Sometimes the road to self-improvement can also lead us toward self-doubt. Things that we previously thought we were doing okay on, we suddenly start to think we aren’t doing well enough. This especially happens in parenting. I hear from parents all the time that they want to “say the right thing”–but there is no clear wrong and right when it comes to parenting. You are doing better than you know. 

Sometimes the road to self-improvement can also lead us towards self-doubt, things that we felt like we were doing okay on, now suddenly we feel like we're not doing well enough. This especially holds true in parenting. I get questions and emails all the time with people wondering how they should talk to their kids specifically what they should say to their kids. Now, if you're approaching unchartered territory, like the death of an animal, introducing the birds and the bees, or some other topic that you just have no idea where to start or no idea how to cover it. Then I think it's wise to seek out information and resources and friends who might have experience with these things. But what I'm seeing is this increasing trend towards getting it right and saying the right things in small, everyday interactions with our kids.

What do I say? When my kid gets upset with me? What do I say? When my kid gets left by a friend? What do I say? When my kid shows me a picture that he's really proud of? What do I say? When my kid hurts my feelings? When it comes to the social and emotional development of our kids, we so desperately want to get it right. We so want to say the right things for them to grow and thrive and be happy. We start on a path towards self-improvement, but the truth is most of these questions weren't answers that come from the heart that come from your authentic reaction. As a human, as a parent, there is no right and wrong. If your kid asks you a tough question or you come into a difficult situation and you flub it up, it'll be okay.

So that's what we're talking about today. Letting go of that self-doubt and the desire to say all the right things, to get it right every time and lean in just being ourselves and being human and being authentic with our kids. Even if that looks imperfect.

So I've got an email this week from Sarah who has done a couple of my programs, and it was a great question, a very thoughtful question, a long question, I'm going to read it and give you a kind of a summary of it and I'm not going to promise that I will actually answer the question today in her email, Sarah was asking about a parenting strategy, style philosophy. I'm not sure what you been call it and saying that she wanted to get it right. And she wanted to do that this, but it didn't sit well with her. It didn't quite feel right. She was asking my opinion to see if I could help her make some sense of it. So here's Sarah's question.

Hi, Denaye. In regards to the growth mindset in toddlers, I've recently, we've been thinking about the possible clash between the growth mindset and the child feeling abandoned. And my daughter is three and a half years old. When a toddler, it shows us a drawing that he has made and says things like, do you like it? Or look at what I did. And the response that he gets is, well, what do you think about it?

Or do you like it? I'm afraid that this is going to make the child feel abandoned and alone, even worse. It might make him feel shame or embarrassment because his enthusiasm isn't being met with yours. He may think he misinterpreted the situation. I'm very interested in your thoughts on this and feel free to strongly disagree with me. Instilling a growth mindset is very important to me, but I'm uncertain about how to go about it. So, in this question. What I'm hearing from you, Sarah, is that you're worried if we don't give our kids direct feedback. If we don't explain the world to them, that we might run the risk of leaving them high and dry to figure things out for themselves. And they might feel abandoned by that. For anyone that's not familiar with the growth mindset, the goal, all of this is how do we talk to and how do we convey to our children that they are capable of success.

They are capable of putting their minds to it and doing anything that they want to do in life, as opposed to a fixed mindset where kids feel like there are certain things they're just not good at, and they're never going to be good at them, no matter how hard they, so what Sarah wants to do is to raise her kids to believe that they're capable of anything. And if you look across the internet on Pinterest or Instagram or wherever you go, you'll find a million different examples of how to develop a growth mindset in your kids. Specific language, examples, scenarios, you name it. I want to, first of all, say that this was a very thoughtful email, and I can tell that you're a very intentional human who really wants to do right by your family. Your children will not feel abandoned by you, regardless of which words you choose in these situations, you're showing up every day, you're loving them.

You're accepting them. You're connecting with them, regardless of the words or approach that you choose. You're building a powerful, positive relationship with your kids. Now notice, I didn't say perfect relationship with your kids because that's not what we're striving for here. So I'm no, I'm not answering your question directly by responding to my thoughts on the growth mindset. But instead I want to talk about self-doubt. We are under so much pressure to get it right, but the problem is there is no right when your child shows you a picture, if you say, Oh, you can do better than that. Your brother could draw better at that age. Okay. Yeah. Then I think your language needs some work. I don't like that response at all, but if your child has your picture and you say that's beautiful, or it looks like you worked really hard on that, or I love when you share your work with me or I'm proud of you, or I like it.

Do you like it? You could say a million different things. Those are all fine. Those are all right to me. Whatever response comes to you in the moment that comes from the heart, that feels good to you and also feels good to your child. That's absolutely okay. That is absolutely good. Enough. Authentic, genuine responses are way better than any curated practiced, perfectly prepared responses that you might've seen somewhere on the internet. Here's an example of something that I read this week from a parenting expert. I read that if your child says something rude, like I hate you, or you're the worst mom ever. You shouldn't say it makes me sad when you say that, and there was a whole sort of analysis of why you shouldn't say that and how it makes your kids feel like they're causing your feelings and you're responsible for your own feelings.

