View Full Version : When your child thinks they are stupid.

03-10-2011, 09:00 PM
What does one do?

I was thinking a while here because of the personal passions thread.

I dont know that I am in some kind of unique situation.

My DD OFTEN comments that she thinks she is just so stupid.

This is clearly not the case of course. I always tell her to compare herself to her peers and not to me. Granted, I dont think this has ever worked very well no matter how much I talk to her about it.

I grew up being tested for IQ and gifted etc... being that way was very lonely. It still is even to this day. I DO try to foster the idea in DD's mind that being strange and weird is fun. We always have a good laugh at it. I have always made sure to not make mention of learning disabilities or "giftedness" so that she didnt feel strange on that front either.

Anyway, I just stopped to think, what if she does have the problem of being gifted and I just dont realize it because I am her mother and her teacher. Then I started thinking about it more and you know what... how could I have missed the signs. I am not sure though.. Just as a normal parent knows their child is where they are supposed to be, a gifted parent thinks their child is where they are supposed to be. Thats a bad analogy.

Most of all how on Earth can I get her to stop comparing herself to me?

I am blathering on, yes, I know. My heart was just so deeply struck by all the pain the giftedness may bring her for entire life and I wish I could.. change or stop it. I dont want her to live in the trapped mind and soul that I do. Really though, what can I do to change the outcome. Not very much.

This is a ridiculous post I will end up regretting in an hour. I am just so heartbroken for my baby girl.

Stella M
03-10-2011, 09:14 PM
Comparisons are hard. My middle dd doesn't compare herself to me but she does compare herself to her older sister - for the longest time she wouldn't draw 'because Emily does it better', she won't study history 'because Emily's so good at it' etc etc.

Lately it's gotten better - I think she is starting to see they both have strengths and weaknesses and re-engaging with some of her sisters strengths in her own way eg map-making and fashion design instead of drawing and painting.

Giftedness is hard - I was never into labels either but I do wonder sometimes if I had gone down that route whether my eldest would now have friends who were also gifted and understood things like caring about European history instead of shopping.

If you think your eldest may be gifted, could you have her assessed by an educational psychologist ? Gifted children have special needs and a label might help you identify what she needs.

Why does she think she is stupid ? What exactly is she comparing herself to ?

03-10-2011, 09:24 PM
I see this with one of my sons, who, sadly, reminds me so much of dh and will probably suffer from mild depression just like him too. No answers. Just... oy.

Is she a perfectionist? Perfectionist kids are, IMO, by far the hardest to teach and it often stems from a feeling that they're stupid or not good enough.

03-10-2011, 09:30 PM
Nick does this. If he is struggling a little with something, sometimes he will say "I'm stupid". Then I point out all the very smart things he can do and how easily he learned them. And often, at least once/week I have to remind him that he's not supposed to know this stuff yet and that is why we are working on it. I say "if you already knew it we wouldn't need to do school at all". He is hard on himself if he doesn't get worksheets right but I have to keep telling him they are practice sheets, not tests. He's a pretty intense kid though. I really try to praise him a lot when he does good work.

03-10-2011, 09:32 PM
Brenda, a couple of thoughts. first of all, I also grew up gifted and found it at times to be a curse - esp since my sister was always compared negatively to me. I was lucky enough to get in to a gifted program in the public high school, where i found peers. I'm thinking of your comment "all the pain the giftedness may bring her for entire life" - i wonder if to some extent you are confounding the pain brought to you from your giftedness with the pain brought to you by your upbringing. I dont think most gifted people see their giftedness in quite such a negative light. I have struggled to accept it as just something else about me, not a blessing or a curse . . . like being blonde or being short. Its just a trait i have (ok, i'm also probably not as gifted as you are).

Second - what things spur your daughter to say "i'm stupid"? Is it when she gets something wrong? Is it when she doesnt understand what you are talking about? I dont even try to say 'dont compare yourself to me' as much as try to keep me out of the conversation. I mean, its not easy. I've been biting my tongue over the fact that I've struggled for almost 2 years to teach math to my son which I did as independent study over the summer right after I turned 13. But when he says he's terrible at math, I say "You have come so far! Remember, you cried when you looked at that problem, and then you got it right all by yourself! You can do this! We will get there!"

And of course, the other issue is that kids who are told they are good at something - often think that their success is only due to their intellegence, so when something becomes hard, they think they are now stupid. So I also emphasize to my kids that being 'smart' doesnt get you anywhere if you dont work hard at things. Its the effort that will get you there, not raw talent. You have to make it clear to them that they are smart enough to do whatever they want, and that its more important to learn to apply yourself than it is to get it right the first time.

