"I hate myself"/"I'm not good at anything" - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 02-09-2011, 08:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Posting this here because I suspect it's related to giftedness somehow.

DD has always been a very confident and outspoken kid. She does quite well with behavior at school, but at home we do have a lot of conflict at times. This is nothing new, as she's always been a challenging kiddo, and by this age (new 7) most of it is not big stuff, just a lot of tone of voice/rudeness concerns and argumentative behavior, or mild issues with her brother. Still, it would be accurate to say that we feel we need to correct her behavior fairly often while she is at home, which is something I worry about sometimes as the atmosphere can get a little negative. (I try really hard to have positive times with her, too.)

Anyway, recently she has been saying things like "I hate myself" and "I'm not good at anything" and "I don't like myself" from time to time. This is very new behavior. Rather than shutting her down with "Don't be silly" or whatever, I try to listen sensitively and ask what she means. She brings up both the fact that she is a slow runner (her recess seems to be all about chase games, which she hates) and the fact that she "gets in trouble all the time" at home. Otherwise, she isn't too specific. When I gently remind her that she is good at lots of things, like reading and math and art, she shrugs that off. Oh, another thing that may be relevant is that another child in her class, who is a year older, is getting pretty darn good at art, which is something that DD sometimes brings up ("X can draw better than I can"). I think it bothers her because "class artist" is kind of her "identity."

I can't tell if she really feels this way about herself (she doesn't act like a child who feels she is inferior, except when this comes up...she is very forthcoming with answers, always has her hand raised, very outgoing) or if she is saying this for some other reason. I wonder if she is noticing her difference and feeling weird about it. We are considering moving her to a gifted magnet school next year, which she recently toured, so for the first time we have talked to her about how she learns differently/more quickly than other kids and how we think school could be a little more exciting and challenging at the other school. She seems pretty positive about the other school and is not resisting the idea of the switch.

Thoughts? FWIW, I am not a big praiser. I really don't believe in empty praise, and I tend to praise mainly for hard work or kind behavior. We have very consciously not made a big thing about her being smart. At times like this I wonder if I have gone too far with that.

ETA that this looks "worse" in print than it "feels" when she is saying it. She isn't crying or visibly upset and she doesn't seem really agitated when she talks this way. It almost seems a bit like she is experimenting with the words, though I'm sure there is a core of some negative emotion that is behind this. Also, she comes out with this at random times, not after being disciplined or anything.

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#2 of 20 Old 02-09-2011, 04:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Nobody? greensad.gif

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#3 of 20 Old 02-09-2011, 05:46 PM
 
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Well, I don't have a kid your DD's age yet, but I kind of WAS that kid, except I WOULD cry and beat myself (there was other stuff going on with me so we'll just leave the overreactions out of it and focus on the attitude) up over stuff. I ended up being that fifth grader reading at a high school level, but kept in the "middle" reading group because I reacted so poorly to not succeeding. I tested into advanced math in junior high (despite having always been in the "middle" group for that as well and therefore being about a year behind the kids in the advanced group in instruction at that point) but was told to register for average-track because "it'd be easy and I'd do well."

 

I'm not sure the praise thing is a huge factor; I was always really sensitive to praise. If I did well at something and got praise for it... it rang hollow because "it was easy." If I tried at something difficult, failed, and was praised for my effort, it rang hollow because I had failed. Because MOST things came easily to me, when something didn't, I'd assume that it was easy and I was just dumb, if that makes any sense whatsoever.

 

Things might just resolve themselves when she's in a community of gifted peers (in retrospect, I think it would have helped me a LOT in the log run), but it could be ugly for a while as she adjusts to the change. Maybe some moms here with older kids have BTDT from a parental perspective. I never got that chance, and kind of wish I had. I had teachers and parents who, with my well-being in mind, I think, sheltered me from challenge because of just the attitude you're describing.

 

I realize this wasn't overly helpful, but I kind of identified with what you described in your daughter.


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#4 of 20 Old 02-09-2011, 07:15 PM
 
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Hopefully some helpful mama will come post and help you out.

No kids here, but like pp, I relate to some of what you say about your daughter.  I was an intensely sensitive kid, and even the slightest tone of voice suggestive of a reprimand would have a severe effect on me, and I would feel like a total failure.  I really took things to heart.  But I rarely showed my emotions regarding this, I was too well controlled for that, so I am quite certain my parents had no clue as to the depth of my sensitivity.  I was at the top of my class all through grade school, and while I didn't struggle academically, I did struggle in my pursuit of an imaginary perfection.  God forbid I should get an A- instead of an A.  Or that a teacher/parent should disapprove of me in some way.

