As parents, we often motivate ourselves through criticism. We beat up on ourselves for the mistakes we make and this often translates into how we are as parents.

I sat down with my colleague Dr. Deniz Ahmadinia, Psy.D, to discuss how we can model self-compassion for our children so that they relate to themselves in a self-compassionate manner so that they can be more resilient in the face of hardship.

Here’s our conversation:


Koorosh: One of the things that really stuck with me as I was talking to you about this in preparation is the self compassion piece. Because, I can certainly beat myself up over not being perfect. So, can you talk about how you bring that compassion piece in?

Dr. Deniz: Absolutely. For me, the self compassion piece really came out of just running this program multiple times with different populations–with mothers, with fathers, with both sets of parents–and one common theme that I heard so frequently in a lot of the feedback as we talked about how the practices were going was, I heard parents beating up on themselves so, so much.

And the self criticism that we carry as individuals so frequently gets translated into how you are as a parent. And the criticism that we put on ourselves triggers that stress response the same way that, you know, being late and jumping on the 405 does. And that’s just another piece that makes it more challenging for us to be present and be the kind of parent we want to be.

So, your question was, “How do we start incorporating these self compassion practices?” And one is just recognizing the way we talk to ourselves. We are our own worst critic, right? Our own worst critic. And you know, we find that just the way that our culture is now that we tend to motivate ourselves with criticism rather than with kindness and compassion. And I think there’s a lot of reasons for this, that you know we think it’s kind of soft or weak or that we’re making excuses. So, for parents we’re trying to build up kind of this, like, psychological immune system almost where we have this resilience against the stresses that we face every day.

So, to bring some of that self compassion is to shift how we talk to ourselves, how we relate to our experience when it doesn’t go well when we hit hardship, and I imagine this is something that you see a lot in the work that you do.

Koorosh: It’s funny that you say that because I was just sort of thinking about adolescents, young adults that are who I work with and who we work with at EVO, and there’s a big difference between folks that come in–we can’t really pinpoint, there’s no parenting style that’s going to create immunity for future struggle, we just don’t know. People trip into struggle. But, there’s a difference around how people respond internally.

Some people come in with a greater curiosity and they’re more available at the beginning to, “What’s going on with me?” as opposed to other people that come in and they’re like, “I just screwed it all up, I’m a screw-up.” These kind of “I am” statements that end in really negative, disparaging comments.

And that’s what I’m hearing is this–and I loved it because I was like, “Oh, part of parenting is actually to screw up because it’s modeling what to do when you do make a mistake.” That on to the next mistake idea.

Dr. Deniz: And, I mean, as you’re saying that I’m thinking what a wonderful model you can be for your child then, right? They see mom, dad, whoever make a mistake and rather than hearing them narrate out loud berating themselves, you’re such an idiot, you’re this, you’re that, how could you do that, we have the opportunity to show them how to relate to themselves in a self compassionate manner which sets them up, you know, when they hit hardship–which we want to prepare our children for because it’s inevitable–that they don’t get stuck there. They sort of bounce off a little bit more now.

Koorosh: That’s wonderful.

Dr. Deniz Ahmadinia is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Beverly Hills where she specializes in trauma/PTSD, anxiety, women’s health and mindfulness-based approaches. She has worked as a staff psychologist at the esteemed West Los Angeles VA Medical Center following completion of an Advanced Post-Doctoral Fellowship in integrative health, and specialty training in mindfulness, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, trauma, and anxiety. Dr. Deniz had the privilege of training in and facilitating Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Kristen Neff & Chris Germer’s Mindful Self-Compassion with renowned psychologists and certified meditation teachers. During her time at the VA, she also implemented a Mindful Parenting program for Veterans, based on her clinical research. 

Dr. Deniz completed an APA accredited internship at Sepulveda VA Ambulatory Care Center, where she received specialty training in PTSD, anxiety, women’s health, and substance abuse. She has also worked at the Long Beach VA, at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior conducting neuropsychological assessment of degenerative conditions, and at the Pepperdine Community Counseling Center as a therapist and supervisor. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Dr. Deniz trained at the Southern California Counseling Center in the Family Therapy and School-Based programs, as well as at the Dangerfield Institute for Urban Problems.

Learn more about Dr. Deniz

Evo Health and Wellness is an outpatient addiction treatment program that respects where you are and where you want to go. Clients set goals that work for them, whether they include complete abstinence or moderation. Evo sees success as lasting change in the client’s life, including physical health, movement towards personal goals, and their sense of connection and purpose. Evo’s program integrates psychotherapy, psychiatry, life coaching, and somatic therapy. Learn more about Evo’s program for young people.