A short story about self-harm

There was once a little girl with a temper. A bit like the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. She was helpful, kind (if a bit bossy), mature, supportive, funny and clever. She was an incredibly determined little girl, who learned things fast and loved to read.

One day the little girl started piano lessons. She never wanted to practice, but her Mummy sat with her and they both played together. She got stuck a few times, because learning the piano is hard. When she got stuck she flew into such tempers that she cried, screamed, kicked the piano, twisted her earlobe, pinched her arm, and hit herself in the face. Her Mummy was shocked, and asked why she had done all these things. She replied,

“Because I’m rubbish! I’m so bad! I’m a really bad girl!”

Straight away the little girl’s Mummy cuddled her baby and told her she was clever, really good at the piano, and a really good, kind, lovely girl. Then she said that she must never again hurt herself like that. But she did.

A few months later, at a school parent’s evening the little girl’s teacher mentioned that she had been found in the toilets clutching a handful of her own hair, having stormed out of a creative writing session that wasn’t going terribly well. The mother confessed the piano practice incident. The teacher looked shocked, and said something along the lines of:

“That is extremely concerning, I’m no longer worried about her poor writing, I’m more concerned that there is something wrong with the emotional and psychological side of her learning. Are you sure you aren’t putting too much pressure on her to be more mature than she really is?”

… or something like that; the mother couldn’t really remember because she was trying to keep the tears back. She left the meeting in a panic. She had always spoken to the little girl in a mature way, ever since she was born. Had she unwittingly set her baby up for a lifetime of feeling pressurised and inadequate? By reasoning with her and explaining complicated words and concepts had she condemned her to feeling like she was never good enough for the rest of her life?

The little girl had been a quirky baby, copying all the words she heard, not just those relevant to her. She wanted to know everything, and was clever; her Mummy and Daddy just went along with it, because they all liked things that way. But thinking about self-harm and her child’s temper, the mother recalled a time when she had insisted that her 2 year old take a nap, and held the bedroom door shut while she waited for the baby to calm down and go to sleep. When she did, the mother crept into the room to find all the wooden dowelling from the back of the bedroom blind pulled out and snapped in half.

Should that have been the moment she realised that her baby had an emotional problem? Was it only a matter of time before the little girl progressed from breaking blinds and ripping up books to pinching and hitting herself, and to ripping out her hair? Is it only a matter of time before she considers moving on to scissors and knives?

The little girl’s Mummy had no idea what to do…


(I have posted a couple of times recently about GG’s struggles with writing. After a very promising start (which catalysed this blog) things have gone astray in the last few weeks. Although she learned very quickly to decode the written word, that was not the end of the story. She has struggled to convert that reading ability to writing excellence. Self-harm is a very evocative and difficult term, but seemingly it is the way she deals with frustration).


82 thoughts on “A short story about self-harm”

  1. Look I only know about this kind of thing from having a boy with aspergers and while I am in no way suggesting that your daughter has anything similar, you might be able to borrow some of the techniques that parents use with anxious children who hurt themselves or others. Techniques such as deep pressure, time out (in a good way) body brushing etc. Unless he is completely out of control my son now has ways to calm himself down, and the best €40 I ever spent was on a trampete which now has pride of place in the centre of the kitchen and he bounces whenever he needs to self-regulate or calm down. I also used to self-harm as a teenager and I did it to calm myself as I knew of no other way to feel better and I never told anyone at the time. Hope you get the advice that you need xxx

    • Candi I have to admit I did wonder if this is what her teachers were thinking about because her creative writing teacher is the school Senco, and there are several children in the group who either have statements or are considered to be on the autistic spectrum. Super-clever kids, but with some behavioural difficulties in school. Funnily enough we did talk about her going out to the trampoline if she is feeling wound up, and I really like your calming ideas. At the end of the day she has to learn to manage her emotions in a positive way, but it is very stressful watching the process. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  2. What a sad story, I don’t think that the little girls mother should she missed something, sounds like she was just being an amazing supportive mammy. hope they all get to the bottom of things.xxxxx

    • Thank you – I’m so sorry I’ve left it till now to reply to you – it all got a bit chaotic yesterday and I’ve only just sat down to go through all these wonderful responses. It’s so good to know so many people care, and with such great advice too x

  3. Oh bless you. How confusing and quite frankly, a bit scary for you all. I wish I had some words of advice for you, but I’m falling short. So I’ll stick with saying that you are a brilliant, level-headed and supportive mummy who GG is lucky to have.
    Much love. X

  4. beautifully written with deep insights.
    Mom’s over control was too much. she may have apprared to be the perfect mother. She expected the girl to be an adult before her time, not allowing the little girl to be a child. The girl found a way to escape the rigdity and getting her own sad source of self control-self harm.

