Nov. 7, 2022

Ask Amy: My Kid Is Really Hard on Himself

Does your kid like to punish himself whenever he performs poorly at something and insist that he's the worst at it? A listener struggles with her son's constant negativity when it comes to his own abilities.

Does your child crumple every time he makes a mistake? Particularly when it's in front of an audience? A listener named Katherine wrote in to say:

My 8-year-old son is very aware of how he performs relative to others. When he is performing “worse” than others he is very hard on himself. He says “I’m the worst” and cries. This comes up most often in sports. He played baseball recently and when he struck out he often cried. (I think the public nature of striking out heightens his distress.)

We try to validate his emotions. We try to encourage and validate his efforts and not the outcome. But nothing seems to work. It’s heart breaking. I don’t want to get into a logical battle with him about him not being the worst! 

A logical battle is indeed not the answer, Amy explains. You're arguing with the default mode network. Redirecting and distracting from the issue will make it easier on both you and your kid.


Fresh Take: Dr. Ned Hallowell on the Newest Science and Essential Strategies for ADHD

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