Negative talk among kids is a reality that many parents are very familiar with. Still, it’s one of those things that aren’t dealt with properly. When a child says, “I’m dumb,” the automatic response of a protective mom is to console them. There is a more helpful response. You need to understand what your child feels when they talk negatively about themselves. In most situations, this is what your child means when they put themselves down:

“I feel stuck in a bad situation.”

Kids tend to be self-critical when they struggle with something, like math homework or an art project. It’s rarely a realization of a weak trait; it’s more about their tough situation. In these cases, you can help your child by knowing the source of their frustration.

If they can’t understand a lesson in school, you should consider getting help from a private tutor. If they find it hard to complete a project, you can refer to online sources for step-by-step instructions. As you help your kids overcome these challenges, tell them that just because they’re struggling doesn’t mean that they’re stupid. You can also assure them that frustrations are a necessary part of growth or improvement. The earlier that they embrace this truth, the braver they will be in school and life. They will be more optimistic about risks and failures.

“I’m not as good as other kids.”

woman talking to a sad young girl

At an early age, children can already compare themselves to their peers. You will hear them say that their classmates read fast or do well in math and that they can’t help but see their shortcomings. When their weaknesses are magnified, it’s an excellent time to highlight their strengths and shift their focus away from “not being good.” You can start by saying, “I feel terrible when you say that you’re dumb. You’re so good at singing, sketching portraits, and playing volleyball.”

For this reason, it’s crucial to explore your child’s interests and support them. Look for academic institutions that offer special programs for enhancing various talents. Consider sending your kids to an international school. Admission requirements are often posted on websites, so Google away. The bottom line is, when your child dwells on their weaknesses, it’s your cue to emphasize their strengths.

“I feel different.”

When your child repeatedly says “I’m stupid” and they don’t attribute their negative feelings to pending homework or a classmate, it’s possible that they feel out of place because of a medical condition or learning disability. They might be suffering from vision or hearing problems that keep them from studying, playing, or socializing like the other kids.

To know for sure, take your child to a pediatrician and let them have a general checkup. Ask your kid’s teachers about their performance and behavior. At home, observe how they study, complete tasks, and endure assignments. If they have disabilities, some educational therapists can help your child.

Ultimately, don’t disregard your child’s negative self-talk. It might be worth exploring why they’re saying these things. Understand the underlying reasons so that you can help them overcome their struggles.