      • Thanks Kate, I wondered if I had read it wrong but clearly not. It is exactly what is going on in my mind and what I am blaming myself for. She is 7 now, and I’m thinking I’ve done 7 years worth of damage by being who I am. I admit I am a bit of a control freak, and a perfectionist and I do expect a lot from my family, but I never imagined it would lead to self-harm, and I’m so afraid that the damage is done and there will be worse for her in the future 🙁

        • I think that person thought your entry was fictional and didn’t understand that you were worrying that you’re controlling rather than saying the fictional character *is* controlling.

          Which you’re not. You’re insightful and supportive and bloody scared. In short, you’re a mum. And you’ve done nothing wrong.

          The teacher sounds useless but is there a school nurse or educational psychologist you could discuss it with?

          Keep talking here & we’ll keep trying to help you make sense of it & find a way through x

          • Thank you so much. I’ve always thought her teacher is great, and the reason I got as upset as I did is that she used to be a psychiatric nurse and a social worker so she knows what she’s talking about. The fact that a professional thinks this about my daughter really freaked me out. To be honest I’m glad she’s raised it because it makes me take the whole issue more seriously. Friends are good though for the supportive comments as well as all this great advice 🙂

  5. We have spoken about this and I know what a truly amazing woman and mother you are and what a sweet-natured and intelligent girl GG is too.

    My own random thought are that maybe a couple of months of downtime may help, she is so advanced that maybe emotionally she just needs to catch up xxx

    Love to you , I know how worried you are x

    • Your experience and wisdom is invaluable to me, and you are such a great supportive friend. I am hoping you are right. xx

  6. Glad to find out the whole story.

    Are these the only two incidents? If so thence don’t think you can infer any serious emotional problems. What person, let alone child hasn’t had a couple of moments of feeling incredibly frustrated and angry in an average week. Sometimes in an average day.
    Doesn’t sound like the teacher was being hugely supportive. I’m surprised they would see encouraging a child to be mature as damaging. Surely maturity is a good thing?

    On the writing front it sounds like she is just going through a stage where her writing skills are lagging behind her vocabulary skills. She knows what she wants to say but just can’t get it down on paper. It will come. Suddenly it will all come together. It’s just very frustrating for her in the meantime. Perhaps get her to do more oral storytelling and praise her for that so she doesn’t think it all depends in writing, put on a play or something like that? She just needs to get her confidence up. She could also be a bit of a perfectionist. I’ve had lots of kids who get frustrated at that age, because they know how they want their work to be and it doesn’t match up.

    It sounds like you are doing the right thing by giving lots of reassurance. She is obviously feeling like she can’t do anything right. I feel very sad for her but I’m sure she will get through it and it’s just a stage.

    • Thanks Rebecca, you and Mammasaurus just made me cry – I wish you were GG’s teacher.
      Sadly the piano incident has been repeated a few times, and she has taken to locking herself in the loo at home with high pitch screams and kicks when she knows I am cross with her for something. I told her off for chewing coins at the weekend and she did this. When I asked her about it afterwards she cried and said she was just so cross with herself for doing such a stupid thing, and that she thinks she’s a really bad person 🙁
      But your response is encouraging – I’m definitely going to try the stress ball idea

  7. You poor things. It must be really hard to know what to do and I have no experience or advice to offer in this area at all. However, I do think it sounds like the Mummy in the story is doing a brilliant job in talking to her daughter about it and not just brushing it under the carpet and hoping she grows out of it. Don’t underestimate the healing power of communication xx

    • Thanks lovely, she really doesn’t like to chat about how she feels (although she never stops on everything else!) but I will keep on trying – it’s all I can do x

