Eliminate self-harm talk in young children with 2 simple steps

by | Apr 12, 2016

Do you have a child under the age of 10 who has spoken about self-harm? It’s more common than you think and here’s what to do.


To us adults, nothing is more serious than when our children speak of hurting themselves, or killing themselves. When we hear the words “I wish I was dead” we forget everything and put our full attention into the problem at hand. And this is why young children do it.


Everybody has the need to be loved and the need to be seen and heard, this is where ‘attention seeking’ comes from. Young children are still figuring out how to meet these needs best while navigating the waters of school, friends and competing with siblings. Our little sponges pick up so much more than we realise and one day they utter the words “I’m going to kill myself” and the world stands still. All eyes are now on that small child, adults use soothing tones, they talk directly to that child as though nothing else exists, they hire experts to spend their time talking to that child and focusing on those magical words… and the small child grows up to learn that self harm equals love and attention.


Step 1

When you hear a young child mention self harm or suicide, act flippant. Pretend that your heart isn’t racing, that your mind isn’t imagining the worst. Completely ignore it, like you didn’t even hear, or brush it off as unimportant. Make a mental note that your child is really asking you for more attention and love, and schedule in some time to give it to them later (not as a result of their words now).


Step 2

Complete the online quiz (www.5lovelanguages.com) to find out your child’s top love language and actively provide it to your child every day. Time the giving of this love language so that it can never be related to the utterance of those heart stopping words. Place these symbols of your love so that they occur when your child is behaving well or in a neutral behaviour or emotion.


Note: this is true also if you have a child who hits themselves or smacks their head against the floor or wall. Take a moment to ask whether you have been rewarding this behaviour with your attention and comforting actions. If so, stop! A behaviour that has previously been rewarded will not disappear immediately, so you must commit to your new action of ignoring their demands for attention and providing the love they crave in more appropriate moments until the behaviour has ceased completely.


Need more help with your self-harming child? Talk to Jess directly by scrolling to the bottom of the page and reaching out for support.


I'm Jess.

I'm Jess.

A mum and a parenting coach.

I help mothers eliminate the extreme emotional behaviours of their child, and grow emotionally intelligent children through love and connection.

I’ve learnt the tools, techniques and mindset needed to take control of my life while helping my son to do the same. But it wasn’t always that way. Read my full story…


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