Seeking Advice on 5 Year Old Daughter Who Is down on Herself

Updated on July 12, 2008
M.T. asks from Crosby, TX
26 answers

I have a 5 year old daughter who will start kindergarten this fall. She just recently started telling me she hates herself. She thinks she's ugly, and she wishes she doesn't exsist. I have suggested playing games & other activities only to hear her response of, "I hate that.". I don't know where she is getting this. My husband & I dont talk like that & her only sibbling is one. I monitor what she watches on tv & don't allow even PG at this point. I know that she has shown signs of jealously after her sister was born but could that result in this? How do I handle this without turning it into a bigger thing in her eyes? Is this normal behavior for a five year old? I have lost sleep over this & am worried she will become depressesd as depression runs in my family. I just didnt think I would have to deal with it so soon. Any advise would be greatly appreiciated.
THANKS,
M.

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K.B.

answers from Houston on

M.-

I have the same problem with my 4 year old daughter. She will say "I'm not smart", "I can't do anything right" and the worst was the first time I heard her say "I don't like me". I couldn't believe I had heard her right.

Here's what I have done and so far it seems to be working. First of all I praise, praise, praise her for every little thing she does. When she has helped me with the baby or helped me clean up I make a big deal out of it and tell her I don't know what I would do without her and that I couldn't have done it without her help. Throughout the day when I have a moment with her I tell her I have a secret for her and then whisper in her ear how much I love her or tell her how beautiful she is or how smart, etc. At bedtime I always remind her of something that she did that made me particularly happy or proud of her that day. I am also trying to get her to tell me something that she is proud of herself for as well.

Good Luck,
K.

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D.G.

answers from Houston on

Besides talking to a professional to rule out a serious problem, you could try involving her in some activities with other kiddos her age to build self-esteem. I've heard great things about karate classes (taking shy kids out of their shell and making them more confident), or you could try a team sport like T-ball or soccer. HTH.

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M.L.

answers from Houston on

Maybe try finding a hobby or educational area (like space or knowing a lot about animals) that she would like or excel at..something just for her to do. Take her by herself (no sibling if possible) to stores or a facility that allows her to excel in the area and allow her to have one on one time with mom/dad. Once she gets immersed she can see herself as an "expert." This may help her see that she is doing great at something. Asking her inquiring questions or advice in this area will help reinforce the fact that she has something to offer.

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W.C.

answers from San Antonio on

My 3 year old daughter does this too. She gets so down on herself all the time and it just breaks my heart. I have figured out that she is not mirroring TV, she is mirroring ME! I constantly put myself down just in passing and rarely ever seriously, but I guess she doesn't know that I'm joking.
I've stopped doiing putting myself down and started being a better example. I don't make a big deal about it when she says things like that though. I just tell her that we love her and it makes us sad for her to talk that way about someone we love. I don't want her to do it for attention, either. Also, I have found that when she has things to do around the house (chores), she is much happier. She feels like an important part of the family. My daughter, makes her own bed and picks up her toys. When we had animals, she would feed them as well, now she helps me with dinner. This has really helped with her self esteem. Girls want to be like their mommies. Make sure you are modeling what you want her to be.

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G.K.

answers from Austin on

Someone is feeling left out and it's probably related to her new sister. It doesn't mean that she doesn't love her sister and it is normal for a 5 year old to experience this after being an only child because all of a sudden she's not the one in the spotlight all the time.
Try getting someone to watch the younger one while you have some alone time with your 5 year old. Could be as simple as going to the park in the evening. I recently saw an article about several places that offer cooking classes for youngsters. I have no idea how much they cost but I know that my granddaughters (same age) love to cook (they are the chefs and we are the sous chefs). Maybe the two of you could go somewhere for a "makeover". I think that if you can manage at least one time a week for this type of thing, she'll start feeling better.
I don't know how much she's involved in the care of the little one, but that might be something else that would help boost her self esteem. Start out with her just helping you with little things with her little sister and figure out things that she can "take charge of" and handle by herself. (I always hid nearby to keep a watchful eye at first.) She may go through a bossy phase with the younger one at first (inevitable) but will, eventually, start helping out of the blue.
Starting school could also be worrysome to her but she will probably adjust quickly.
Next time you're losing sleep over this, sneak into her room, give her a peck on the cheek and whisper "I love you". It'll make both of you feel good.

