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3yo DD with low self esteem - can/should I seek professional help?

(14 Posts)
Ktay Sat 20-Jun-15 11:05:42

DD2 (3.4) takes perceived criticism very badly to the extent that it can be hard to give her even completely anodyne helpful pointers (eg a friend on a bike ride last weekend saying in a friendly tone 'don't go too close to the edge of the road L, there are stinging nettles there') without her bursting into tears and (depending on location) demanding to go home or going off to her room in a teenager-style strop.

As she is becoming more verbal, the way she expresses her reaction to these events is giving me cause for concern. Earlier in the week, I warned her 3 times not to tip a bag of DD1's beads on the floor and told her she couldn't watch her favourite TV programme as a consequence when she did. This led to a teary outburst that really made me worry about her self esteem - she often says 'I'm the baddest girl ever' (<< not something she's ever heard from us!) as part of these episodes but there was much more in a similar vein that I would have expected from a much older child. I sought to reassure her about all the things we loved about her (while still not giving in on the sanction) but to seemingly little effect. (This episode was a little unusual as standard 'telling offs' for typical preschooler misdemeanours are often water off a duck's back.)

My parenting is far from perfect but I have always been hyperconscious of the possible effect of my actions on the DDs' mental health - and DD1 has been brought up in much the same way and is generally a cheery, positive, easygoing and pretty resilient young girl - so I feel there must be something else going on beyond any influences she gets from us at home.

DD2 has always been rather highly strung and clingy to me. As a toddler, she threw far more tantrums and misbehaved much more than her big sister ever did, despite having what I feel was the lion's share of my attention. It may be that DD1 was abnormally well-behaved and easy but I have always had a niggling worry that something is not quite right (apologies, not a great choice of word) with DD2, beyond being a typical toddler. She is usually very shy, sometimes even around familiar adults, and often needs reminding about the right thing to do in social situations, but then can completely surprise us by being really outgoing and chatty. She seems particularly bright, if that's relevant.

However, my immediate concern is about the self esteem issue as I am keen to work on this before it causes problems as she gets older. Am I making a mountain out of a molehill and if not, should the HV be our first port of call (ours does not inspire confidence)? Would I be wasting the GP's time?

Thanks for any advice and sorry if I don't get straight back to you, am just snatching some time before a hectic few hours...

stargirl1701 Sat 20-Jun-15 11:08:57

Have you heard of Bounceback? It used to teach resilience strategies to children. It sounds like she is a perfectionist and any slight issue causes her to throw in the towel.

stargirl1701 Sat 20-Jun-15 11:09:10

Ktay Sat 20-Jun-15 11:12:18

I haven't, thank you - will take a good look later

Micah Sat 20-Jun-15 11:17:35

Would she do a dance, gymnastics, martial arts, other sports class?

Good exercise, teaches them physical self confidence, and they learn how to take corrections, and that things will need practice before they get them right!

Having something different to their peers at school when she's a little older helps self esteem too.

SocksRock Sat 20-Jun-15 11:24:52

Agree with Micah, my eldest DD was very much a perfectionist. She's now 7, has been dancing since she was 5 and is much more open to being corrected. She also has recently started clarinet lessons through school and is really demonstrating that she has learned to practice and accept correction until she gets it right. My DS is 5 and is also from the perfectionist mould. He recently burst into tears crying "I'm just useless at everything and I don't like my life anymore". This was in response to messing up sewing a bookmark in a school club. We have recently started him in judo lessons and I hope it teaches him the same thing.

PointyBirds Sat 20-Jun-15 11:31:46

It's impossible to treat two children exactly the same. You can't say that DD1 has turned out fine therefore there is something wrong with DD2, because it can't be anything to do with you. You have already labelled her as misbehaving more than her sister, and she will be aware you have that opinion of her. Professional help may be useful but you have to be open to the idea that it is you that might need to change, not your three-year-old.

