Sidelined By Negative Self-Talk

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Jamilah Lemieux: Welcome to Mom and Dad are fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Monday, September 12. Be Sidelined by Negative Self-Talk Edition. I’m Jamilah Lemieux. A writer contributor to Slate’s contributing parenting column Moms Naima, who is nine and we live in Los Angeles.

Elizabeth Newcamp: I’m Elizabeth Newcamp. I write the homeschool and family travel blog, Dutch Statues. I’m the mom to three little Henry who’s ten, Oliver who’s eight, and Teddy who’s five. We live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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Zak Rosen: I’m Zak Rosen. I host the Best Advice Show podcast. My oldest is Noah. She just turned five and my youngest, Amy, is about to turn two and we live in Detroit.

Jamilah Lemieux: Today on the show, we have a question about a little boy who just started team sports. He was really confident going into the season but soon spiraled into negative self-talk. Can we help him over this hump before he decides that his season is prematurely over? But first, we want us to jump into the mailbag because we have updates. Let’s start with a letter from our potty training pal who couldn’t quite get her little one to stop what he was doing and go to the bathroom.

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Jamilah Lemieux: Thanks for answering my question on the podcast. I’ve been listening since long before I had kids, so that was a fun surprise. Your answers were very insightful. Perhaps he’s a little young to be potty trained, but as you surmised, he is a very precocious two and a half year old. And yeah, he’s going through some stuff right now. We had another baby in March and now his beloved nanny abruptly left for family reasons. It’s been stressful for all of us, and perhaps the reason we had another regression. We are now considering some kind of reward system, maybe a sticker journal where we write his achievements and fun events for the day and review it at night. Thanks for the suggestions. I’m glad you said that potty training is the worst because it really hasn’t been that bad. Finding a new nanny. That might actually be the worst.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: Yay. I’m glad we helped someone find that nanny first and have them do it.

Jamilah Lemieux: Probably. Hopefully feel less bad about the fact that your 25 year old is not potty training because he is in good company. Yes.

Jamilah Lemieux: We also got an update from one of our more intimate letters, the husband who wanted his pregnant wife to work out more. Hi, mom and Dad. Thank you for your advice about my husband bugging me about working out while pregnant. I had an explicit conversation about this with him and he agreed to back off. I also got diagnosed with Speedy. Essentially, my body released the hormone relaxin too early and my pubic bones have separated. It’s painful, but not a danger to me or our baby. But it does explain a lot of my pain when it comes to walking and exercise. He apologized to me and has been super supportive ever since.

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Jamilah Lemieux: One thing I should mention is my husband is Neurodivergent and he doesn’t always know when to drop a subject or pick up on when he’s upsetting someone. He really felt bad after we had a very clear conversation. Predictably, doing things like organizing the nursery and building some baby items really helped him focus some of his anxiety and energy about the baby coming. We’re both very excited. Thank you so much for your advice. Feeling relieved and waiting for our baby.

Zak Rosen: That’s a happy ending.

Jamilah Lemieux: Happy ending for sure.

Zak Rosen: Because of explicit conversations, it’s all about the explicit conversation. You’ve got to be explicit.

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Jamilah Lemieux: To be explicit. We are. Very happy that you are feeling healthy and loved and that maybe we helped a little bit. If you’ve ever had one of your letters answered on the show, we love hearing updates more than anything. Give us updates. It doesn’t matter how long ago the letter was, just send us an update. All right. Let’s take a quick break. And when we come back, we will dive into our listener question.

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Jamilah Lemieux: All right. We’re back and ready to hear today’s listener question. Take it away, Sasha. Dear mom and dad, our five year old started team sports this year. We are encouraging him to try as many sports as he wants to see what he likes. But I’ve noticed an issue. Before the sport starts, he’s very confident and excited. But after the first practice, he gets very down on himself and exhibits a lot of negative self-talk, including I’m the worst. It’ll never get better, and I’m terrible at everything. At first I thought he was doing this for attention, but it has continued. So I’m becoming concerned.

