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Self Pity In A 10 Year Old Girl

by Apryl H
(Carrollton, GA USA)

My 10 year old daughter has a very prevalent self-pity complex that is steadily growing in her day to day life. She has several issues daily and I am at a loss as to what I can do to help her build her self confidence and finally rid her of this major hurdle before she gets older and it really becomes a social and emotional crutch and permanent fixture of her self and her life!!!

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Build Self Confidence In Children - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Apryl

It is tricky when we see our children exhibiting behavior that we don't think is serving them well. It would be good to have some examples of the kinds of issues she is struggling with, so I can get a bit more insight into what might be happening. So feel free to add more detail via the comments.

I could be wrong here, but my impression is you are feeling a bit irritated with her over this? Labeling it as a self pity complex may not be helping, as she clearly has something going on underneath, and the term self pity suggests she should not be feeling the way she does - as if it is self indulgent?

Believe In Her


When our children have low self esteem, it is our job to believe in them even if they don't yet. If we are frustrated with their way of dealing with issues, then we are simply adding fuel to their story - I'm not good enough, I can't do this properly, no-one believes in me etc.

Self esteem and self belief develop when our kids master things, particularly challenges. If a child gets the message they have not done something "well enough" they stop believing they have abilities.

I am not sure if you can see any patterns in her behavior - is the self pity around social skills - having friends, being liked, being involved? Or is it around taking risks, trying something new, stepping outside her comfort zone? Or is it to do with family dynamics - is she more likely to fall apart when there is conflict with a family member?

Here are some general ideas or things for you to think about.

Firstly, be aware of how you encourage her - Letting her know that you understand she is scared, worried or fearful, but that you know she can do something, even if she doesn't yet have that belief. Encourage her giving things a go, regardless of success, take any emphasis off having to be perfect - learning and testing things out is far more important for growth and learning than actual success. Although in her case, you want to be giving her opportunities for success, that stretch her a little, but not too much that she can't see the possibility for success.

Part Two Follows . . .

Build Self Confidence In Children - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Create Success Activities


Find something in the house that she can be responsible for, for example, she could cook a meal once a week. An eight year old will get a lot of great feedback for feeding the family, plus you can turn it into an activity that is "special" time for you and her.

You can give her a budget and help her look at recipes, take her shopping and let her make the decisions. Make sure your role is adviser when needed, not the boss, or offering criticisms. Show her that you trust her to be the boss of the kitchen for the day and you can be her kitchen slave. The aim is for the experience to be a positive one between you and her, lots of fun, but also she is having success experiences, making decisions and learning along the way.

There may also be a few culinary disasters, but instead of those being something to beat herself up over, they can be learning experiences. So taking a problem solving approach to figuring out what when wrong, and testing it out, rather than I'm no good, I always mess up.

Tapping For Success


You may also find EFT for Kids helpful - EFT, or emotional freedom technique, is a tapping technique that kids can use themselves. You tap out what you don't want, and tap in what you do. So for example, if she doesn't believe she can do something, she can tap through the sequence to clear whatever is underneath - fear of failure, self doubt etc, and then move on to tapping in an affirmation around the issue.

The great thing about EFT, is if you tap along with her, you are also clearing out any of your issues about her, so it has a double effect. Sometimes without meaning too, our concern over our kids actually makes it worse, as we end up reinforcing their beliefs (like she will have this as an emotional crutch when she is older!) One of the great things about using EFT for kids, is they are in the drivers seat, so they have a simple tool they can use in any situation they are finding uncomfortable, rather than being a victim to life.

Part Three Follows . . .

Build Self Confidence In Children - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

A drama class could also be something that she will learn some confidence building skills. Particularly if it is outside of school with a new group of children. Sometimes kids are more likely to try out new behaviors when they are among kids who don't know them.

Use Role Play


Drama also gives her the experience of "being someone else". Imagining what it is like to play roles that are not familiar to her. You can even use that as a technique to expand her thinking when she is getting stuck in "Poor Me". Questions like, What would it feel like if you could do this? Who do you know that can do this, pretend you are her? How would you know when you felt confident, how would you stand, how would you look? Get her to practice being confident and sticking up for herself. Role play, can make a game out of learning a skill that she can put into practice later on.

Feel free to comment back with more details and examples, and I'll try to offer more suggestions.

all the best,
Annie D :)

Just to clarify
by: Apryl H

I may have come off sounding as tho I had given up hope on her. And that is by no means what I meant! I am asking for help because I know she is capable of thriving.

My problem most recently with the situation is that she is having problems at school with some of the other kids. She is so tender hearted and sweet and other kids are picking on her, not bullying, but she comes home in tears at least once a week. My heart breaks for her and I don't know what I can do to help her overcome her self doubt.

Build Self Confidence In Children - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Apryl,
Of course you have not given up on her, or you would not have written to me, so I know how much you care and love her and just want to see her do well.

It does almost sound like she is being bullied, bullying can take more than one form, it is not just the extreme constant harassment by a group or particular child. If she is finding children at school are giving her a hard time, or picking on her, then that is still a form of bullying if it is happening constantly.

However, it can be dis-empowering for a child for Mom to march up to school and find out what their bullying program is or how they are dealing with it. If school is the main problem though, it might be good to talk with her and see if she will agree for you to talk to her teachers about how you and they can help her cope better. There is a lot happening in schools these days, and sometimes teacher's are not always aware of more subtle dynamics of what happens in the playground.

Many kids are super sensitive and find it very hard to build up resilience to peer pressure, or put downs or even general teasing. The techniques I mentioned above, will help her in general to gain confidence, but also finding an area in school where she can feel a bit special, or where she can have some responsibility will help her to feel she has a valued role. Of course it needs to be something she is interested in, but taking care of the nature corner, or sorting the art supplies for example. She can set up some helpers, or a roster or something where she is the leader and taking some responsibility.

It can be hard to have an influence at school as so much happens without us observing, plus we don't call the shots at school!

She is at a sensitive age, kids are testing out power, and the extroverts are more forceful in getting their needs met. The kids that are more introverted like your daughter, take a bit longer to feel confident, particularly in a group situation. She will mostly likely get her strength and resources from time to herself, or with one on one relationships, groups will throw her off center pretty quickly. Extroverts get their energy from being with other people, from lots happening and in groups. So they thrive quicker in a school situation. Make sure she does get enough "down time" to regroup and re-energize.

Her sensitivity will also be one of her strengths, she will be more empathetic, she will be more caring and likely to be more sensitive to others needs. She will develop more robustness in time, but may well have a few challenges along the way.

More Follows . . . .

Build Self Confidence In Children - Part Five
by: Annie Desantis

Helping your daughter to stay centered and focus on her strong points would be a good way to help her build some inner strength. Work with her to develop lists of her best attributes and reinforce those - we are not all outgoing and tough, and we need the soft sensitive people in this world.

Affirmations For Kids


There are some ideas on our positive-affirmations for kids pages that might help - having little tools she can draw on such as taking some deep breaths and in her mind chant little affirmations to herself when she is feeling picked on, all help her to build her inner resources. And affirmations work really well with EFT, to clear out the negative beliefs first.

It is hard as a parent to see our kids struggling, but she will build more internal resources as she gets more success experiences, and has a few tools she can draw on when under pressure. And of course knowing you are on her side, and love and support her will be her rock.

all the best,
Annie D

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