Ok, off my pedestal for the moment . . .

Stella M
03-10-2011, 09:34 PM
Agreeing - perfectionism is a curse! Why don't I have my driver's license ? Because I failed the test ONCE and was so mortified I never went back.

I think with perfectionism, modelling is helpful. You know, pointing out when your own efforts have been less than perfect and talking them through your feelings about that, how you feel bad but it's not the end of the world, how you might try again next time etc. Talking about what you have learnt from the times you failed and how that helped you succeed next time. doing/trying things that you yourself are hopeless at and let them see you try it anyway.

Actually, we struggle with this with ds as well. he doesn't want to take any classes b/c 'he doesn't know how to do it yet'. I've tried explaining that the point of going to dance class or whatever is to learn how to do it. Ok, that's irrelevant Brenda's question.

03-10-2011, 09:36 PM
My daughter does this, too. I think girls tend to compare themselves more than boys do, though not having a 'normal' boy, I could be WAY off base with that. Anyway, around here, the comparisons are about everything. Today it was, "I can't play my violin well. I'm horrible at it." WTH! She is one of two people in her group violin class (loosely grouped by ability) who knows all the songs that the teacher covers each month. She is also the youngest by nearly two years!

Part of it is that she is naturally competitive. I know this, and it is actually part of the reason I have changed my Master Plan and will be keeping her in private school next year. We started doing some gentle afterschooling at her request. Then one day I asked her why she wanted to do all this extra work, and her answer was, "So I can beat my brother because right now he's smarter than me and that makes me feel stupid." Again, he's 2 1/2 years older. She *is* a perfectionist. She panics if something isn't done 'right.' I don't need her pushing herself to beat her brother. He's intelligent, too, and will not be easily 'beaten'. Any perceived failure on her part, though, will be impossible to swallow.

Part of it, too, is just her mentality. She is a strong leader and feels that if she can't lead at everything, she's not good enough to lead anything. She does have issues that will likely cause her to swing back and forth between confident and depressed for the rest of her life. Balance is tough.

We're working on this. I am very similar but grew up in an environment where it was easy for me to be the best. I think M2 will have some competition as she grows, which is good but is going to bring more battles. If I could get her to see what an awesome girl she is, even WITHOUT all the talent that she has, it'd be better. I guess for now I just keep being the broken record and hope some of it gets through.

03-10-2011, 09:36 PM
Can you find any other smart women who might be willing to mentor her? Maybe through Mensa? Even a distance relationship might be workable. Maybe she needs a little help growing into herself? (Like everyone in adolescence, yes, but it's hard being gifted and female and a teenager and trying to define your own identity while constantly comparing yourself to your gifted mother.) There won't be this dynamic with a stranger.

I bought the book A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children awhile ago but haven't delved into it much. Maybe it would help further define any issues?

And I agree with what Cara said about kids becoming insecure and unwilling to try because they think that everything should come easily to them because they're smart. Thank goodness she isn't in public school. All the gifted kids I was around were rabidly insecure and constantly comparing themselves to others. Better that she compares herself to you than to a group of 30 or more. I also try to emphasize perseverance over intelligence with my boys. I mean, where would we be if Thomas Edison had given up before he'd invented the light bulb? How much would his intelligence have been worth then? How many failed attempts did he have? Anyhooooo...

03-10-2011, 10:13 PM
We had this to the nth degree at my house. OOF

1. I tell gifted DS9 that he does well because he works hard. I do not mention that he does well because he is "smart" or gifted.
2. I use reason to convince him that "practicing" (ie, making mistakes, finding out what doesn't work) is one of the great cornerstones of creativity. Many revolutionary ideas have come from failure. Oh boy, that helps him a lot!
3. When I ask "do you want to be human or perfect?" He always picks human. We then discuss what it means to "be human". THEN we usually end up over at NatGeo to look at our "human-ness". Oy.

My son was VERY perfectionistic. Even I was annoyed by it and I'm that way, too! lol Homeschooling, mentoring, and the above stuff has really helped. He is much more happy practicing being human.

03-10-2011, 11:14 PM
I appreciate everyones wise words. I am still ruminating here a few hours later.

Yes, she is a perfectionist. If something doesnt come immediately to her that is the exact moment she will throw up her hands and announce her supposed stupidity. The whole problem F=mA was the deal today. She was working along on her own and then handed me her work to look at and I offhandedly said the formula is right but you put some things in the wrong place. She lost it quite suddenly etc.