  8. I’ve had incidences like this with two of my children. The middle boy, who was an early developer and probably treated beyond his years, went through an extended phase of calling himself stupid and using phrases like ‘I hate myself, I’m so stupid’ etc when he couldn’t do something. My youngest who has been ‘baby-ed’ beyond his years recently went through a phase of hitting his head with his fists when he got into a rage and sometimes kicking hitting the wall and biting things. Both were phases that they grew out of.
    It doesn’t sound like you have done anything wrong and you are doing all the right things by reassuring her etc. I don’t know if it’s the right or wrong way to deal with it but I was quite firm with both when it happened – putting the msg out there that it wasn’t ok to do this. I have no idea if this is a good way to deal with it or not I just didn’t want them to think that that behaviour lead to cuddles and sympathy and nothing else in case it made it worse…
    It’s a bit of a minefield isn’t it?
    I’d book another meeting with the teacher. Now you’re prepared for it you’ll be able to deal with the discussion.
    Good luck. xx
    (Sorry about the essay!)

    • Kate, I’m loving the essays – I really wasn’t expecting such a lot of great advice! It is comforting to hear that it may be just a phase – I really hope so

  9. I’ve got tears for you guys. Truly. What she’s going through is so similar to what I went through as a child, and I can only pray that your love and support and understanding will get her through it.

    My parents kind of hid from the problems that I was having, and when I told them, “No really, everything is fine…” they chose to believe me rather than push the issue. I remember when I was 12 my mother asking if I wanted to “talk to someone…” and being so scared that she thought I was crazy that I made sure I never let her see me frown, and kept everything even more closely guarded.

    There are pictures of me from very young (18 months – 5 or so) that my family used to take when I’d get angry. They show me furiously biting my own tongue and clenching my fists, face red and eyes glowing with rage. They thought it was cute, but looking at them now, it shows what an emotionally wrecked child I was. Years of therapy have helped me to understand things a bit better, but the one thing every professional has told me is that my mother let me down by ignoring the signs and not allowing me to show anger, instead teaching me that all of my emotions were silly and cute.

    You are an amazing mum, and I truly think you guys will get through this. There’s no magic wand to make the problems go away. Something is going on underneath the surface. But if you can help her to talk about it without pressuring her, and if you can show her every day that all of her emotions are valid, I think you’ll be okay.

    • Oh Katie, thanks so much for coming back and sharing this. I so badly don’t want to let her down, but she’s not a big talker when we get onto problems seh is having. Even when she has problems with friends she won’t tell me much about them, so it’s really hard to know how to help her. I think you’re probably right that I should make it clear to her that being angry is ok, but try to help her channel it in a different way…

      • The other thing I would mention to you is that kids tend to mirror things they see in their parents, though they tend to misinterpret them and/or exacerbate them through their immature understanding.

        In your writing about these issues, it is clear you are scared and worried that you’ve done something wrong and/or irreversible… If you are often hard on yourself (consciously or unconsciously), she may be picking up on it and thinking that she needs to be hard on herself, too. Also, she is likely looking for your constant approval, and when she doesn’t get it, she takes it harder than other kids might. Perhaps if you point out your own mistakes and/or frustrations and show her that in the greater scheme of things, they’re really no big deal, it may help?

        • Thanks Katie that’s a really interesting thought. I do punish myself by overdoing things and am often a bit stressed out. I have definitely started laughing at ‘silly mummy’ today since Sally’s similar comment, and that has gone down well, as you can imagine! I think Daddy may need to think about how he deals with his anger because he can switch from happy go lucky to intense pretty quickly when he’s cross and the kids do see that.

  10. What an extremely difficult thing to go through and as my LO is only tiny I can’t really offer much in the way of experience, but wanted to send lots of comfort your way and hope that this is a stage for GG. You seem to have had some very good advice already and I hope the teachers help out more too, instead of just offering blame.

  11. As a Mum to a very bright girl who is easily frustrated by not being able to do something perfectly, right away, I can sympathise. Flea tends to get anxious and tearful at anything that isn’t just so, rather than violent, but what has helped us has been a combination of three things.

    First, I make a point of pointing out when I make a mistake. And I laugh at myself. Oh, silly me, I forgot to get the milk. Did you see how I just dropped all the salt on the floor? Oh, honestly, I left the hand-brake off the car. How daft! It’s just a little way of showing her to err is human, we all do it, and it’s nothing to be anxious about.