But I grew up in a home which was very competitive, and the schools I went to were very competitive (I don't mean a healthy competition which encourages one to excel, but competition in terms of each kid trying to look better than the other, and teachers setting up unhealthy comparisons between kids, and the inevitable "losers"). 

 

Maybe it's time for a heart to heart with your daughter about society's tendency to make comparisons---which is inherently unfair, because we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses, and we each have our own purposes in life.  Encourage her to value what she does do well, and enjoy it for her own enjoyment and benefit, rather than using her ability to appear better than or out-do someone else.  I wish I had learned at that age to appreciate my abilities and giftedness, rather than using it as a measuring stick against others.  I too was the class artist orngbiggrin.gif.  I still love art, but believe me, I would enjoy it even more and be a better artist now if I had learned early on to enjoy it for the pure pleasure of creation, not as a crutch when I was feeling insecure or needing to feel like I'm better than someone else.

I realize it may be challenging to teach a child about egoism, and about comparing ourselves to others with the intent to appear better/smarter/faster/prettier/whatever than them.  I think its something most adults still struggle with.  Maybe I'm mistaken, but this may be the root of your DD's new insecurities.  Ultimately, a self-confident person can fail miserably at a game of chase, but will still have a wildly great fun time doing so!  Help her learn to share the joy and pleasure of someone else doing well.  It's such a valuable gift to be able to be genuinely happy, rather than threatened, by another person's success. 

Maybe involve her in more "cooperative" type games rather than competitive ones?

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#5 of 20 Old 02-10-2011, 01:54 AM
 
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For a few months now, I have tried to "teach" DS in skills he appears to lack, like understanding social cues, staying on task, managing his emotions etc. My mom pointed out to me that we appear to order DS around a lot by trying to control his behaviour verbally and that it stresses him out. It also appears to us that doing well in school or other social situations appears to take his toll and after a long day, he will explode about nothings, throw food, attack us etc. We had a psych consultation yesterday and the shrink suggested DS appears to work very hard on not getting in trouble in school and with peers, but it is all compensation, not developed skills and that his falling apart is predictable.

Reframing things for myself as "he's doing the best he can with what he's got to work with" has already helped me find more patience (it's hard when he hurts me or goes for his baby sister). For some reason, I needed a real live person and an outsider to tell me this (and that she's a specialist helps as well, I thinkredface.gif).  I feel the more positive attitude really helps. Maybe there is something similar going on with your DD?She may work very hard at holding it in at school, is maturing out of taantrums but it's now coming out in rude and argumentative behaviour at home. And the negativity this creates sends her further into a negative cycle.

 

FWIW, I went to a school with a music specialization (not mine, I was in the language track) and a lot of teachers felt that the the school's focus on music as a subject with grades that could be compared and competed for destroyed some kids' passion for music (not sure they get grades in your DDs school, but obviously they compare). Maybe in the long run she will prefer to keep her art as "hers" to enjoy and explore, maybe with extracurricular classes, but not as something that "part of school", kwim?

 

And it sounds that being at a school where she ia at the top of everything academic without even lifting a finger is creating a very fragile ego and sge needs to get out of there asap...


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#6 of 20 Old 02-10-2011, 03:56 AM
 
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I am about to send my oldest dd off to college. One thing that I've learned by having an almost adult child is, the rest of the world (kids/teens and other adults) will tear our kids down. They will tell our kids they are stupid, slow, ugly, not talented... Our job is to give them enough strength and positive self-esteem to go through life unscathed (or as close to it as possible). If the balance is leaning the way of the outside world, it's time to use your mommy goodness, and start giving more praise. The older your dd gets, the meaner girls/boys/adults get. We have to counteract all of this to end up producing happy teens/young women. 

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#7 of 20 Old 02-10-2011, 04:52 AM
 
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have you read "The Optimistic Child"? I read it as a teacher--prior to having kids--and thought it was quite good and insightful. I have an older edition of it.

 

My students always told me that they left my class at the end of the year feeling better about their skills and potential..

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#8 of 20 Old 02-10-2011, 04:04 PM
 
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I do not have much advice. We have been dealing/dealt with the same thing.

Several thoughts...