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A.H.

answers from Houston on

Hi M.,

My husband and I have depression on both sides and we have a son who is now nine and he really struggles with negative thoughts, not only about himself, but life in general.

I try to teach him to battle against that "stinkin' thinkin'. I try to educate him about cognitive therapy as I believe that it is affective in battling that predisposition to depression.

It is sad and scarey to realize when our children are struggling, but we can teach them how to cope. My son knows that he has to fight to have a good attitude about himself and life. I think that telling him too that he is not alone in having negative thoughts and that lots of kids and adults have to fight that tendency helps. Just knowing that you are not alone in your struggles helps you to try to overcome and gives you hope. I try to encourage my son to overcome so he can help others with the same problem to overcome. That seems to help him get out of himself and his negative thinking and into a more positive mindset.

It is a battle that we just have to help them with.

Hope this helps.

There with you,
A.

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N.A.

answers from Houston on

Dear M.,

From personal experience, I can tell you that you and your husband and dear daughter can each be totally freed from depression... forever. This is your God-given right, regardless of hereditary issues. A life full of love, happiness, meaning and clear purpose is meant for each of you. Cut and paste the link below from spirituality.com to read stories about many people freed from similar situations. Your daughter can be free to be the happy, loved and loving little girl she is meant to be. Her true Father and Mother is God, who loves her unconditionally, and she needs to know that. Tell her. Even if you don't believe it yet, because it is true.

http://www.spirituality.com/framework/search_redirect.jht...

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A.C.

answers from Waco on

As a mother with a daughter who is only 9 who suffers from severe anxiety disorders, depression and mild OCD, get your daughter professional help. She had always displayed signs of anxiety, pretty much since birth, but when she was 6 started showing strong signs of depression and had a little nervous break down. She also had said many times she hated herself and we tried to change her thoughts by being super positive. We decided to seek help when she told us she just wanted to die and put her little hands around her throat. Those are things she had also never saw in our home and we had always told her just how wonderful of a child she was/is. Sometimes there is just something going on in their little minds that we as parents can't fix and needs to be addressed by professionals. I can honestly say I know exactly how you are feeling right at this moment, helpless, afraid and sad. Anxiety and depression also runs deep on both sides of our family and it does repeat it's self. My prayers are with you and your little one. Just please get her help while things are still on the mild side and may not have to be treated with medications like my daughter. you don't have to tell her where it is from, but please give your little girl a great big hug from our family.

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K.K.

answers from Killeen on

Does your daughter play with anyone outside the home? Are they teasing her or calling her names? kids can be awfully harsh about any differences at this age. And sometimes it's just about being able to form groups that don't include someone cause they can. I personally have dealt this multiple times in my oldest dughter's school experience. In some cases my daughter was excluded and in some cases others were excluded. I explained to my daughter to remember how it felt when she was the one excluded and to stand up and tell the others it's wrong to exclude kids for any reason.

But, regardless. If your daughter is taking this stuff to heart you need to talk to her and tell her that she is perfect in her own special way. You need to allow her tell you her feelings in a space that is all hers, no sibling rivalry, no worries about punishment for what she has to say. If she can't express herself to you perhaps it's time to seek some therapy to work on her self esteem before she sinks into further depression requiring medication or needing more drastic intervention.