    Second, we signed her up for music lessons and dance and activities she finds fun but can’t do right straight away – it’s a way of demonstrating to her practically that you get better at stuff when you practice. Not everything you do has to be perfect right away. I spent a LOT of time saying things like, “You didn’t come out able to walk straight away, you know!”

    The third thing we did when Flea was younger was spend time naming emotions. So if she looked frustrated, I’d say, “You seem to be feeling frustrated. When I’m frustrated, sometimes I put on really loud music. It helps.” Or maybe, “It seems like you’re feeling angry. It’s not okay to shout at me, but if you want to go to your room and shout a bit, until you calm down, that would be okay.”

    Basically you’ve got a very mature child but they don’t always have the tools to understand what they’re feeling and how to respond. So naming emotions and explaining appropriate actions can give kids those tools.

    Not saying it’s perfect and it’s an ongoing challenge, without some of the upsetting things you’re seeing, but Flea’s confidence and willingness to get stuff wrong is definitely growing over time.

    • Sally, thank you, I’m overwhelmed by everyone’s brilliant advice. I had forgotten about the naming emotions thing, and I will definitlely start to take the mickey out of myself when I go wrong from now on (I think the focus will mainly be on me then as I get stuff wrong all the time!). I too have used the learning to walk thing and it makes her laugh, but I think it means more when she can actually see that she is getting better at something. The piano incidents are less frequent now, but there will always be new challenges and I do worry about how she will handle them all.
      Thanks for the great advice

      • This all sounds familiar – sorry and hugs. When Joel was tiny and using ridiculously complex words correctly, I naturally started calling him clever. My older brother came round and on hearing this – not meaning to be a know-it-all – told me that it was supposedly not a good idea to emphasise a child’s natural ability.

        I was a bit p*ssed off to say the least – who was he to tell me I couldn’t tell my child how wonderfully bright they are? But then he explained that he’d read some study or other, which showed that by teaching a child to focus on their natural ability, that child is more likely to give up or get frustrated when they hit the point where they need to make a real effort / persevere. They’ll have acquired the belief that things should always come naturally and see something they can’t do immediately as beyond them.

        I totally forgot about his advice – it didn’t seem relevant to my little man who was streets ahead of his peers. Why worry? But in the months that followed I saw Joel getting angry with himself when he couldn’t do something, getting tearful and eventually totally refusing to try it again.

        So we started saying, “Well done, you tried really hard.” “Well done, you practiced and you got it!” etc, even when it was evident it hadn’t taken much more that natural ability, and it felt a bit forced at first but it really seemed to help. He started concentrating on things for longer, pushing himself further, and now he’ll spend hours on something, getting better at it, enjoying the challenge and not beating himself up if he doesn’t achieve excellence.

        We still have bouts of frustration where Lego gets smashed or toys get thrown, but I *think* my brother’s seemingly busy-body advice has helped.

        Not sure that is really useful but thought I’d share x

        • That’s so useful to hear Emily! They are teaching in this way at school and already today I have been talking to the kids about persevering and praising them for effort instead of results. GG’s dad is prone to giving up completely on something if he doesn’t excel quickly and I’ve been hoping to teach her to be different. But hand in hand with that if we can help her learn how to channel her frustration and anger in a different way, then I won’t have to fear the future. As others have said, I’m hoping it’s just a phase. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences x

  12. Sending you lots of hugs for starters and as easy as it may sound try not to be hard on yourself. She isn’t too young to be taught other techniques that will focus her mind on something else and if you can get the school on board so you are all acting on the same page this will also help loads. The teacher, not matter how unhelpful had a good point, maybe there is more pressure being put on her than she can handle, the thing is lots of this pressure could be coming from school and other children more than anything.
    You are doing all you can and by the sounds of it doing a darn good job, you are taking time to listen to her judgmental free and supporting her. leave the worry about the past in the past so you can both work on ways to help her get through it, keep on reassuring her that she isn’t on her own so doesn’t have to hide anything from you.
    The reason why children usually self harm is to get their mindset out of the rut they are in at the time, for release or control. I would recommend from a professional point of view to see if you can talk with your health visitor or school nurse so you can find out what resources’ you have in your area that may help. She may have an underlying mental health issue that if addressed now will save a lot in the long run.
    One last thing, go with your gut instinct and do not let anyone fob you off, if you feel as though the right things are not being done for her then keep on pushing