This started ramping up around the age of 7.  I do think they achieve a 'bigger' awareness of the world at that time. I think that causes some of this, but obviously not all.

 

We also do not do praise in the sense of random 'good job'. 

 

I have mainly been working on self-esteem, but it is a slow process.

Tammy

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#9 of 20 Old 02-10-2011, 07:24 PM
 
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DD (11) was like that.  She's a raging perfectionist, who often won't try at all so that she won't be dissatisfied with the result.  Up until last month, she was in less than ideal academic environments - good schools, generally good teachers, other high-ability kids.  But I've come to realize that many of her needs were just not being met - all part of this being an outlier thing!   I find DD extremely complicated and multiply layered.  Because she's socially capable, attuned to social norms and adult expectations, successful at school and in extracurriculars, I failed to fully understand how difficult she found school.  She was also very intense and unpleasant at home much of the time.

 

I don't feel like I have a lot of insight to offer you as I'm not feeling as though I've done best by my own kid.  Where I have seen some benefits has been from trying to apply the whole Dweck approach with my fixed mindset child.  Drawing attention to the differences of others - good and bad, and celebrating differences among people seem to have helped broaden her perspective.

 

A question:  what is happening before she says these things?  Is there a discernable pattern?  Is she repeating something she's hearing someone else say?  I ask because I can see either of my kids at that age, who are both great social mimics, repeating those kinds of utterances without really meaning them, but then getting themselves into feeling sorry for themselves when questioned and importance was brought to the subject. 


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#10 of 20 Old 02-10-2011, 07:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks so much for the responses.

The thing is, she has never been a perfectionist. And I don't see perfectionism in her actual behavior, even now. So this is weird. It may be mimickry of something; I don't know. It's coming in tandem with a bunch of complaints about school being boring, all of a sudden. She complained in K but has not complained much at all about 1st until now. She seems as though she is unhappy, I guess. I don't know if this is all related to the idea of the different school or what. greensad.gif

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#11 of 20 Old 02-10-2011, 08:38 PM
 
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Originally Posted by loraxc View Post

Thanks so much for the responses.

The thing is, she has never been a perfectionist. And I don't see perfectionism in her actual behavior, even now. So this is weird. It may be mimickry of something; I don't know. It's coming in tandem with a bunch of complaints about school being boring, all of a sudden. She complained in K but has not complained much at all about 1st until now. She seems as though she is unhappy, I guess. I don't know if this is all related to the idea of the different school or what. greensad.gif



Oh, perfectionism can take a few different forms.  I didn't used to really identify DD as a perfectionist for a long while because she was so careless with so many things.  But that's part of avoidance - don't be careful so you don't have to own the result: I didn't try, so it doesn't reflect what I can actually do.  DD alternates between this slap-it-together approach and meltdowns and tearing paper because it's not right. 

 

At seven, it may be that DD's abilities are not as consistently above demands and so cracks are starting to show, to which she's reacting.   A random example: printing.  At 5, many of the kids in class can't print much, and generally the range of tidiness is pretty narrow.   At 5, most kids aren't paying a lot of attention to or caring about printing.  By 7, some kids are pretty competent printers and some are actually pretty skilled and also good at written expression, plus the curriculum and teacher are increasingly emphasizing printing.  At 7, kids are paying more attention to what other kids are doing and rating themselves against their peers.  It makes sense that this would cause some anxiety and negative self-talk.


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#12 of 20 Old 02-11-2011, 08:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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She is actually a model student, as far as I can see. She has beautiful handwriting and is rarely careless. She also gets right to her work and finishes it quickly and accurately. As far as school goes, she has more traits of the MG high achiever than anything (she tested MG, though she doesn't really "feel" MG to me). However, she isn't happy with the difficulty level of the work--feels it's boring and slow.

Well, there is this: she asked to see her recent report card. I had never showed her her report cards before, but her teacher apparently made a big deal of the fact that they were being assessed. eyesroll.gif She was displeased to see that she did not get straight Es (for Excellent), though she got many, along with many positive comments.

After some further conversation with her, I think this is rooted both in negative cycles with us (greensad.gif) and in increased insecurity about her drawing skill. THAT's where I'm seeing some fear of trying. We've had a few phases like this before. The art is the one area where I may have sometimes overpraised.

