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I Think I’m So Bad

How to Help a Child Feel Worthwhile

We have it all backward. We believe we have to do good things—or at least things that please people—in order to be worthwhile. Wrong. We’re already worthwhile, and when we know that—when we feel loved and then unafraid—good choices just proceed from who we really are.

This is a darling story of a miraculous change in a young man. This is the kind of reward that comes from loving and teaching.


00:07 A mother of 3 learns about unconditional love.

01:13 Eldest son hated himself when he made mistakes and lashed out.

03:08 The mother learns how to love and teach her children.

03:40 Mother intervenes when the son is lashing out at his sister. 05:55 Mother doesn't quit when he refuses to talk to her.

07:25 She heard him, listened, and gave him tenderness and time.

10:50 Life-changing results. 

14:24 Son so relieved and happy.


Feeling Unloved = Not Feeling Worthwhile

I know a woman with three children. Until recently—until taking the Ridiculously Effective Parenting Training—she didn’t know anything about unconditional love, so her children suffered from the lack of training that a good parent needs. 

The worst effects were seen in the oldest child, Ted. The oldest often suffers most, because they’ve lived the most years with the wrong kind of parenting. Ted was 11. When he made mistakes, he tended to feel ashamed, followed by lashing out at himself (I’m so stupid, I can’t do anything) and at others, along with withdrawing and sulking. (Rarely do children—or adults—use one Getting and Protecting Behavior. We use an assortment, in a kind of stew of defensiveness and misery).

All of Mom’s attempts to change Ted’s behavior only made Ted feel more defective and ashamed. Understandable, because

  1. We already have a child who doesn’t feel loved and who doesn’t feel worthwhile.
  2.  He makes a mistake, which confirms his lack of worth and livability.
  3.  Mom points OUT the mistake, which just puts a spotlight on the proof of his worthlessness. 

Making mistakes made him feel ashamed and he lashed out at himself and others.

Feeling Loved = Feeling Worthwhile 

Mom began to learn how to love and teach her children—as we have done throughout the Parenting Training—over a period of many months. It wasn’t easy. 

One evening she wrote to me: “Tonight Ted, 11, was angrily teasing his sister, and he blamed her for all of it. I tried to talk to him about it—he was clearly in the wrong, teasing his sister—but he became impossible to talk to and stomped off to his room.” 

Remember the five behaviors that we parents must have zero tolerance for? Anger, whining, teasing, lying, and withdrawal. Ted was doing all of them, so Mom did next what was necessary. Not just important. Necessary, like if you’re going to have an engine in a car, having brakes becomes NECESSARY, not just a nice option.

The Effects of LovingAndTeaching

And she did it—what I’m about to describe—with confidence and love. Mom told me that she invited Ted to her room, where she said, “I’d like to talk to you.” He withdrew, after whining more. But Mom knew this was an important moment, so she didn’t stop. This moment is where so much parenting fails. The child defends himself, it’s ugly and unpleasant, so the parents quit trying precisely because they don’t want to deal with the unpleasantness.

Ted said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” “I know,” Mom said as she touched his face. She heard him. She listened and gave him tenderness and time. Mom sat next to Ted on the edge of the bed, with her hand gently on his knee. Didn’t say anything. After some time Ted said that he knew his family cared for him and then he broke down in tears and cried and snuggled with Mom for about 20 minutes. 

Mom said to me, “It has been a while since he has cried and I have never seen him cry like that. We just laid on the bed and he rolled all around as I held him, rubbed his back, and hummed. Not so long ago I would have tried to distract him from his crying and being upset, or I would have helped him break out of it but I just let him cry.”

To Mom: “What a divine experience. You've been patient and loving and guiding. Look at the results. Life-changing. This is real faith—in the truth, in teaching, in loving, and in your child (as opposed to faith in past methods that never worked, faith in controlling, faith in making him behave a certain way). You just touching him as he cried was genius. 

What to Do About Crying

We parents don’t know what to do with crying. We ask questions—stupid ones, like ‘Why are you crying?’—or we try to stop it. Tears are often an outpouring of profound emotion they simply cannot express with words or in any other way. Give them time, and they’ll find the words, as he did, before and after the tears. He expressed that he just often doesn’t feel like he’s a good person, or worthwhile, then gets frustrated, and is ugly to people, then feels even worse. But he doesn’t want to do that. He said he really enjoyed my touching him and being with him a lot more.”

We have it all backward. We believe we have to do good things—or at least things that please people—in order to be worthwhile. Wrong. We’re already worthwhile, and when we know that—when we feel loved and then unafraid—good choices just proceed from who we really are.

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