Normal behavior for an 8-year-old girl, or signs of future depression?

Without any real idea of your family dynamics, I wonder could any of this be a sibling issue? My older sister was a drama child (I was too, but only in my head - I didn’t act it out until much later). Could Vickie feel that sometimes her younger sibling is drawing away your attention too much for her liking? Younger kids need more general attention, especially when the older one is bright and pretty self-sufficient. If she feels her younger sister is getting more praise for something, like maybe the younger child is slower on learning to read so you praise and help her more because she needs it, she might resent it and act out in the way she knows will get her special attention.

Obviously I have no idea if this is your family dynamic, but what is good parenting from your point of view may be seen by a bright sensitive child as an unworthy rival getting attention she deserves. Does she strive in school to get the best grade, or awards and other notice?

At that age, Vickie is probably feeling more frustration than actual self-hate. She wants to play the piano piece perfectly, but keeps making mistakes. She wants to get a 100 on a test, but didn’t. She’s not living up to her own very high standards, and not only is it driving her up the wall, no one around her understands that it’s important to her.

Try not to press her on “well, why do you hate yourself?” or “is it something so-and-so did?”, because at eight years old, she’s not going to be able to articulate the nuances of her emotions or really figure out the causality of it. She’s just going to feel more frustrated because she can’t explain it to you.

The thing is, she can’t self-regulate, so she needs you to supervise this situations. Keep an eye on her while she’s practicing piano, and when you see her getting frustrated, interrupt. She doesn’t get to play the piano when she’s frustrated. She has to wait either a set amount of time (10-15 minutes) or until she has calmed herself down, and then she can go back to practicing.

Talk to her - not about emotions - but about those emotions’ physical cues. Give her concrete symptoms to identify like ‘my stomach gets tight,’ ‘I clench my jaw’, ‘my eyes feel hot’, ‘I start breathing hard’ so that she can catch herself even before you do, and then give her specific things to do to calm herself down (breathing exercises, recite a poem, do some jumping jacks).

Give her the tools to make it better, and she’ll be a much happier little girl.

Here’s another one where he suggests lying to the kid.

Is this a parody column?? Good God, apparently not:

I am not a psychologist, and first and foremost, I think you should at least consult the school psychologist and talk to her to see how serious this may be.

From my own experience though, I don’t think this is a sign of depression. For instance, you say she’s particularly smart. If this is the case, she’s going to have a skewed perspective of what that means. She’s going to get a lot of talk up about how great she is, which can do a lot toward making those failures more difficult to handle. Particularly kids just don’t have that level of perspective and will see what they are able to do as normal, even if it’s exceptional, and falling short of that bar as a failure, even if it’s still better than normal.

Particularly based on the piano example you gave, it sounds like she just hasn’t developed the perspective and coping mechanisms to deal with that sort of thing. It will be important for you to work with her to get the proper perspective that, for instance, her ability to play that piece is exceptional and struggling with it is perfectly reasonable. It will also be important for her to find a healthy way to vent that frustration. For now, she just says those sorts of things, but even if they have little or no weight now, they could become a problem over time.

I think phouka gives some good ideas about how to help with that sort of stuff. Kids just don’t have the level of understanding of their emotions and all of that, and she may not even have a full grasp on frustration when it’s escalating. That is, she may only realize once it’s become too much for her to manage. Chances are, you can detect some of these signs before she does and you can help her identify them so she can handle them before it gets too intense. Similarly, my approach when she does get into that sort of mood wouldn’t be to ask her to focus on why, it’s irrational and probably only gets more confusing and thus more frustrating. When she gets that way, I think talking about how she’s feeling, emotionally, intellectually, physically whatever and then once she’s calmed down may help her identify what that emotional state is and what’s setting it off. But she’ll never get any sort of grasp on it and why while she’s in an irrational state.

So, yeah, I don’t think it’s necessarily all that big of an issue right now, and in fact she very well may develop perspective and coping on her own, but she’d definitely benefit from some help from her parents and some advice from a child psychologist. And in the case that it is a sign among other less seen symptoms of something like depression or bipolar, that’s all the more reason for at least a consultation now.

I said that as a child and still think it frequently. It’s mostly an outlet for frustration and perfectionism (although I do have depression as well), but the statements I make in anger are usually irrational. Trying to get a rational reply is not going to be successful (i.e. “why do you hate yourself?” why why why???"… she won’t have an answer for you. Quit asking why for now.

When my daughter gets frustrated and says irrational things such as these (she is also 8), I tell her that I understand her frustration… and it makes us angry, etc etc. Letting her know I understand is the first step. Then I tell her to take a 10 minute break. Step away from the problem and come back later. When a child is in that mode, there is no logical thinking. Also, wait until she is back to her “old self” to address the issue. Not in the heat of the moment. See if she can help identify better ways to deal with intense feelings that cause inner turmoil.

I can’t stand it when people say “that is NOT NORMAL”. Don’t let it scare you if possible, some people feel negative emotions much stronger and simply can’t deal with them, so they turn the pain inward.