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#13 of 20 Old 02-11-2011, 08:43 AM
 
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My DD has a tendency to say things like that about herself.  In her case, it seems clear that she really does feel bad about herself, at least at the time.  This morning, I told her I was reading a thread where people were talking about how to help a kid feel better about herself when she's saying things like "I hate myself" and "I'm not good at anything," and asked her if she had any advice.  She couldn't think of any, but she wanted to know what other people suggested.  I said one suggestion was to talk about how everyone is different, and how that's cool, and how it doesn't really matter who's better or worse at anything.  I asked if she thought that would be helpful, and she said, "No way!"

 

I suggested some other things a parent could do: point out things the kid is good at or things she can do better than other kids; give reasons why the kid might be mistaken about being not good at things; hug the kid and tell her how much you love her and how great you think she is.  DD didn't think any of those things would help.  The only thing she thought might be helpful was the last thing I suggested: giving the kid the chance to practice some things a lot until she's feeling really good about how well she can do them.  DD thought that might help just a little bit.

 

I'm really unsure about how to deal with this.  I feel like I should be giving DD the message that it doesn't matter how she compares to other people, but I also don't feel like I should let her misconceptions about being inferior stand uncorrected.  And it doesn't seem like any approach I take actually works very well anyway.  shrug.gif

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#14 of 20 Old 02-11-2011, 09:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for that interesting perspective! I wonder if I have spent too much time saying "Different people are good at different things, yada yada, example here" and thus unintentionally encouraged comparison. The ironic thing is that LAST year, we were havng the opposite conversation--"I can read really well and So and So can't read at ALL!", which of course I ALSO responded to with "Different people are good at different things, yada yada, example here."

But then, that whole way of talking is such a...grown-up way to talk, right? In reality, the kids are comparing, and life will continue to be full of such comparison. You can say "It doesn't matter," but it DOES matter, to some extent. shrug.gif. And they know that.

Maybe talking more about how what matters is your own satisfaction with yourself?

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#15 of 20 Old 02-11-2011, 09:52 AM
 
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Originally Posted by loraxc View Post

Thanks for that interesting perspective! I wonder if I have spent too much time saying "Different people are good at different things, yada yada, example here" and thus unintentionally encouraged comparison. The ironic thing is that LAST year, we were havng the opposite conversation--"I can read really well and So and So can't read at ALL!", which of course I ALSO responded to with "Different people are good at different things, yada yada, example here."

 

It seems to me that both her comments last year (about So-and-so's weak reading skills) and her comments this year (about her own relative weakness in drawing skills) are all about comparisons. I agree that kids are apt to compare, but I think that it's helpful to shift the focus off comparisons as much as possible and just reassure kids that people are all different -- and that's fine and good. I don't think you have to draw opposite comparisons to correct or displace the comparisons your child is making ... just acknowledge the differences and move on.

 

My response has always been more along the lines of "People's brains in different ways and at different speeds. Some things come more quickly or easily to some people, and some to others." And I've not really given a lot of examples. Just trying to point out that there's a range of learning styles and paces out there, and that's fine -- we don't need to attach value to them or put any energy at all into comparing.

 

Probably easier when homeschooling ...

 

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#16 of 20 Old 02-11-2011, 10:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes, I wonder if I shouldn't have given examples. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I don't actually think she comes to comparison/competition naturally. For instance, she isn't concerned with winning board games and generally prefers cooperative activities, bcause sore losers/obnoxious winners are a turn-off for her. I think it's just all around her, and also the age. Her best friend is very, very competitive/comparative. Also, we live in a city with a huge obsession with its sports teams, and I swear that infects kid culture in an insidious way.

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#17 of 20 Old 02-11-2011, 03:31 PM
 
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Originally Posted by loraxc View Post

But then, that whole way of talking is such a...grown-up way to talk, right? In reality, the kids are comparing, and life will continue to be full of such comparison. You can say "It doesn't matter," but it DOES matter, to some extent. shrug.gif. And they know that.

Maybe talking more about how what matters is your own satisfaction with yourself?


Yeah, that's the problem - it DOES matter, to other people and to my own satisfaction with myself.  Being good at reading is useful.  It's better to be good at reading than not to be good at reading, just like it's better to be brave or kind or able to draw well or able to figure out how to build things.  So it matters whether you're brave, or kind, or a good reader, or whatever.  Doesn't it? 

