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Parents of ADHD Children

Negative Self Talk

Does anyone have any suggestion for responding to negative self talk from my 8 year old son. Whenever anything doesn’t go his way he always responds the same exact way…“I hate my life, this is the worst day ever, everything stinks, I hate my life”.  I usually say something like, “wow, those are strong feelings, can you tell me about it”...and then he runs and hides and says he needs alone time.  It is so mentally exhausting and depressing for me to hear those words constantly as it makes me feel as a total failure as a parent….but then I think how he must feel to say those words. HELP!


My 12 year old son does the same thing, and I feel the same way you do.  In January I started taking him to a therapist and she has been working with him on A.N.T.—Automatic Negative Thinking.  If you Google it, I’m sure you will find the strategies or even the book.  It has been helpful.

Posted by redondojen on Mar 24, 2014 at 5:22pm

It is very hard for our kids with ADHD to recognize and appropriately convey their emotions. There are many different programs to use for this, but I like The Zones of Regulation. My son is going to occupational therapy and they use this heavily. We have pages for the zones at home and refer to them whenever my son is struggling. Each week she builds on it. The week after he got his own Zones charts for home, she game him activites to help with each zone (OT things to do when he’s red, or yellow, etc.). Then, last week they began charting the effectiveness of the different activities to narrow down his strategies. It has been really helpful for me son to recognize and address his feelings. If he’s having a hard time, I say, “hey! What zone are you in right now?” Then try to address it.

You can read more about the program here: Also, you can google emotional recognition and see other programs I’m sure.

ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Mar 24, 2014 at 5:36pm

That’s very insightful, KellyL!  Your son is really lucky to have you behind him.  And you are 100% right—the negative self-talk you are hearing may be the tip of the iceberg compared to what he’s thinking, internally.

I am an ADHD Coach working primarily with adults and parents of kids with ADHD, and those ANTs and beliefs are a fundamental part of the work we do, because no matter what tool or system a person is trying to use/implement, success is much less likely if what they’re believing inside tells them they are doomed to fail.  Those ANTs & beliefs make it impossible for us to learn to rely on our strengths and creative problem-solving talents to address our challenges.

So it’s very good that you are on this now, at his young age!  If he’s not working with an ADHD Coach or therapist specializing in ADHD (preferably one who uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), that may be a good place to start.  It’s also important that you know how to help him help himself with this. 

Talking with him about how he doesn’t have to believe his thoughts (he gets to choose) and that he should question those kinds of thoughts is a good place to start.  He can’t replace them with more positive thoughts/beliefs until he understands that he has control over what he allows to stick around!

I wish you both the best of luck and, again, want to commend you on being on top of this!  Go Mom!

Lynne Edris, ACG
Life & ADHD Coach

Posted by ADD_Coach_Lynne on Mar 24, 2014 at 6:04pm

Interesting. Our therapist used the A.N.T.s thing with our DD, too. I think that their self-loathing is part the lack of impulse control. they feel badly and they just go with it.

I no longer engage with my child when she is in that place. I don’t ask her talk more because it just gets worse. I let her calm down in her room, alone, so that she can work out her feelings. Then she is done and feels fine. It is really hard to hear her say she hates herself and I think in time, as she learns to problem solve and she matures, those moments will lessen. We also do lots of positive talk to bolster confidence.

Posted by momodoodle on Mar 24, 2014 at 10:38pm

Our son doesn’t like pep talks as he sometimes seems to need to feel his feelings. He does not want me to talk him out of his feelings - so focusing on being positive and showing him the bright side often has the reverse effect and makes him feel worse. I think he feels like more of a failure when I try that angle, because 1) he doesn’t believe that positive stuff since he’s convinced he is a failure, 2) he feels let down by his own mother, who obviously wants him to be someone he isn’t and 3) he is smart and gets what the technique is intended to do, and he isn’t going to be manipulated that easy!

Lately, our 11-year old responds well when I reflect back to him what he’s expressed to me. It’s so simple it feels like it can’t be helpful. But it is! We all need to be heard.

The other thing that often, but not always, worked for my son when he did more (audible) negative self talk was to divert his attention to something else. His dog, looking through a microscope, playing catch, looking at something beautiful in nature in our yard.

Posted by Rosemary on Mar 25, 2014 at 10:47am

Try playing positive self talk in the background when he is getting ready for the day. You can buy pre-recorded programs at the It really helped my daughters attitude and what she says about herself and everything around her.

Posted by Angelica483 on Mar 30, 2014 at 1:51am

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