    • Greenfroggyfae thanks for your advice I really appreciate it – can I ask what your work is? I am on a rollercoaster here – one minute I am feeling positive about all the good advice, and the next I am worrying about mental health issues – and that’s coming from someone who has suffered from depression and shouts loudly against the stigma around mental health. Even I’m attaching a stigma to it because I’m panicked by the possibility that my daughter is a sufferer! Gosh it’s a minefield. Thanks so much for the advice

      • I am an emotional wellbeing therapist certified in DBT which was developed for people who mainly have personality disorders resulting in self harm, OCD’s and the like, it teaches different skills in how to cope with life and gain control over it.

        The reason why I am in this line of work is because I have gone through it all myself; never got the support I needed when I needed it but will not go into it here.

        There is a lot about mental health that people do not understand and to date I have 7 mental health diagnosis and I am very open about all of them, even though I think the reason I have so many is because they just do not have a clue what is going on in my head so I like to think myself as quirky.

          • ok so this isn’t a plug but it may help you help her to come up with healthy ways of getting through a tough time.

            • Thank you, I have had so much great advice and things are looking a bit less bleak, though we’re still working on it. I will take a look 🙂

  13. I would love to add more but everyone has answered so well I just want you to know I am hear if you want a chat x

  14. Let me start by saying that you are such a fantastic mum! I wish i was as good as you are!
    I recognise myself a little bit in your LO. I started being angry on things when i was little and nobody was there to help me deal with it. My parents didn’t ignore it..they just didn’t notice it was anything wrong 🙁 I still have problems now…and my depression doesn’t make it better either.
    I hide and not react in front of my daughter but it is hard. Sometimes she gets really angry too so i am scared, like you that she will have issues later on. I really hope i will sort myself out and then she will be fine…

    • You will – if you know there is a problem you will work on it and it will get better because you too are a lovely lady with a kind nature x

  15. Your writing about GG reminds me a lot of my younger sister. She picked up all kinds of words from very young and would parrot back adult gossip and long words beyond children, let alone age. At school she struggledf a bit to match her reading to her speech and then writing. She has always been very critical of herself and others and equated success to popularity for a long time, perhaps even nolw though far less. As other people have said, it could well be catching up emotionally; or rather her emotional age is spot on but her intellect has raced ahead. Try not to blame yourself, personality is not just down to upbringing and it may factor in also how the school reacts. I couldn’t think of a better way to help other than as you say sitting with her practising a skill and being there to assure her that you love her not her achievements when it doesn’t turn out ‘right’. X

    • Thank you, you are all so lovely. Her teacher did say that she thinks they have all been expecting more of her because her intellect is capable of it, but maybe her emotional maturity needs to be worked on instead for a bit. Hopefully it’s just that x

  16. Firstly, much love and hugs. What a frightening thing for you all to be experiencing.
    Secondly, everything everyone else has said sounds like good advice to me. A phase? Relax? Intellectual development vs emotional development?
    Thirdly, you will all work it out together because you are a strong family who love and support each other and that is, above all else, the most important thing.
    Fourthly, always around so shout if you want to talk/rant/scream/shout
    Love x

  17. Big hugggss to you, I have no words of wisdom to tell you it will all be perfectly ok, or to stop you worrying, but I will say the simple fact you are concerned enough to leave that meeting with the teacher upset means you are an amazing mum who will do everything she can for her daughter. Being mum is the hardest thing in the world and don’t ever wonder if you have done it all wrong, you love and care for your daughter and that will always be the right way, sometimes, and theres no reason in worrng about why they happen, we mums have huge hurdles to get over but your love and care will get you through whatever hurdles there are. Be it just a horrible phrase GG is going through or her lack of emotional maturity or her mental health then don’t beat yourself up about why the problem has surfaced, be confident you are a great mother who recognises it and is there to help and support x

  18. As a mother of a daughter who suffers from severe depression and panic attacks, the only thing I can say is there is light at the end of the tunnel. You took the first step a while ago, recognizing that your child needed some sort of assistance. Just from twitter, and your posts, I know you are an amazing mom and your daughter is very lucky to have you.