Good Luck!!! ;-)

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G.W.

answers from Odessa on

I agree that first you ban the word hate in the house. We always had a list of things not allowed..."stupid, hate, etc".
Second, she is probably saying it cuz everyone oohs & ahhs over the 1 yr old. When she says that ask her "do you think me or daddy are ugly?" of course she will say no. then tell her that she looks just like you or dad so HOW can she be ugly? I like the concept of God doesn't make anyone ugly but at 5, God is a hard idea to grasp. I had the opposite problem with my daughter everyone told her how beautiful she is! Luckily she takes it for granted and is not smug about it. Also at 5 give her some vitamins and tell her they are her "pretty pills" and then show her every morning when she gets dressed how pretty her eyes are that day or her hair .... wow those pills must be working. When someone praises the baby in front of her, be sure to say "thanks, she looks just like her older sister or she wouldn't be so cute without her sister. Give her credit for the good things about her sibling" One thing my daughter was upset about was that we alway told stories about her older brother and she wanted to hear about what she was like as a baby. I always had to tell her about how she got her name & what it was like to first see her. Also just know that some children are more needy than others. I think back and I think I was one of those kids. I never felt good enough. Now that I'm older I think I just needed extra reassurance. Good luck.

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L.H.

answers from Killeen on

Hi M.,
i think the best and only thing you can do is get her to a childerns counsler asap this is not at all noral for a 5 yr old please get her some help
my prayers L.

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P.P.

answers from Houston on

STart praising your daughters attributes. Let her know constantly that you Love her, and when you have to take care of the baby, then explain to her what you are doing, and how when you have children you have to take care of them so they will grow up healthy. Most of all pray for them and with them.

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R.N.

answers from Beaumont on

Dear M.,

I am not a Child Psychologist; but, were it me in your shoes, I would RUN for help. Your precious child will be in school soon. She has to be up to the norm in the classroom. It will be more bad news if she persues her present attitude.

Call your doctor immediately !

Best wishes. God bless.

R.

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R.L.

answers from Houston on

This is definitely not normal behavior. I would talk to her pediatrician or nurse to see what she thinks may be the problem. You also may want to consider a child psychologist or psychiatrist. This is an obvious warning sign and you definitely don't want to ignore it. If you can find out where she is getting these ideas, it may help. Most likely it's from other children.

Finding a hobby that helps her feel good about herself may help. Like a musical instrument, dance class, karate, gymnastics or another sport.

Also I would definitely make a rule that there will be no negative talk in the house. Make her look in the mirror and point out 5 things that she likes about herself. Help her list things that she likes or things that she is good at.

If what you try on your own doesn't help, then seek professional help that is what they are there for.

One note about childhood depression, it usually manifests more as anger than sadness, so hopefully it's not depression and something she can learn to get over.

Good luck!

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K.C.

answers from Houston on

one this you can do is to get rid of the "hate" word in your house. I have 2 step teens, one almost 12, one 7, and one 5 year old and none of them are allowed to say "hate" in the house. I had problems with my older daughter that is almost 12 when she was younger saying that she hated herself and everything. With that I was totally going crazy. I ended up not allowing that word and replaced it with "dont like". With in a few weeks her saying that she hated herself changed with alittle help with praises of us saying all the things that she was doing great, how pretty she was, and how when she helped people that it just showed how pretty she was with her enter beauty. Positive thinking works wonders when children get down on them selves.
As of the other daughter this may have something to do with her because she now has to share mommy and daddy. But it will never go away :) sisterly rivory but they will one day get along. Right now your oldest my be feeling alittle out of place because your other daughter requires more of your time.

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J.W.

answers from Austin on

Hi M.,

No, this is not "normal" behavior at any age. PLEASE get your daughter professional help. You said it yourself--depression runs in your family. It would be a great service to get her started in a counseling program before she begins kindergarten, and then perhaps the school counselor could reinforce what your child's psychologist/psychiatrist suggests (if appropriate, and if the school counselor is committed to helping).