I guess its probably all in addition to teen hormones.

I realize I am pretty negative about giftedness. I also realize growing up and even now I am on an extreme end of it. WHile DD doesnt SEEM to be now, I find I cannot remember how it was for me at her age.

We have always home schooled so she hasnt been exposed to ... well.. a lot of things that are negative about it(giftedness per se). The year she did attend a public school in Sweden, they DID call me in for a conference about getting her a special math tutor because she was too far ahead of her classmates. That was in the first month and DD had barely begun speaking the language at the time. I declined them so that she could feel like at least SOMETHING was making sense. I also didnt give it two more thoughts about her being ahead until just right NOW.

She thinks she is bad at maths in general even though she is finishing up algebra I and goes over all kinds of MUCH more advanced things with the tutor I hired. We used to fight all the time and she would scream she was stupid all the time when I was teaching her math... so I just stopped teaching her math and forked it over to the tutor. Its working on that front at least.

It really probably IS a good thing I went with home school right out of the gate. I dont know why it hasnt particularly crossed my mind until now. I do know actually... She is VERY VERY sensitive and E M P A T H E T I C. This is a norm of my own so .. I just accepted it as ... "normal". You should SEE the weeping snot flowing red and tearing wailing episode that happens here when we watch extreme home make over. She is also unABLE to watch the old episodes of Rescue 911. She gets so upset and has night mares and panic attacks... sheesh.

The negative part stems from this alone <-- play on words. She will be alone most of her life. That is .. of she becomes an extreme like me (or already is one and I just dont fully comprehend that yet). There are times this doesnt bother me at all, and others that make me wish I was normal in a very deep, gut wrenching way.

She even popped into bed with me here for a bit about an hour ago to tell me how much fun lasts nights conversation was and some more of her ideas. (see my last best/worst home school moments post).

She has no connections with her peers, besides the fact that she wants to be around them. WHat I mean is she wants to hang out with them, but when she comes home all she does is talk about "WHY are they like that?"

TY for the book recommendation. I am taking it.

She compares herself to me on EVERYthing :( I spent a significant amount of time convincing her that an artist doesnt always just happen. Her first tries at 6 years old were not just like moms... so she spent years even really giving it a go. Despite all the explanations that she has to practice a little to even get the hang of it. Eventually she did begin to practice and NOW she is quite a good artist. I do try and explain to her that she is also a better author than I am or ever will be. So.. yes.. to get it all narrowed down, its a perfectionist problem mixed with some hormones. How dare I complain maybe.

I WILL NOT have her tested. If she does it on her own when she is an adult that is fine. DId that come out too strongly? Maybe. These were so humiliating for me growing up. I am not really sure why. Even though everyone was all "full of praise" over the results... My miss-wired brain ....

Bcnlvr... yes we have had those conversations since she was old enough to understand them. So.. You want to be my DD's long distance Mentor? (The mensa people here ..seriously.. the only thing they do is eat dinner out at VERY expensive restaurants and go wine tasting. )I have never met a more boring and YES ignorant rude bunch of people in the Mensa program until here!)

So.. If all that wasnt incoherent enough, I am off to amazon to order some "What to expect when gifted" types of books.

<3 to you all. SO much.

Stella M
03-10-2011, 11:25 PM
Sure, I understand not wanting to do testing. I didn't do it for dd1 either.
Hormones make it harder.

03-11-2011, 12:23 AM
Really loving this thread, but can't put my thoughts into words...too tired. I do wish I had homeschooled DS 8 right out of the gate. Skipped him a grade in public school and when it still wasn't enough we pulled him 2 years later. So it is clear to him that he is not at the same level as his peers. We also put a ton of emphasis on the idea that hard work is more important than raw talent. He's a HUGE football fan and really latched onto a quote that inspires quarterback Tim Tebow: "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard". He also likes that Tim Tebow was homeschooled. We skip over the right-wing, fundamentalist Christian stuff :)

Anyway...I mostly wanted to chime in with my fave book on this topic: 5 Levels of Gifted by Ruf (originally called Losing Our Minds, you can sometimes find it cheaply used) I don't love the term "gifted" but I do go back to this book again and again. Usually wind up saying, "OHHHH, so that's why...."

I have the opposite problem with my oldest, DS 10. I could start a thread called "When your child thinks they are much smarter than they are..." LOL!

03-11-2011, 12:32 AM
I never put emphasis on hard work OR smarts... It has always just been... here is the work. Do it as fast as you like as long as you master it then move on to the next thing.