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Jamilah Lemieux: He’s not a natural athlete, but my wife and I always try to give positive feedback even when he struggles. We read children’s books about positive visualization and success, but he just focuses on the negative. I’m worried this could make him predisposed to depression as he gets older. How do you teach that? It’s okay to struggle and failure is just a part of learning. Thanks. Starting sports. Zach, what say you?

Zak Rosen: I well, I totally feel you starting sports. I have been there with with my kid who is a similar age, who’s is who is prone to some some negative self-talk. And I wonder if you’re doing great with reading them books and stuff about positive visualization, but how do you deal with failure and struggle in front of them? Are you easy to call yourself an idiot when you do something minor?

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Zak Rosen: I catch myself doing that all the time, and so I’ve started to try to just be a lot more conscious of of what I am showing. Telling is one thing, but like on a day to day, what does failure look like to you? And just be really aware of that. And like, if you are being nurturing to yourself when you’re messing up, that’s going to be good for your kid to see. And another thing is for your kid to see you, whether it’s playing sports or playing games at home, just seeing you mess up like cultivate. Times at home when you can kind of very openly mess up and show them how to handle that with grace. I think that’s important.

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Zak Rosen: And also, it’s great that you’re encouraging him to try as many sports as he wants, but are there things that he’s like really into and like, is he really into, you know, knitting or frog collecting or whatever? Like, are you just as encouraging with that stuff? And I’m curious, how does how does his self-talk sound when he’s doing stuff that he already loves compared to stuff that he might not necessarily be into? So so that’s just an open question.

Elizabeth Newcamp: I think that’s great advice. And and trying to make some of that failure that Zach was talking about that is happening in your head. Make it verbal for them, like, gosh, I really, you know, screw this up. That’s okay. I’ve never done this before. I’m going to try it again like I tried to, to take those internal conversations and have them hear me say it in hopes that that will become their monologue.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: One of the best things we did when Henry started diving, he really wanted to try diving. It is a hard sport to kind of get into because when you don’t know what you’re doing, every time you leave the board, you are going to belly flop. We took him to a college diving meet and he watched athletes do amazing dives and he also watched college athletes fall on their faces and get out of the pool and their team greet them and hug them. And their teammates still have a good laugh. We’re lucky at the academy that he you can actually get like a sport pen pal. And his pen pal is a diver. And we when we watched and he literally belly flopped and got out of the pool and was laughing and his teammates were laughing and something. And Henry’s had switched like totally just switched between, I don’t have to be perfect every time. I’m just trying to get better and do something that I love.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: So I don’t know. You can go you can go online and watch funny failures and moments of really great athletes and just try to say like, listen, not everyone does does things great all the time. You know, I think kids tend to focus on everyone doing well. I love Zac’s suggestion of finding something your kid loves, although they’re trying everything you probably know, things that he’s already good at. So can you also set him up for a little success? So have an activity that he is really good at, just naturally or really enjoys. Be that art, you know, wherever that falls or if there’s a sport that he might be really good at pushing him to try that even if that’s not forever just for confidence boost might be great.

Elizabeth Newcamp: I also wonder if it’s a team sport situation like is it happening because he sees other kids? Like would he be better in an individual sport where it’s more like I’m just working to get better versus like, well, hey, we’re playing soccer and I nobody ever kicks me the ball because I can’t kick it far or whatever, you know, might be for the sport. I drop it all the time in baseball, whatever that is. So I don’t know if there’s some way to kind of tweak that. And I also think it’s totally okay if you’re going through this, like Zach said, to try something else, like go collect, be awesome at collecting and categorizing frogs. That’s totally cool too. And you can mix that up with other activities.

Elizabeth Newcamp: Jamila, what do you think?

Jamilah Lemieux: Yeah, I agree with all the both of you all have said and echoing on, you know, Elizabeth, what you did, letting your kids see people who are older and more experienced at the sport, fail, you know, and struggle and make mistakes, emphasizing the fact that, like learning a sport is a process and that very few people start something and they’re just really great at it, you know? And they may find that certain parts of the sport come to them very easily and that they are really great at it. But the only way to get there is to keep trying that most athletes spend years improving their game, that even the best athletes in sport lose. You know, like I don’t know if your child has watched any athletics on television.

