What Should I Do When My Child Says ‘I’m Just No Good’?
"I'm no good.."
One day during on of our homework sessions, my daughter suddenly put her pencil down and muttered under her breath, “I’m just no good.”
It was said so matter-of- factly, I was quite shocked. A lot of things went through my mind and I had wondered if I had been too much of a Tiger Mom lately. She was having trouble doing her maths homework and I was exasperated wondering if she was paying attention in class.
When I got over my temporary shock, my immediate reaction was, “Why would you say that about yourself!” And with that the conversation ended because not only did it make her comment sound absurd, I said it as a statement. I wasn’t really asking.
How Should I React?
Mark Griffin : It’s critical to acknowledge that your child feels like he’s not measuring up. You don’t want to just brush his concerns away or simply tell him that you think he’s smart. He knows you’ll say that because you’re his parent and love him. It’s your job! He needs to hear about his strengths and to feel you have concrete reasons to believe he’ll be successful.
To me it was important to find out if being “no good” reflects what she truly feel of herself. Was she just frustrated by a difficult task? Could she be repeating an insult she heard from school? I wanted to know.
What Can I Do?
After she had napped and was more calm, I broached the topic and asked her why she thought she was no good. I asked if it was because she was frustrated because she was having difficulty with her maths homework.
Two things happened after that. She understood her frustration better and we both acknowledge her frustration stemmed from her Maths homework. It also reassured her that I was supportive and understood what she was feeling. I was on her side – and for a 5 year old that can be big deal, especially when they are still learning to manage and express their emotions.
By asking, I am allowing her to explain why she’s feeling that way. Sometimes I would ask questions as a way for her discover her own truths and come to a positive conclusion.
Annie Fox: Ask what your child means by the word “dumb.” It might not mean the same to him as it does to you. Once you get clearer on his meaning, ask: “What just happened that made you feel ‘dumb’?” Calm, respectful, open-ended questioning will put your child at ease and allow him to speak from the heart.
Remember not underestimate the power of reassurance and reinforcing their other talents and skills even if they are feeling down about a current one. I try to explain that while things are hard and she may struggle, it doesn’t mean she is no good or dumb. Shower them with praises and encouragement.
What to Avoid Doing?
- Avoid talking about how you handled it, keep the focus on them and how they are feeling
- Avoid telling them that whatever they are facing is no big deal because this usually backfires
- Avoid taking it it personally. They are just your child’s feelings.
- Avoid being judgmental
- Avoid trying to turn them into something they are not
Other Things You Can Do
As parents, we are the first ones to offer emotional support our children. But there are many other people who can help your child when he has negative feelings or faces some self-esteem issues. A close Aunt or someone they look up to can sometimes offer their support as well.
Don’t let your own anxiety about your child interfere. Instead, listen without criticism. Stand by them.
If you think there is a deeper reason for their negativity and in need of professional evaluation, here is a directory of counselling services in Selangor and KL.