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There are few things that tear at our hearts more than when a child says, “I’m stupid.” At first glance, the following response by a parent seems to be right on track:

“No, you are not stupid. Honey, think of all the things you are good at. How about reading? You’re good at that! And remember how much you improved in baseball last summer? Stupid kids don’t learn how to hit curve balls like you did. And your artwork is wonderful. If you were dumb, would you have been able to learn how to create those drawings with such wonderful, three-dimensional perspectives? I don’t think so.”

Even though this is a well-meaning parent, the approach can inadvertently lend credibility to the child’s “I’m stupid” remark by spending so much time and energy addressing it. If we always do whatever we can to make children feel comfortable and praised, then they will begin to feel like they can’t make it in life without somebody praising them and making them feel comfortable all the time.

Reinforcing a child’s sense of self-esteem is a healthier way to help our kids avoid feeling that they are inadequate or “stupid.” Consider employing a response that avoids unintentionally reinforcing your youngster’s self-deprecating remarks—such as the following:

“Honey, aren’t you glad I don’t believe that!”

When kids make self-deprecating comments, it might be a clue that they are struggling with their sense of self-esteem. At Love and Logic, we have found that chores can be a very effective means of shoring up self-esteem. When kids do their chores as part of their family responsibility, and get them done properly and on time, they will develop a strong sense of self-esteem and accomplishment from contributing to the family.

Thanks for reading!

If this is a benefit, forward it to a friend. Our goal is to help as many families as possible.

Dr. Charles Fay