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Jamilah Lemieux: You could talk about Serena Williams, you know, who the greatest of all time and loses, you know, in the third round of the U.S. Open, you know, that all the great basketball players have missed shots. All of the great baseball players have missed whatever they do. You know, it’s just not no, you know, few athletes always have perfect games and no athletes, you know, get to where they want to be in their sport without a lot of practice and a lot of hard work. And, you know, that’s something that kids don’t always want to accept when it comes to trying something new. Naima is definitely has exhibited this behavior before. Something doesn’t come to her really easily. She oftentimes wants to give up on it because she feels defeated. And just emphasizing practice, practice, practice is what’s going to get you to where you want to go.

Elizabeth Newcamp: Is there some way to do like not? You know, some of this, I think, is also just the fault of where children’s sports are today, that everything is, like so intense. Like, I often feel like the best introduction to a sport is like sandlot style, right? Like all the neighbors and a baseball fan and a bat. So if you can cultivate any of that, like our neighbors have a basketball hoop that they let us come use. And anytime the kids are out there shooting like they have a great time. But when we tried to play basketball, all of a sudden the kids were like, This is too much. Like, I’m not good at this. I’m not, you know, but when you’re when everybody has a ball and is just throwing it at the hoop, that they’re having fun.

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Elizabeth Newcamp: So I think trying to find to that balance between like, can we find a way to just make this like something the family goes to do? We all go play tennis and we’re just going to hit the ball and it doesn’t matter, right? Like this is just going to be fun. And then when you go to play the sport trying to just say, you know, I love watching you play out there like like that’s fun for me. You look like you’re having fun as opposed to, hey, you drop that ball or I’m sure you’re not. It doesn’t sound like you’re the type of parents that are doing that. But is there some way to just complement the like, way to get out there and give it a try?

Zak Rosen: Bring back the sand. Let’s.

Jamilah Lemieux: All right. Starting sports. Please let us know how those next few practices go. We hope our advice helps everyone else. Have you experienced anything like this? Do you have some advice for our letter writer? Let us know by emailing mom and dad at Slate.com, which is also where you can send us any questions of your own.

Jamilah Lemieux: It’s finally time for recommendations. Zach, what are you recommending for us this week?

Zak Rosen: I’m recommending a children’s book called Everything Naomi Loved, written by Katie Yamasaki and Ian Lendler and illustrated by Katie Yamasaki, who is she’s a muralist who has started to put out children’s books in the last several years. And this is such a heartbreakingly beautiful book about a neighborhood. The subtext is like the neighborhood, and it looks like Brooklyn. It doesn’t say for sure, but this neighborhood is being gentrified and this 11 year old girl is reckoning with a loss of, you know, her best friend moving away the herd, her neighbors moving away, the neighborhood businesses closing.

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Zak Rosen: So it’s it’s really like a devastating commentary on gentrification, but it’s rendered so beautifully and deals with, like, how we deal with loss and and what role art can play in helping us create memories and remember what we had, even though, like, everything fades and everything changes. So it’s a beautiful book she’s written, some others. This is the only one that I have read. I’ve been meaning to check out the others, but to to very enthusiastic thumbs up for everything Naomi loved.

Elizabeth Newcamp: Looks beautiful.

Zak Rosen: Yeah.

Jamilah Lemieux: Nice. What about you, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth Newcamp: I’m recommending a book for adults called How to Keep House Wild Drowning by Casey Davis. And you can also follow Casey on TikTok at Domestic Blisters. This is a very short read like she actually has it bulleted. And the front page says, like, if you only have an hour, these are the chapters to read and just read these bullet points, which just to me is like, Oh, this woman gets me. But it’s this wonderful book.