And it made sense to me. But the truth is I say this to my kids. If my kids say something really harsh or hurtful me, I have absolutely said that it hurts my feelings because that is my authentic response. It does hurt my feelings and my kids are humans. They may be young, but they're humans who have an impact on their world. And it's important that they know that impact. So while some experts may say that it's not good to tell your kids, if they've hurt your feelings, sometimes that's what comes out of me when I'm feeling hurt. And I'm okay with that. But I will tell you when I read that it did cause some fleeting moments of self-doubt. I thought to myself, am I saying the right thing? Am I harming my kids in my response? Could I be doing it better? But then I came back to reality because I am doing good enough. And what I noticed was happening was the addition of new tools and strategies were actually causing self-doubt, adding to my overwhelm. I'm going to keep following my heart and using the words that are authentic and true to me. Even if maybe they're not the ideal words, maybe they're not perfect, but my kids are going to be okay.

Many of you know that I'm a clinical social worker. And I spent many years working with kids who had been abused and neglected and had long histories of trauma. And I have seen firsthand what childhood trauma looks like and the profound impact that it has on children for a lifetime. And what I have learned through that work is that children do not need perfect parents. Children do not need parents who get it right all the time. Rather children need parents who show up every day, who love them, who connect with them, who reflect with them, who provide for them and nurture them. And there are 1,000,001 different ways to do that. I am far from perfect as a parent, but I do not worry about traumatizing my children, leaving them to feel abandoned or causing severe psychological harm because I show up every day, I love them.

I connect with them. I mess up and I repair my relationship with them. I try to take care of myself. So my anger doesn't spill over onto them too often, but it does sometimes I'm doing okay. And my kids are very resilient. My day-to-day missteps and imperfections will not result in trauma. They will not result in abandonment. They will not result in psychological harm. Instead, what my kids will see is that it's okay to be a human it's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to be imperfect. We can forgive ourselves and we can forgive each other there a lot of room for error in parenting. But what happens when I face new information that causes self-doubt. Like when I'm reading something like I did this week, that said I was using the wrong words with my kids. That causes me to feel overwhelmed and me to feel stressed out. I feel like I'm not doing things right. It adds to that cup of overwhelmed, that spills out into anger onto my children.

There are lots of ways to do life. Lots of ways to raise kids. Everyone on the internet thinks that they're right. If you're going to dive deep into learning about parenting, you have to understand that the more you read, the more you learn, the more you're going to face contradictions and the more you're going to have to pick and choose what feels good and what feels right to you. The more you're going to have to recognize when it's causing self doubt, when it's hurting more than it's helping. Because when we get overwhelmed, when we feel like we're failing, we start to yell. We start to spill anger all over our kids, our bodies and our nonverbal language starts to speak louder than any of those perfect words that we're trying to get out of our mouth. It's less about finding the perfect words and more about pausing making eye contact, connecting, attending to, and being present with your kids.

And I think that if we could apply that across the board with all of our parenting, we'd be a lot better off because when we get into the details too much, we can't see the forest for the trees. We exert so much time and energy trying to say the right thing and do the right thing. We end up overwhelmed and stressed out and often explosive this idea of saying the right thing and finding the right words keyword, right? Correct. Tends to be rooted in perfectionism linked to this idea that if we don't get it right, we're totally going to mess up our kids. And I don't think that's true at all. So instead of trying to say the right thing, when you're learning about something new, like the growth mindset, for example, try to stay focused on the bigger picture. The bigger picture of the growth mindset is encouraging your kids, that they can do anything, that there is no limit to what they can accomplish.

You don't need a 10 step Pinterest posts to teach you how to do that. You're probably doing it all the time. Don't let it become part of your mental load. Instead when you learn something like that, jot a quick mental note and maybe notice ways that you're already doing it. Well, Sarah, I would venture to say that you are already fostering a growth mindset in your kids and more ways than you know, and this example that you gave it doesn't sit well with you. So don't do it. Forget about it. Respond however feels right to you. Try not to send yourself into analysis paralysis. If it doesn't work for you, don't do it. You are doing better than, you know, your kids are going to be amazing. The best gift that you can give them is finding your own peace and calm and happiness because they will mirror that from you.

That's why I always say in this podcast, take what works for you and leave what doesn't, because I always want you to question what's right for your family and what's not right for your family. You are the only one that knows that you are the expert on your family. I love when people send me emails saying, Denaye, you said this on the podcast. And I don't agree with this at all. Like good, thank you. You're not supposed to agree with everything that I say. There are lots of ways to do life. There are lots of ways to raise kids. You are doing better than, you know, take a deep breath, give yourself a little Pat on the back because you definitely deserve it. Thanks so much for tuning in today. If you haven't checked out my free workshop, go to, and you can find that there. I hope you've enjoyed this episode and I'll talk with you soon. Have a good one.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.