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September 20, 2018

Teaching children to deal with disappointment

Disappointment and failure are some of life’s unpleasant realities. All of us at one time or the other will need to deal with the fact that life will hand you lemons. So how does a parent teach their child to make lemonade? I guess the first thing is to let the child know that both disappointment and failure are part of the learning process. I like the story of Abraham Lincoln who lost numerous elections before becoming the President of America. It is for the child’s benefit to learn early that failing does not make them a failure; instead it just shows them what to do different.

As a mommy I find myself eager to compensate my child and act as a buffer to their disappointment but with time I am learning that is neither helpful nor healthy. Earlier on in my parenting journey, I would threaten a negative consequence to bad behavior and then when faced with the tears and looks of disappointment I would recant. Not anymore. A good example is this past weekend. For the longest time I have been encouraging the boys to finish of all homework on Friday evening as they have soccer and other events over the weekend. This weekend they both played deaf; they neither did their homework on Friday or Saturday. Come Sunday evening I wanted to go visit a friend whose children are the same age as mine. They pleaded and pleaded, one had only four questions to tackle; it didn’t matter to me. I left them in tears looking at me forlornly through the window, it wasn’t easy but I drove away nonetheless, it was time they learnt to deal with the consequences of their choices, no matter how disappointing.

Not all disappointments facing our children are of their own making. Sometimes things just seem to conspire against our choices. For instance, a party that must be cancelled, a swimming treat that needs to be called off due to bad weather, a bad grade after putting in hours of study, later on a ‘broken’ heart due to unrequited affections. All these are issues our children will deal with at one time or another; as parents we need to allow them to experience them. The truth is almost any parent would willingly take a bullet for their child and it is no easy thing to watch your child suffering, but the truth is part of parenting is preparing the child for life and letting them experience disappointments is part of the journey.

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