Elizabeth Newcamp: If you are starting to feel stressed about your house and keeping it tidy and keeping it clean, I really detest visual clutter, but I find that like at the end of the day, I’m tired and it just feels like a lot to make sure that everything is put back. This felt like going to therapy where someone releases you from a lot of that and says sort of like this. The the theme of the book is sort of you don’t work for your home, your home should work for you. And she talks a lot about that organization is everything having a place and so you can have a home in which things do not always get put back, but it is still organized because you could put everything back.

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Zak Rosen: Oh yeah.

Elizabeth Newcamp: Some of those words just hit my soul like, Hey, it’s okay, I can be released from this, and I can still think of myself as a organized, clean person without the stress of that. Because I am I might have, you know, release myself from clutter. She has this wonderful thing, though, where she says, if you have had stuff sitting around waiting to go to Goodwill, throw it out. It’s okay. Just throw it out. She says, I know that you intended to take it. It’s okay. And I, in this phase of my life, I needed that.

Elizabeth Newcamp: We are busy. I try to get the kids to clean up. But I also don’t want our whole life becoming about making sure that our home, you know, looks like some picture on Instagram where, you know, all the stuff is pushed to the side. Like that is something I need to let go of. This book was exactly what I needed. You can definitely read the whole book. You can also I read it in an hour, sitting by a creek while the kids were making a huge mess on this trip. And I felt lighter. So definitely check it out. How to Keep House While Drowning by Casey Davis. If you don’t want to read the book, just go check out her Tiktoks. They’re lovely. You’ll feel seen.

Zak Rosen: We should have her on the show.

Jamilah Lemieux: Very.

Elizabeth Newcamp: Yeah, yeah.

Zak Rosen: The idea of everything actually having a place, even if it’s even if it’s not in that place, that’s. There’s so much stuff in my house that I just don’t know where it should be.

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Jamilah Lemieux: Yeah, I.

Elizabeth Newcamp: Just think it’s all this really practical advice coming from a really loving place, but also for someone, for me giving advice in the future. I feel like I read a bunch of stuff and thought like, Oh, this advice that I gave thinking that that was helpful may have actually not been helpful to someone.

Jamilah Lemieux: Love that.

Zak Rosen: Thank you for that.

Zak Rosen: How about you, Jamila?

Jamilah Lemieux: I am recommending a movie called Honk or Jesus Save Your Soul. It is. Or it’s streaming on Peacock. And I think it’s in theaters, too. It stars Sterling K Brown and Regina Hall. It is a comedy. It’s a somewhat morose comedy. You know, like it’s about the past 31st lady of a megachurch in Atlanta. They’ve got 26,000 members. They are wealthy. He’s got a closet full of Prada suits in every color. And he is disgraced by a scandal, a sex scandal, which you don’t know too much about it.

Jamilah Lemieux: And so later in the film. And most of the black leaves and so. He is setting up where he and his wife are plotting for their big comeback on Easter Sunday. They’re going to reopen the doors to the church and hopefully welcome in a lot of their former members. And many of the members have already transitioned to a new church that’s owned by a young, cool, hipper couple that’s somewhat reminiscent of them some time in the past.

Jamilah Lemieux: And it is a really biting commentary about not just the black church, but prosperity, churches and megachurches. You know, the pastors that wear $4,000 suits, you know, and expect a lot of tithing and giving to be done by their members regardless of what their income is. It is just really smart. It’s really funny and I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Not a kid’s movie. Well, let’s see your cake. Really. Don’t even watch it. But you know, it’s not a little kids movie if you’ve got a kid who’s an old soul, she kind of tuned out on a few parts of it, so I don’t know how much she actually took from it, but it is really something and it’s going to stick with me for quite a while.

Zak Rosen: Cool.

Jamilah Lemieux: So check it out. And that is it for our show. We’ll be back in your face on Thursday, so be sure to tune in while you’re at it. Priests charts of the show give us a rating on Apple or Spotify. We love it. This episode of Mom and Dad or Fighting is produced by Rosemary Belson and Kristie Taiwo-Makanjuola for Elizabeth Newcamp and Zak Rosen. I am Jamilah Lemieux. Thank you for listening.