You might begin with a referral from you daughter's pediatrician so your health insurance might pay. However, I feel that other parents in similar situations are the best resource, because oftentimes doctors refer to each other without really knowing if the other doctor is any good. Maybe the school counselor, the school’s educational diagnostician, or the school’s behavior management specialist (oftentimes for children in special education) would be other good resources.

You are fortunate that your daughter is actually verbalizing how she is feeling. She is fortunate to have a mother who is paying attention. She is depending on you and trusting you to get her help. Please take her comments seriously.

Check out these sites:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2003-03/wuso-idi03...
http://www.webmd.com/depression/childhood-depression

Bless you, your daughter, and good luck! jenifer

T.C.

answers from Austin on

I agree with everyone who says to talk to a pediatrician or psychologist. You don't have to worry about medication yet, from what I know they usually try counseling and talking for several months before considering other options. Just watch what you say when your daughter is in the room, she may be listening more than you think.

If she says she hates certain games or activities, you can try to have her help plan the activities for the day. Or introduce a concept of not liking something "just today", giving an opening for her to change her mind tomorrow.

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K.W.

answers from Corpus Christi on

I've sufferred with self esteem issues my whole life, so I am trying so hard to make sure my kids don't have to go thru that. What I do is let my step daughter help me with everything. Sure, it makes things take longer, but I can see immediately in her face how good it makes her feel about herself. I always make sure I thank her for being so helpful and tell her how proud I am of her. Then I make sure I compliment her to her daddy, my mom, etc when she is around so she sees me telling other people how good and helpful she is. She just beams when I do this. For me its about building her self esteem and making sure she always knows that I love her, especially now that her dad and I are expecting our first child together, I want to make sure she never feels second best.

I would be concerned about who your daughter is playing with, or around when she is not with you. She is getting this from somewhere, and it makes me wonder if someone is bullying her or if there is someone else in your family that she hears this kind of talk from.

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D.B.

answers from Houston on

I will be happy to send you a free packet of childhood sibling rivalry and self-esteem tip sheets and articles if you reply with your address or call me. ###-###-####. Signs of self-hatred, anxiety, anger, and depression in a five year old are to be taken seriously. While sibling rivalry may play a part in this, a qualified play therapist/family therapist will assist her---and you---greatly. Get your family in the process of this being handled NOW, before August 25th rolls around and she's faced with a whole room of strange kids to compare herself to. Tell your pediatrician or take her in for an eval with the ped and get referrals. If you live in Houston anywhere near the Braeswood area, I would have you call the counseling center at the Jewish Family Services. They are open to the public and used to have a wonderful play therapy area and caring, quality staff. I took my niece there with me at four years old after the death of my sister, her mother. Sliding scale option. There are many others.

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M.D.

answers from Houston on

Poor thing. I can't stand to see my daughters little heart breaking either. Maybe you can try a girls day out, just the two of you. Go out to have lunch, maybe get your nails done and take her to buy a little outfit. Maybe if she has a day all to herself where you and her pamper each other, she will feel good about herself. I know my daughter just loves to get her nails done even though they have no length to them at all. And what little girl does not like going for a new shirt? Also, if she likes to dance or sing or draw, you can set up a little station just for her. It can be where she goes to perform for mom, dad and sister. She can even put up her drawings and see how good she gets over time. It makes me sad to think that a little 5 year old feels bad about herself, but maybe its something that another kid said to her? Just talk to her too, all the time. Keep that open communication going between you and her cause that will be the key as she gets older. Maybe she is just very upset over what triggered these feelings now, but she will eventually want to share this with you if she knows you really care to want to know what is bothering you.

Good luck!!!! And don't ever forget the big hugs and kisses.

