Why kids say negative things about themselves

By Andrew M.I. Lee, JD

“I’m dumb.” “No one likes me.” “I’ll never be good at this.” Why do kids say negative things about themselves? Most kids (and adults) make the occasional negative comment about themselves. 

Sometimes, they want to vent or make a joke. It can also be a way to relate to others. If a negative comment is isolated, it’s usually not something to worry about.

But some kids say bad things about themselves over and over. This is common in kids who struggle in school or who experience more setbacks than other kids. When something bad or disappointing happens, they may see it as part of a pattern that applies to all parts of their life.

For example, a grade-schooler who gets a subtraction problem wrong might say “I can never do anything right.” Or for teens, even the smallest comment or social mishap can feel like the end of the world or a judgment on their abilities.

If kids are constantly saying negative things about themselves, you can help them recognize these thought patterns or “mind traps.” Identifying these patterns can be a first step toward helping kids stop worrying too much or being too hard on themselves.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Andrew M.I. Lee, JD is an editor and attorney who strives to help people understand complex legal, education, and parenting issues.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Kristin J. Carothers, PhD is a clinical child psychologist devoted to the destigmatization of mental health problems.