  19. Poor you that must have been awful for you, I can’t imagine really as you only want to hear good things at parents evenings and when they are bad, it is very hard and you take it very personally. That side of it I can definitely relate to. As for the ‘self harm’ I do feel both as a teacher and a mum that we are very quick to label children these days and that really worries me. Children get frustrated, they go through phases and we should be careful to keep a close eye on these things but ‘self harm’ is a really strong term. She may just get angry and frustrated and that is the way she deals with it. That doesn’t make it ok or acceptable, but we all get angry and frustrated. My six year old becomes angry very quickly and throws things at me. My eight year old shuts down and stops talking. You shouldn’t feel responsible for the way she is dealing with this as you are obviously a great mum. I wish I had an answer for you, but I do hope I am sure that you will work through this together.

  20. Only just saw your tweet. So sorry to hear this. I wish I knew the answer, or knew someone who did.

    I hope you both get through it.

    Liska xxx

  21. There is always something to contend with – either boys or girls, no matter what age. It looks like you have caught it early and it is wonderful to see so much support. Your bravery is to be honoured and epitomises your efforts to be the best mum you can be. One thing that unfailingly helps anyone (any age) when confused rage takes over – is to paint – to paint how she feels. You can do the same, with her or not. Sometimes I even just do it in my mind, until things clear. She doesn’t even have to name her feelings then – but it does help get them out. It will help you all. Big hugs and lots of luck XXX

    • Thanks Anya – another really good idea I hadn’t thought of – I’m so glad I wrote this now, there is so much useful stuff we can do, and even if it doesn’t solve the problem directly, the time we spend doing it together will inevitably help 🙂

  22. Catherine, Nikki and Liska, I really appreciate your kind words – I am tearful over most of these comments, because I am overwhelmed by the support and kindness people have shown me today, as well as by my concern for my girl. She will not tell me what goes on in her head when she is unhappy, and I don’t want to pressurize her, but I hate not knowing how to help her deal with problems.
    Thank you so much, and Nikki – that kind of advice coming from a teacher is so reassuring 🙂

  23. I’ve no wise words of advice, sorry, you’ve given me so much support & advice I wish I could offer you the same, but i am truly sorry you & GG are going through such a rough time xxx

  24. Ohh my love, how heart-wrenching this is. I do not have experience of this per se, but bits ring bells. MY JJ (8 years) is very bright too and has known everything from a very early age and I talk to him about stuff way beyond his normal age level comprehension but it is what he has asked for and GG too, I imagine, so just to assure you many kids like to be treated like little adults in terms of quenching their knowledge thirst.

    JJ also used to have issues with not knowing what to do with anger and we taught him to go to hisroom and either scream or bash his pillow. Letting him know it is cimpetely reaosnable to get angry at times but you have to channel that anger out of you in a safe way.

    My prayers are with you love. Mich x

  25. Big hugs and support to you. Being a mum is the toughest job in the world – people go through years of training in the workplace to handle things we are expected to deal with as part of motherhood.
    Don’t blame yourself. The level of concern and self-examination you are showing is testament to what a loving parent you are. We always feel that children are so delicate but really they’re pretty resilient and she will get through this. Try to remember the mantra from when they were babies “it’s a stage she’s going through, it won’t last forever.”
    Her self destructive actions seem borne out of frustration not any kind of head-f**k at your hands and this is not unusual in kids. How many times have you heard about kids who hold their breath til they turn blue!
    Get some help and advice from health professionals and don’t stop listening to your instincts. And remember, you know her best. xxx

    • You are so right Aisha! I had forgotten about the breath holding thing! And you never really know until you become a parent how much of a guilt-trip everything is, do you. You think everything you do is wrong, and they are programmed to cut you no slack at all! Thanks for the reminder 😉

  26. Your poor sweet girl and your poor, loving heart which is probably just so sick with worry. Our daughter can’t even walk yet and I have already learnt that as Mummies, we direct the first and harshest judgement toward ourselves when anything seems like it’s not quite right. By taking the teacher’s comments seriously, whether accurate or not, and looking for ways to support your daughter, you are helping GG. You will find a way to love her through this confusing time and that’s really what we want from our mums, isn’t it? Just to be there loving us. That’s what makes you a great mum.