Ktay Sat 20-Jun-15 17:56:46

Thanks everyone. Getting her involved in some sort of activity would be great if we can find the right one - her shyness can hold her back a bit. Ballet was going really well for a good year or so and in fact she was one of the few in the class that would listen to the teacher throughout. But we changed class after Easter (same teacher but different venue and classmates) and it has really thrown her. They spend a good 10/15 mins standing in a circle and for some reason she hates this and gets very teary. I just let her sit that bit out on my lap without making a fuss but I fear a similar reaction in other classes. I suppose we can only give it a try.

I mentioned her sister being different as much as anything because I wanted to show that this (probably) hasn't come about as a result of us raising the girls in some stifling hothouse environment. There are doubtless aspects of my behaviour that need to change but it is a bit of a leap to surmise that this has arisen because we regard the DDs differently. As it may have got lost in my rather long OP, I will reiterate that I am particularly sensitive to my actions in regard to their potential effect on DDs' mental health. For example, I take care to praise effort as well as outcomes and when telling either DD off, any 'labelling' is of the behaviour and not the child.

PointyBirds Sat 20-Jun-15 18:49:51

Well, you do regard them differently, your DD1 is 'easy' and you have a niggling worry that something is 'not quite right' with your DD2 that is not the result of anything you have done at home.

What do you think could be 'not quite right' with her?

This comment, "often needs reminding about the right thing to do in social situations" as a criticism of a three-year-old, is odd.

You say there are aspects of your behaviour that need to change but in the same post seem absolutely certain that you don't need to worry yourself about how your behaviour affects your child's mental health, that seems a contradiction to me.

girliefriend Sat 20-Jun-15 18:55:02

Is it possible she has any sensory issues? Quite often the first clue that a child does have sensory issues is low self esteem (plus your dd sounds very similar to my dd who has recently been diagnosed!) I found the book 'the out of synch child' really useful.

duplodon Sat 20-Jun-15 19:05:17

Pointy you're not being very kind here. I think OP has some concerns about her daughter's social skills. One reason that people have concerns about their children's social skills is that there is some sort of difference between how they behave in social situations to others of their age. It's not a personality slight, it is an observation and a concerned one. This is not a two year old or a nonverbal 3;4 year old, it's a verbal 3;4 year old and many children of this age do know a good amount about what behaviour is expected and unexpected in social situations. Clinginess, tearfulness, perfectionism and sensitivity can cause children to have difficulties in social situations from time to time. OP is looking for some guidance and to talk about her concerns.

PointyBirds Sat 20-Jun-15 19:15:08

I suppose I'm not being very kind no. I found the tone of the OP a bit off, in terms of absolving herself of any influence over her dd's self esteem, like it was this abstract quality that children are born with or not born with. I feel very strongly that self esteem is one of the most important gifts parents give their children, and it is something that needs conscious effort. If the OP had come asking for ways in which she personally could help her daughter I would have been kinder, but she seemed to want to be told to go to the GP to have some external person 'fix' her daughter.

duplodon Sat 20-Jun-15 19:33:56

I think the OP might just write in a particularly formal way which may obscure how she feels about this.

The more I've read about self-esteem recently, the less a fan I am of it, and the less I think parents give it to their children as such.

My concern about the little girl here is that she doesn't sound very secure in ways that prevent her from being able to participate fully in the activities that three year olds typically enjoy. I think that probably it is important to seek professional help to work out why that might be.

It's likely, regardless of whether she has certain temperamental or developmental sensitivities or not, that any solution will involve advice on parenting strategies and how to change her environment to increase her sense of security and willingness to approach these activities.

Ktay Sat 20-Jun-15 21:11:36

I hadn't considered sensory processing difficulties and don't know much about them but will certainly read up - thank you.

Thank you duplodon for mediating... You have certainly got the measure of my worries and I'm sorry if my OP was too black and white but I just wanted to set out the situation relatively clearly and concisely. No doubt there are things I should do differently but I just wanted to gauge whether I should also be trying to rule out any underlying problems so I can help DD2 cope if there is something going on.

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