I hope y’all don’t think I was serious in recommending advice from John “I want every kid to have my upbringing – and it’s NOT abuse!” Rosemond. The column I linked and the one gigi linked are classic examples, though. From the latter:

Break the kids [del]balls[/del] spirit early, that’s his MO. I may Pit him; stay tuned.

My daughter does the same thing sometimes. Started about the same time she started realizing that she had an effect on the world and that things could be her fault. For a while, everything was her fault and she ‘hated herself’ and was ‘stupid.’

Things seem to have settled down. She seems to get that some things are her fault and some not and that she can’t be perfect.

Most of the chronically depressed adolescents and adults I have known started exhibiting similar behavior in fairly early childhood. While my own psych issues weren’t of the ‘I hate myself’ variety, my first (necessary) visit to a psychiatrist was age 5. To me, with my family history and my tendency to be drawn to other people who have gone through struggles similar to my own, mental health issues are a fairly normal thing. Not pleasant, but average enough. Rather than worry about how abnormal or serious they are, I think it’s best to acknowledge them and to try to give kids/people the tools they need to help themselves.

Perfectionism and it’s accompanying frustration and sadness are all to common in bright/naturally talented people. Research has shown that praising someone for what they are (smart, etc) rather than what they do, is completely destructive to both self-esteem and motivation to achieve. It certainly rings true with my own childhood experiences as a gifted, perfectionist child. Unfortunately US schools and common parenting techniques are all about praise, praise and more praise, for all the wrong things.

If I were you I’d get her into therapy with a therapist she likes. It can’t hurt, and could possibly help her learn how to better cope with her feelings, and life frustrations. Keep in mind that I think just about everyone can benefit from therapy - it’s not just for the crazy or suicidally depressed. :slight_smile:

Yeah, ignoring it is often the best. It’s not because it’s an attention seeking behavior, so much as it is that engaging an irrational person just fuels the irrationality. Often I just need time to convince myself that the world is Not Ending™.

The real trouble is if your kid starts doing it at school, because they’re required by law to report threats of self-harm (and thus, engaging the behavior is inevitable).

The book NurtureShock had an interesting section about this. They cited a study where two groups of kids were given a puzzle to solve. It was easy enough that they all got it. Half of them were told something like, “Wow, you’re really smart!” and half were told, “Wow, you worked really hard on that!” Then they were given another, much more difficult puzzle - it might even have been unsolvable; I can’t remember. The kids who were praised for their effort worked on the second puzzle for much longer than those who were praised for their intelligence, and they reported feeling better about themselves than the “smart” group did, even though they couldn’t solve the puzzle.

I remember as a kid feeling devastated and ashamed when I failed at something (and still do, to a great extent), so I really took this to heart. My husband and I praise our kid all the time, but we always try to make it about his effort or his perseverance. We encourage him to ask for help, but when he does, we tend to say, “Okay, I’ll be right there…” and often, he shortly figures it out on his own. And we’ve taught him explicitly that it’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” And if he does say, “I don’t know,” we don’t treat it like a failure. We act as pleased as if he’d given the correct answer, and say, “Okay, let’s find out!” And already, it seems to help - or at very least, it isn’t hurting anything. He seems a lot less likely than his friends to get frustrated and give up when he can’t do something, and more eager to explore and try new things (which at 2 and 1/2 is a mixed blessing). So in addition to talking to a therapist or child development specialist, which does seem warranted, I’d suggest trying this approach.

That, and blame the mother for being hysterical and too concerned about her kid’s happiness.

Everytime I see his smug little picture when my local paper runs his column I just wanna put HIM in time out and tell him he’s going to bed early because “the doctor said so”.

(I also have to wonder why he encourage parents to appeal to the doctor’s authority so much. So, teach your kid that you DON’T have final authority??)

No, teach your kid to be terrified of the doctor. That will serve him/her so well in the future.

I don’t want to hijack the thread, so I have answers for the last two posters at the end of this OP.

Your daughter sounds like mine. When she first started saying negative things about herself (“I’m stupid”, “I hate myself” and the worst: “I wish I was dead” :eek:), we were very concerned and went to a child psychologist. Long story short, we learned that some kids say things like this because they are deeply disturbed and/or depressed and others say it to get a rise out of their parents or because they feel safe enough with their parents to let it all out.

What our psychologist observed was that our daughter only said these negative things at home, never at school. That was highly significant (in her experience) because kids who are disturbed or depressed express these feelings both at home and at school. Her opinion was that our child felt comfortable/safe enough at home to let her emotions all come out–the good, the bad and the ugly. She worked with our daughter and explained to her that when she said unkind things about herself, she wasn’t being respectful to herself and after a few months, the habit was broken.

She did think our child had “Perfectionism” and gave us some tips that have been helpful. She still occasionally says something negative about herself (usually when she is in a bad mood or is tired or hungry) and we just remind her that she isn’t being respectful of herself. Sometimes the reminders work and other times she needs time to get her emotions under control. My hunch is that your daughter is just fine, but if there’s a school psychologist, I’d check in with him/her.