How To Help Your Children When They Are Too Hard On Themselves

Dad in a grey shirt helping his son who is sitting with a football

“I’m so stupid” – “Everyone hates me” – “I’m fat/ugly/useless”

We hear children say these things every day don’t we. Sometimes, it is  simply just a throwaway line, but other times they can be looking for reassurance. Yes, they may be harmless phrases but occasionally this negative self – talk can also be an unhealthy sign of the child thinking the worst of himself and that can lead to something much more serious.

Most times “self – talk” can be very positive, but we all engage in various self – critical behaviours occasionally, and it’s knowing why your child might be being so self – critical, that is important!


Children who are perfectionists can be so hard on themselves that they put themselves under an awful lot of pressure. Sometimes a child may say things like I’m such a horrible child, I deserve to be punished this is usually after they’ve been in trouble for doing something naughty and they want to make the parent feel guilty! They can actually be quite manipulative.

However, in most cases, negative self – talk is an indication of lack of resilience, instead of picking themselves up, when something has worked out the way it should have, and trying again, they tend to just want to give up.

The child who is being bullied

When a child is being verbally bullied, they often start to believe the names they are being called, and it’s hard to convince them that they should ignore these horrid so – called school mates. One mum, whose child I treated for anxiety at my clinic said

“Chloe was being bullied just after she started at secondary school and before long, she started to believe all the things the bullies were saying to her. She would come home in tears every day from school and had trouble sleeping. That was when I got in touch with Elaine at Focus Hypnotherapy and within weeks she was back to her happy self again and had started to ignore the bullies. Of course, once she ignored them it all stopped!”

When should I start to worry?

Negative self – talk, when its simply a couple of isolated instances is no real cause for concern, but it could possibly mean that your child has low self – esteem, anxiety or depression. These are the signs you should be looking for:

  • Is the negative self – talk persistent?
  • Is it impacting on your child’s schoolwork?
  • Is it affecting his or her friendships?
  • Has her eating changed?
  • Has his sleeping altered?
  • Has your child stopped caring about his appearance?
  • Does your child want to laze around in bed all day rather than go out with his or her friends?

What can YOU do as a parent to help your child?

The first thing to do is listen.

Listen to what they are saying and how they are saying it, and how frequently it happens. If the child knows that you won’t just brush their comments aside, they are more likely to confide more in you.

Be realistic when giving them advice. It’s better to say “Yes, going back to school after six weeks summer holidays IS a bit scary but once you’ve been back there for a day, you’ll feel like you have never been away won’t you!” rather than saying they are actually going to be fine and stop worrying!

If YOU are self – critical and say things like “Oh Gosh look how fat I am” and similar…then of course, these type of comments are going to rub off on your child so be aware of your OWN critical talk!

Having a chat with the child’s teacher is a good idea as he or she may have noticed things too! If the behaviour DOES persist, it may be a good idea to get the child some therapy – CBT, Hypnotherapy, or counselling.

At my clinic, I simply use some little hypnotic techniques to help the child be more resilient and have less anxiety. So, if you are worried about your little one (or teenager) do contact us at:

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