    • You are very wise – that’s what my Sister in Law said too, and she’s an excellent mum. You can’t change who they are, all you can do is love them through it. Thank you

  27. Ahh bless you lovely, how worrying for you, no wonder you’ve been in tears gorgeous.

    As the others have said, don’t start worrying about what you didn’t do or did do before – there’s plenty of time to help your gorgeous girl learn to manage herself. You are a brilliant Mum, so don’t lose confidence in yourself.

    I can also have complex conversations with Max, and one of them is about the fact that everyone is brilliant at some things naturally, others we have to work at and others are just not our bag. It normally comes up when he worries that someone else is better than him at something or gets upset because he can’t do something. So we’ll chat about how his mate is great at such and such, but then how he is great at something else. We’ll talk about how computer games are what his daddy is good at doing with him, and that I’m better at the creative stuff. We do this quite a lot.

    At night I get him to count three things that he can say thankful for as a way of relaxing and showing that there are always blessings, whatever the kind of day he has had. Then after I’ve read to him I’ll say “I love you from the top of your head, to the bottom of your toes, from your insides to your outsides, from your naughty side to your good side, from here to infinity”. To show him that I love him no matter what.

    I’d really recommend you try some cranial sacral with your daughter if she would be up for it. There are some brilliant people who specialise in kids.

    Come over and have a chat lovely – I can explain lots more about this sort of stuff over a coffee with some MORE cake!

    • I love your bedtime routine Lisa! Things to be thankful for is a technique I used to use in CBT but I hadn’t thought of using it with the children – but why not? And it’s good to say you love them even thought they can be naughty, yours is a lovely expression. I will definitely pin you down for cake and chat at some point, you seem to have a very serene presence so hopefully some of that can rub off on me!
      Thanks x

  28. I’m so sorry that you and your daughter are going through this. I don’t really know what the answer is, but just wanted to say, I really hope you can find a way to help GG quickly, and also, that when I read your blog you strike me as a wonderfully supportive mother.
    I can remember finding playing the piano frustrating as a child. If I ‘went wrong’ I felt I had to go back to the beginning and start the piece again. I do remember having some real tantrums as a result of the piano practice!

    • Her teacher says the same – it is incredibly difficult and we have considered stopping it but she is good at it, and is so happy when she achieves a new piece. Maybe it’s just all the pressure coming at once – thanks for your comment x

  29. Your writing is so brilliant that it made me feel as though I was there with you for each episode. You seem to be covered in hugs and support, so I shall add mine as another layer on top. I echo the words below that motherhood is INCREDIBLY tough, and the only supremely important job that gets zero training so while I don’t think that you should blame yourself at all, you’re right at just looking at what you do to see what may need tweaking as your daughter rides this phase.

    GG sounds incredibly like my daughter who is much younger and also your post reminded me about myself. I went through years of food related issues, making myself sick whoever I “felt bad” and hid this from my family. In a way it’s a relief that GG’s anger is so visual so that you can find a way to nip in the bud how she expresses it. I wonder if some labour techniques wouldn’t work as a distraction – sounds mad I know, but stamping feet, deep breaths (count 4 in count 4 out), bouncing on a ball, and maybe you could do those things together. My grandfather once got me to hold a glass of water out in front of me for as long as I could, and of course after a while I started to ache. He looked at me in surprise and said “well, why don’t you put it down for a while
    ?” and then explained that whenever I found something difficult or painful that I should step away from it and then come back. It helped me a lot.

    You have some great advice here, I am sure that with such a loving and supportive family (because you’re not on your own!) she will move away from this phase. Good luck and big hugs again. Xxx

    • How lovely to have a compliment on my writing in all of this 🙂 Thank you, that is a happy thing. And some more great advice, thank you – I will be trying all of it over the next few weeks x

  30. I have no advice to offer I’m afraid as am feeling my way through with my one year old. But, from your blog alone it is clear that GG is well loved and very well cared for. I think this will pass. I hope so. You have done all the right things and am sure that she knows that you love her. Thats what counts. Don’t doubt yourself. *Virtual Hug*

  31. Wow so many words of support and wisdom, I hope you found them comforting. I don’t have much to add except that you are a brilliant mum and GG is a wonderful little girl. I think even the mildest children sometimes go through fits of rage (we seem to have them on a daily basis at the moment) and I guess that in GG’s case it is particularly intense (which surprises me as she seems like such a wise and level headed girl). Hopefully it is just a phase but going by the advice you’ve had so far I would say it don’t brush it off and take any help the professionals (teachers, health visitors etc.) are offering you, even if it turns out to be nothing, at least you won’t regret not having investigated it further if she needed some outside help. Thinking of you and you know me and K are there for you xxx

