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5 year old and negative self talk

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Dr. Laura,

Recently (twice in the last week) my 5 1/2 year old daughter has started with horribly negative self-talk, and I want to make sure that I am on the right track with my replies, and find out what I can do better. I don't think I have seen this on your page yet.

One day last week, I was picking her up from school. We were walking home and I asked if she remembered her new shoes. She looked at me, face crumpled, and said 'I forgot them, I'm the stupidest girl in the whole world'. I was devastated because I have tried to be very careful with all the words we use with ourselves and other people to make sure that we aren't saying things like 'stupid'. I quickly gave her hugs and reminded her that 'we all make mistakes, the shoes will be there tomorrow' and that it 'doesn't mean you are stupid, you are just a little girl who forgot her shoes'. Then on the weekend, I suggested that we have french toast for dinner. She decided she wanted something else, and b/c I wanted french toast, I made her what she wanted, and I had what I wanted. When she finished hers, she decided she was upset that she hadn't picked the french toast after all, started to cry, and declared 'I wish I were dead'. Once again, I was calm, talked about how sometimes it's hard when we choose something and then feel that we made the wrong choice, gave her hugs and so on.

I have no idea where these comments are coming from that she is making, and it's really hard seeing your child say things like that (it breaks my heart). I am trying to include in our day to day life more examples of when I have made a mistake (so she sees that adults make mistakes too), and more actively make comments like 'everyone is learning', and 'sometimes it's hard when something is new, but practising can make it easier'. It sounds like I should be keeping an eye out for 'perfectionist' tendencies, but if you have any other suggestions, I would love to hear them.

Thank you,


Dear Sunshine,

How heartbreaking. Your answers sound great to me. And your ability to stay calm is a huge gift to your daughter. The conversations about mistakes are a great idea. I wonder if something is going on at school that is making her doubt herself? Also, you may want to get your hands on Tamar Chansky's book, Freeing Your Child From Negative Thinking. Good luck to you!

Dr. Laura

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