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Parents of ADHD Children

How discipline child with low self-esteem

Every time I try to point out things to my son that he promised to do but hasn’t, he calls himself names (I’m stupid, I’m a jerk) and feels sorry for himself. If I need to discipline him due to something of a more serious nature - he just digs deeper into the self-loathing statements. It hurts me to hear him talk this way.  Why can’t he just accept responsibility, fix the pending problem and move on? I worry about all this “I hate myself” talk.

How can I discipline this kid when all he does is hate himself for making mistakes? (He is 14 and on Concerta). And of course, in typical ADHD fashion - he doesn’t learn from his mistakes but rather repeats them. ugh. Any ideas?


I dealt with this with my son.  He is 8.  His therapist suggested that he says:  I had a bad day, I am not a bad person.  Perhaps you could change it up to say:  you made a mistake, it doesn’t make you a bad person.

Good luck!

Posted by cmullen17 on Nov 27, 2013 at 8:23pm

I go through this with my 7 year old.  He’s either the best or the worst, stupidest, everyone hates him, he’s dumb, etc.  it scares me to believe he truly feels this way about himself.  I explain to him that f course those things aren’t true and it makes me sad that he feels that way.  Sometimes I think the more I harp on it, the more he feeds off of it… It’s never easy and I have the same issues if I do reprimand him or even yell, he tells me I’m doing that because I hate him….I don’t have the answers for you, but know you are not alone!!!

Posted by Andrewsmommy on Nov 28, 2013 at 12:44am

Huh, my first therapist told me something similar.

“You have a problem, you are NOT the problem.”

It really stuck with me, I think that was the first major step I took in the road to betterness. Even when at the time I had been missdiagnosed, and it would be a whole year untill I got ADHD diagnosed.

Does he promise to do a lot of things? It’s likely he overhelms himself with promises or tries to do too many things at once. That’s a common problem for us ADHDers that leads to a negative self view.

Posted by Nacho on Nov 28, 2013 at 12:48am

My daughter used to do that a lot, but it has gotten better. When she says things like that a make point of sitting with her and explaining to her that it was a bad choice and she is not a bad person. I learned this from of her therapist to show her that she is in control. Then we talk about what other choices coud she make and what her options are. Then I ask her what do you think you could do next time.  I think going over this each time with the repetition helps, just sort of adding to the routine of these are the steps we take to make it better next time.

Posted by pretty_eyes on Nov 28, 2013 at 7:22am

We go through the same thing all of the time. My 14 y/o ADHD son does the same exact thing to himself. He keeps saying he’s trying to change but whenever we remind him that he has made the same poor choice in the past…he still chooses wrong. Will be watching this thread for some suggestions as to how to deal.

Posted by sammi1966 on Dec 03, 2013 at 7:19pm

I read somewhere in this mag that it takes an ADHDer 10 times longer to build a new habit because things don’t “stick.” It’s frustrating to be this way, and those feelings should be acknowledged, but hating, even though it feels like an emotional release at the time, won’t do any good - we need to learn to love those wild horses (or bees, or whatever untamable creatures they are) in our brains, and tame them. We can learn new habits, it just takes 10 times more patience and/or consciousness.

Fortunately, the ADHD brain is resilient, for the very reason it does forget easily. Stay positive and those feelings of hatred and pain will also be forgotten.

Positive psychology is building new mental habits of optimism. If we shift our focus to see that “it’s not me, it’s this problem,” that helps us not take it personally. Seeing negative events as being single events and not all-pervasive builds mental strength.

Good luck with your guy!

Posted by Kristen Caven on Dec 04, 2013 at 9:20pm

Also, if you think of teaching rather than disciplining, you’ll go much farther. I encourage you to read some books on positive parenting!

Posted by Kristen Caven on Dec 04, 2013 at 9:22pm

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