I will check out the book suggestion. Thank you for sharing :)

03-11-2011, 05:15 AM
I've been thinking of posting something similar--how to deal with a perfectionist. (Sort of) glad to see that others are dealing with it too. DS doesn't say he's stupid, but he's been having major meltdowns when something doesn't come easily to him. Almost every day now we're dealing with a freak out over math (which he loves) and it's totally baffling--and thoroughly exhausting. We've talked him down his whole life about not needing to be perfect, and he knows his expectations of himself are different than our expectations of him, but oh, it is so hard to rationalize with an 8 yo who is firmly convinced that he should know everything before he has to learn it. Agh.

There are great suggestions here and I'll be using every one of them!

Brenda, I hope you can reach your daughter. I thought the idea of getting her a mentor is excellent; really it's probably something every teenager could use and benefit from, and especially one feeling so very alone. Best wishes!

ETA: I second the book that Rebecca recommends. It's been a major resource guide for dealing with DS for years and helps give me those "light bulb" moments also. I'm also currently reading "When the Labels don't Fit", which is full of insight and ideas on how to turn the perceived negatives into positives.

03-11-2011, 06:22 AM
I have nothing to add, but I can feel your pain in that post Brenda and just wanted to send a cyber hug your way.

03-11-2011, 09:24 AM
My ds is a perfectionist. I can't wait to take a look at these books. I definitely need some light bulb moments where he is concerned. :)

03-11-2011, 10:59 AM
Brenda, I understand your concern about the testing - although for me, i liked the testing becuase usually the testers were so nice to me. I more hated my mom's reaction to it all - like I was a badge of success on her motherhood, and then all the guilt trips for not doing enough with it.

However . . . i'm wondering if some virtual gifted peers could help your daughter feel better about herself? there are various places that offer on-line classes to gifted teens, some of which DO require testing - but you could explain it to her more as an entrance exam to the programs?

I also was pretty unaware of my kids giftedness. I had never babysat, so i couldnt figure out why everyone was so concerned about how much my daughter was talking. Even my mom, when she spent a few days with us when my daughter was 18 mo, made me write down a list of her vocabulary. I dont remember now, but later I looked for how many words an 18 mo was expected to know, but couldnt find it. at 18 mo she'd known more than is expected at 2. People were shocked at the way I spoke to her . . .but i was just responding to her in a way that worked for us. She spoke in full, complex sentences at two.

So i thought her brother was slow, because he spoke a little later than she did. Other people swore he was also an early talker, i was just clueless. It wasnt until he was doing some math with his cousin that his aunt suggested to me he was gifted. He got in to the gifted program at school (she had too), but the meds really slowed down his thinking a lot.

At this age, a girl really really needs peers. My daughter broke up w all her freinds, but did make some connecitons on line. It really wasnt enough, and i didnt know what to do about it. She hated central virginia and the conservative values here, and I couldnt afford to send her away. and of course, my mom and sister promised to let her live with them and then backed out at the last minute.

And i say again, being a parent is a great way to make you feel like a total failure. sigh.

03-12-2011, 09:15 PM
Blah... Note to others... Dont let teens with this issue watch the news. DD was watching about the possible nuclear meltdown and now she keeps fainting! :( I have to keep her on the floor with her head between her knees :(

03-12-2011, 10:02 PM
Btw, Brenda, I'm not too sure about the book I recommended earlier. I flipped through it and there is some discussion of giftedness but it mostly seems to be a parenting manual. You may still like it, but I'd rather get a more condensed version of the issues w/o the extra fluff.

03-15-2011, 04:40 AM
Just chiming in to say that I, too, have a perfectionist (thanks to my genes AND his dad's!) who gets terribly upset at the littlest mistake or difficulty with things. I will be looking into the book suggestions here -- thanks!

03-15-2011, 09:03 AM
My oldest is a perfectionist too and often says "I am stupid" if she makes even one small mistake. It drives me CRAZY!

03-15-2011, 05:39 PM
DD is my perfectionist child.

I find myself telling her that learning is a life skill & she will be learning new things for her entire life. I remind her that she cannot possibly know 'everything' the first moment she lays her eyes on it. She has to take some time to discover the material & that includes making mistakes.

When she got really down on herself over a concept earlier this year we stopped for a week to learn about the Wright brothers. We watched a documentary showing their failures & how they just kept trying until it was made right & could fly safely. It really made an impression on her & now when I see her getting down on herself I just say, "remember the Wright brothers!" & she grins at me. :)

I don't have any advice, but wanted to chime in that you are not alone!