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The Better Behavior Show with Dr. Nicole Beurkens

Oct 18, 2021

This weeks question is from Neerja,

“Can you help me with how to handle negative thoughts about my child? I'm getting very frustrated and tired of dealing with his challenges. I often think negatively about him and really hate myself for doing that. Any suggestions as to how to deal with this?”

In this episode, I will address how to deal with the shame and guilt parents experience when they have negative thoughts about their children. First off, please know you are not alone. Second, the strategies in this episode will help you deal with those feelings better and may even prevent them from happening at all.

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Parents Have a Wide Range of Thoughts About their Kids

  • It is completely normal to have negative thoughts about your child with regard to things they are doing or the challenges you are dealing with, especially if the child has extra challenges
    • Difficult behaviors are exhausting and can feel frustrating and unfair
    • You are not a bad or unloving parent for feeling these things sometimes about your child, even if those feelings are really uncomfortable feelings like anger
    • It's real life, and it's much healthier to acknowledge it than it is to try to deny it because the feelings and the things that we are willing to acknowledge become the things that we are able to work with/improve ourselves


Separate Your Child from the Behaviors & Challenges 

  • Your child and their behavior/challenges are 2 different things
  • If you step back and reflect, typically parents are not actually having negative thoughts and feelings about the child themselves
  • A mantra that works well around this for us to remind ourselves as parents is, "I love my child, but sometimes I don't like him or his behavior very much."


Constant Negative Feelings & Time to Recharge

  • If negative feelings coming up when you have to deal with your child, when you have to face certain things during the day, or it is happening frequently, that is a sign to us as adults that we need to have more opportunities to take breaks from our kids
  • When we notice that those frustrated, angry, sort of impatient thoughts and feelings are coming up, we are having a lot of this negativity around our kids, that's our brain waving little flags, saying, "Hey, we need to be taking more of a break here."
  • Be intentional about stepping away and recharging your batteries
    • It may mean leaving the house, but for many, it could be letting them watch a show, placing them in their room to play alone, or putting them to bed a little earlier so you can have time for yourself
    • Get creative about it. Don't shut down to the idea and say "Well, that's not possible”, It absolutely can be done.
  • We need to make sure that we are not letting our cup get too full with that frustration and negativity; finding an opportunity to let some of that drain out so that we can keep that cup from overflowing on a regular basis
    • It's good for us and it's good for our kids


Intentional Stops in the Day

  • Be intentional several times a day. Just stopping, putting your hand on your own heart, taking a few deep breaths and remind yourself out loud or in your head mantras such as: 
    • “He's a good kid and having a hard time.” Or “I’m a good parent. I'm doing the best that I can”
  • Spotlighting the positives throughout the day, both for your child and for yourself
    • Our brains are Velcro for negative things and it's a lot harder to be aware and focus on the positive things, particularly with our kids
  • Try daily journaling, make a running list on your phone, or sharing positives at mealtime as a family as well
    • Kids hold onto “bad” too, so it is very beneficial to have them participate


When You Feel Beyond Frustrated

  • When parents are feeling things aren’t improving with all their efforts, try looking for different or additional support and approaches
    • Too often the focus becomes that the problem is the child rather than the need to look for different systems, tools, strategies, or professionals. 
    • What is best for one child or family may not work for another—Seek alternatives
    • Perhaps the true underlying causes of their challenges have not been addressed
  • Resource:  “Digging Deeper Workshop” at
    •  Helps parents have a better picture of what areas are probably contributing to the symptoms and the challenges a child is experiencing, so that parents can seek out the right kinds of interventions, approaches, and treatments 


Recognizing Our Emotions as a Parent

  • Honestly check in with yourself to see how your ability is to regulate your own emotions and behaviors
    • Kids are only one part of your life
  • Do you have the tools and strategies to support your mental health or issues you need to address?
  • All parents struggle at times with negative thoughts or questioning their ability as a parent—acknowledge when this occurs, don’t be ashamed, and seek out support/a support group, etc.
  • As parents, when we are feeling like we've got our feet underneath us more/a bit more together/managing ourselves and our inner and outer worlds just more effectively, that goes a long way to helping us have a more balanced or better outlook on what's going on with our kids and the challenges that we face each day with them