  32. I don’t feel qualified to advise as I haven’t experienced this – although my daughter certainly has a temper tantrum most times she does piano practice! But just wanted to say I’m sorry you are going through all this worry and for what it’s worth I don’t think for a moment it’s because you have been pushing her too hard! I hope this will pass soon xxx

  33. Beautifully captured. I blogged about a similar concern with my 3 year old http://parkconfessional.com/step-1-take-salt-and-rub-it-liberally-in-woun
    and having given this topic a lot of thought, I realise that I’m also one of those people who self harms out of frustration. I can’t quite remember when it started but it’s something I’ve always done in varying degrees. And to reassure you, I had a wonderful mom and other than the usual adult quirks, consider myself pretty normal. What I can tell you is that it’s a horrible, lonely place to find yourself in…(and you feel abit like a tool too, what with a fistful of hair in your hand or a bleeding forehead courtesy of your own fingernails ) so be gentle with her. Xox Park Confessional

    • Thank you so much for the comment. I worry also that there is no way I can influence what will happen, and that mental health issues will be her bag. I hope as she gets older she will find better ways of dealing with her anxiety 🙂

  34. You’re not alone – and looking at all these wonderfully supportive responses, I hope you realise that and take comfort from it. Writing about it with such honesty is so brave of you. I recently took that step for the first time, by mentioning my daughter’s similar problems in an article on my own blog, Home Truths From a Broad. I was too ashamed to talk about it before because I thought I must be a terrible parent to be in this situation.

    Georgie has low self-esteem and problems interpreting social signals. It breaks your heart to hear her call herself a “freak” and “bad”, that she thinks there’s nothing about herself worth loving or liking. It used to be just the temper tantrums, the increasingly aggressive and destructive behaviour that worried us. Now she’s taken to banging her head against walls.

    What’s given me hope so far is the support we’re getting from her school and from child behaviour experts at County Children’s Services. Now I’ve read your experiences and those of everyone else who has commented here, I also know that I’m not alone and probably (!) not a bad parent.

    I wish you and your daughter all the best and hope with all my heart you find the help and support you need to make things better.

    • Oh I’m sorry. We are all doing our best with our kids, and I have been comforted by the commenters on this one, that it may not be as bad as I thought, and that it isn’t my fault. That said, I have learned a lot and have some new techniques we’re trying, and that is helping us both. Hope you do too, and thanks for commenting

  35. What a poignant posts and the comments are lovely too. My son struggles with low self esteem and will sometimes poke himself in the head when he is struggling to concentrate or communicate. Luckily I have a supportive SENCO at the school, but it is also so helpful to read other parents’ experiences.

  36. Hi, I came across your post via Tots100. I really sympathise with your situation and hope that you are finding ways of helping to support your little girl. We have been finding our beautiful happy little girl becoming very anxious and having ‘worries’ whilst in year 2. It’s very upsetting and confusing for us all and some of the things she says about herself make my heart literallly break in anguish, but we have to find a way of helping her somehow.

    • Hi, thanks for commenting. I’m sorry your daughter is going through this. It was year 2 that did it for GG too. There were a lot of friendship issues in year 2 as well, and when I spoke to the school about it, they said it’s very common for year 2 girls to start with friendship manipulation and sneaky ways. It’s horrible to watch, but if it’s any consolation we have calmed down a lot now. Year 2 steps up quite a bit with the focus on work and results, and in a good school, appropriate challenge. GG is bright and was being challenged quite a lot. She was more than capable, but the school decided she wasn’t emotionally ready to handle quite so much, and needed a bit of slack, just to be a little girl with her friends. Once we all backed off on the challenge, she calmed down. She is still a perfectionist, but we all know how to handle it with her a bit better now. Good luck and if you want to chat you can find me on Twitter most days x

  37. I’m sorry I never came across this post before – how are things now?

    Even now I cut out all the split ends in my hair, but it’s a lot less harmful than my old behaviours.

    • Much better thank you – I think she goes through phases of frustration. I’m glad you managed to contain yours and hopefully she’ll learn to do the same 🙂

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