 

You can say that what matters is whether or not you're satisfied with how brave you are or how well you read - but it's hard to decide how satisfied you ought to be without seeing how you compare to other people.  For one thing, if you don't compare, it's all too easy to make perfection your standard for satisfaction.  When you realize how imperfectly other people actually do things a lot of the time, it's easier to be satisfied with your own less-than-perfect efforts.  And then sometimes comparing shows you that you're actually a lot further from perfection than you might have thought, but it seems useful to know that, doesn't it?  Don't you want to have some idea how much room for improvement you have? 

 

Of course no one is good at everything; everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and there a zillion different things people can be good at.  But if you gave everyone in the world a score for each of those zillion things  - weighted so things like kindness were worth more than things like being able to whistle really well - and added them all up, everyone's strengths and weaknesses wouldn't just even out so the overall scores were all the same, would they?  Wouldn't some people come out with higher scores?  And wouldn't you want to be at least in the top half?  (I personally want to be at least in the top third.)   Don't you want to know enough about how you compare to other people to make a rough guess at what your rank would be?  I know people who say they don't care, or who think everyone's strengths and weaknesses do completely even out so that no one is actually better than anyone else, but I can't help thinking they're lying - to themselves if not to me.  I just can't quite convince myself that it doesn't really matter how I compare to other people, so I'm probably not ever going to do a good job of convincing my daughter it doesn't matter. 

 

 

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#18 of 20 Old 02-12-2011, 11:41 AM
 
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Seconding the recommendation for the Optimistic Child book. It is good.

 

While I understand the impulse to respond with reassurance, I'm wondering if instead it would work better to ask clarifying questions and comments to encourage her to think more critically and realistically. "What would being good at x look like?" "Last year you were able to do x, but now I notice you can do both x and y..." And, then I would encourage the setting of realistic and reasonable goals where she is going to be able to check her progress and see that she's improving or reaching her goals.

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#19 of 20 Old 02-22-2011, 09:24 AM
 
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My son is six and he does the same things.  Saying "I'm stupid" or beating himself up over the tiniest mistakes.  I know this is a quality of giftedness, but it can be really emotionally exhausting on me as a parent!  I surely don't want my child to rake himself over the coals like this all the time!  I'll share what seems to be working for us.  One thing I do is insist that he is in no way "stupid".  He may be struggling with something or frustrated, but he isn't stupid and I tell him that.  I also tell him that whatever it is that he's working on, be it drawing, writing, jumping rope, or whatever skill it is that just set him off, isn't a huge deal.  He doesn't have to get it right the first time.  Focus on learning the process and getting better, don't expect to get it right instantly.  I tell him that things are frustrating for me sometimes, too.  I didn't learn to tie my shoes on my first try and I tried and tried again until I learned.  That really seems to help him a lot.  He has actually been getting a little better about it lately.  I'm goign to check out that Optimistic Child book, too.  That sounds like a good one.  I know all kids are different, so what works for my DS might not work for you, but I thought I'd share anyway!  Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone with my perfectionistic kid!  I always love to read posts like this!

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#20 of 20 Old 03-11-2011, 12:59 PM
 
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Loraxc and others- gosh can't believe I missed this post and just started my own thread that is so similar ("I hate my brain"). Maybe it really is in some way developmental?!? (DS is 6 1/2). I feel like I can relate to everything you are saying about your daughter. I also am not a "praiser" or into making comparisons- partly b/c I think they are so negative, but yet still he seems to exhibit the stuff that I thought I was helping to prevent by not engaging in all this evaluation.

 

At his school they are super careful NOT to talk about evaluation or ranking to the kids, its all about the kids OWN progress. Nevertheless, DS is very aware of everyone's "level" at the things he can see- reading, math, handwriting, PE, art, behavior- even though the adults are so conscientious about not focusing on levels, about kids fluidity in where they are at any given moment, etc.

 

And what also gets me upset is sometimes he'll say, "sister is kind of stupid, isn't she" b/c, at 22mo she makes grammatical mistakes or whatever, normal toddler stuff (obvious she is not stupid :) and actually a lot of the time he gets really excited about seeing her learning and development).

 

I do wonder if he is hearing this voiced sometimes by other kids or something. He is basically media-free so its not coming from kids shows or anything like that. Hmm. Maybe I'll ask him about it at a low-stress moment some time, if other kids are saying this stuff or talking about people being dumb. The teachers did tell me at school that they all "kiss their brains" when they are working hard at math... so maybe that got him thinking of his brain as some sort of entity to be judged outside of himself?


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