in herself when her choices negatively affect those around her. She’s a noticer, a feeler and has a strong sense of empathy. Yet she hasn’t quite mastered how to pause and breathe before getting angry (let’s be honest, who has?!). She has perfectionist tendencies (like her mama) which lead to frustration when she falls short of what she has idealized in her mind. She doesn’t like to be rushed. Ever. She’s fiercely independent and likes to be her own boss (I am reassured by Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, as Julia has many of the qualities of a true leader). She’s especially responsive to structure and a good night’s sleep. If either of these things is off, she’s off.
In researching this topic, I read that a child can often “present you with facts in the most attention grabbing way possible.” I take this as a lesson that I need to listen to the message beyond Julia’s anger while downplaying the attention-seeking tendencies. Meaning, I want her to feel seen, heard and understood without having to resort to anger to get that attention.
At the end of the day, we all have the same goal: to help empower our kids to believe in themselves and build self-love and self-kindness. As I process this struggle through this post, I find comfort in knowing that I can continue to show Julia that anger is normal and okay. I can teach her how to breathe. I can reinforce structure around bedtimes. I can show her that I see her pain, that I see her and love her unconditionally. That she is enough and is worthy (putting Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU on our summer reading list). That we will work through this together, that I believe in her, that I am here. That we are growing together.
Julia, I see you. I see your inner gifts. I marvel at your soul. I am so proud to call you my daughter. The world is so lucky. I love you.
And I take this moment to remind myself, “Trying to do it all and expecting that it all can be done exactly right is a recipe for disappointment. Perfection is the enemy,” Sheryl Sandberg. But that’s a whole different post!