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S.H.

answers from Houston on

Hi M., I think all these suggestions are really great specially the do not use "hate" in the house. Maybe a kid told her she was ugly or something you know kids are in that age. I have a 6 year old that tried putting her self ona diet. Seriously. She would say she was fat and she woudl tell me she can only eat salads and drink water. My daughter is very slim and petite, but later I found out that at school they were teasing another girl at school so it got in her head. It lasted maybe for 2 weeks then nobody said anything about it and she either forgot or didnt care anymore. Just ket her know how much you love her and how beautiful she is as much as you can. Let her know God created her beautiful the way she is and that she is a beutiful Princess. You should go and get her those little lip glosses and little girly things I know they love that! Have you ever took her to Libby Lu's? OMG she will love it!
Good Luck with your Princess:)

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D.M.

answers from Austin on

I'm am sorry to hear your daughter is feeling so down on herself, maybe on the weekends one of the days can be designated as your daughters special day all day since I'm sure the one yr old is needing a lot of care during the week. Soccerzone has some great weekend classes, or a dance class might make her feel special with a special outfit she chooses at the store, or at the mall or Coffee shop chatting time, She is probably feeling the pressure of loosing your attention even more now that she will be going to school all day soon, if you make some ritual special time and activities that she can looked forward to with your full attention this might greatly help. I don't know if you have parks in your area but you, could make a day of it starting at the park,dance/soccer,and a special lunch out with you. I like to garage sale shopping on Saturdays too and this is an inexpensive way to window shop and look at different garage sales and get something small with a buck or two. I would start the ritual now and continue into her Kindergarten year because she will miss you terribly while shes at school and have pressures adjusting to all the potential social situations and new learning.
Hope this helps I am sure your daughter is very special she justs needs a boost (:
Teacher of 6 yrs. K-2 and mom of 2 3yr olds

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M.K.

answers from San Antonio on

Hi M.,

This is important to address before your daughter makes it a habit behavior. Also, you and your husband may not say things like this, but what are you displaying? This is not a criticism, I just know that children will mimic what they see more than what they hear. If either of you are A-type personalities, driven to succeed (which is not bad)your daughter may feel the same pressure you are feeling, and not be able to cope as adults are.

Try spending quality time with her alone every so often. Also, inconspicuously teach her to make positive self-statements about who she is and what she can do. This self-talk is a very important skill she will carry into adulthood.

It sounds like she may be very bright and possibly a perfectionist and is afraid of failing and so will not try new things unless she is assured of success. By saying negative things about herself, she is giving herself a reason not to try to do whatever it is she is afraid to do.

Most importantly, if this continues and is just not a way of getting your attention, seek professional help. Your child's psyche is so important.

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L.B.

answers from Corpus Christi on

My very first impression is have at least one day a week if possible with a one on one day trip out lunch, shopping etc. with your child let her know that she is important to you and special. She is the BIG SISTER. And you first and very special little girl. She is feeling lost right now and not sure how she fits in, let her know. Have those days together just the two of you. This is something that both of mine had with either husband or myself and they both remember it now. They are both adults now and that makes me feel that I did do something right at the time.

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S.O.

answers from Houston on

M.,
You are right to be concerned. This is not normal. Get her some help, it maybe just some counseling will help. Make sure she grows up close to Jesus. Bible studies let children know that God loves them the way they are and that God made them the way they are. I would praise her as much as you can and maybe do some one on one time with her. Bless her and bless you. I'm sorry.

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S.R.

answers from Houston on

Wow, this broke my heart when I read it. I thought to myself, "She is only 5." It is imperative that you reverse the curse. I agree with Norma that generational curses are very real and you stated that your family suffers from depression. But the devil is a liar. You take the word and feed it to her. Take Song of Solomon and tell her how beautiful she is. Let her know that she is wonderfully made. The important thing is to keep communication open and reassure her. Let her know that not only is she beautiful on the outside but being the sweet, smart, good-hearted person that she is on the inside only enhances that beauty even more. Let her know that is a double threat because she is beautiful inside out. Don't let her "speak" that about herself, you call it out ALOUD as the lie that it is and get her to the point that she doesn't speak that way about anything but especially herself. May she fully know that she is beautiful and may God's love overtake her.

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