Teach Your Kids to Handle Disappointments

ááá Or You'll Have A Dependent Adult Child

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It is really hard for you to watch your child hurting, but it is often better for you to bite the bullet and not rescue him from his emotions or try to solve his problems. If he grows up thinking other people should and can always make everything better, he will face the world's reality as an adult without skills to cope or problem solve.

That's not to say don't give your child a hug when he's disappointed, but don't automatically jump in to fix everything. If you do, you are setting him up to feel incapable of taking care of himself, and that feeling will extend into adulthood. You'll be getting telephone calls requesting bail-outs well past the age when he should be on his own. And every time you bail him out you'll be reinforcing that dependency cycle. You'll both become frustrated and grow to resent each other. Certainly that's not our aim as a caring parent.

Instead take a look at the suggestions below and consider the difference in what you will be teaching your child.


1. Teach your child that feelings have a purpose, and can direct us to what we need to do next.

The next time your child complains that he is angry or unhappy, reflect back to him the feelings. "It looks like you're angry and sad. What's happening?á In that way you acknowledge the feelings, and aren't giving a message that the feelings are wrong. Yet you don't take responsibility for them.

2. Focus. If he says he is upset because he is disappointed, talk specifically about that disappointment. Many adults add to their child's feeling of being overwhelmed by focusing not just on the immediate problem, but every other problem in their life at the same time. For example, if a child is upset or acting out because he did not make a good grade on a test focus problem solving on that. Remember, your job is not to make the child feel worse, nor is it your job to figure out all the reasons why he did not do well on the test. It is your job to help him figure out what impacted his test score and whether or not that could be changed in the future.

3. Help put the situation or incident in perspective. How important is one test score to the rest of your life? You're still the same person. You still are a good person inside. Children often feel it is the end of the world if a playmate makes fun of them. Ask, how many of my playmates at your age do you think I still see? How important do you think they were in my being a (your career) or parent? á

4. Tell your child to remember this. That person or test doesn't have the power to make you feel bad, or think of yourself as stupid. You're the only one that can control that.

5. It is particularly important for children to know that people learn differently and that tests frequently do not detect how smart someone is -- only how well they can take a test. Tell children the truth, without blaming. Not all teachers take into account that children learn differently. Some people just learn better with movement, or hearing versus reading.á Your child will benefit from learning how he learns best, then working to get that at school and in his study time at home.

6. Ask your child how he thinks he could solve the problem, then listen. You'd be surprised at how many children get right to the core of a matter -- if their parents will be quiet. Too often parents rush into rescue or lecture. Talk about your child's ideas.

7. Can the lectures. You'll develop a pattern that will get you no where. As rule, speak in sentences not paragraphs. Then stop and listen for a response. Don't assume your child wants you to problem solve everything.

8. Tell your child you expect him to speak up for himself, and that you will be there to help him.á If your child needs extra help, such as adult intervention with a teacher, in most cases it is most effective for the child to be a part of that meeting. Most teachers will appreciate this. Practice what you say with role-plays before you go. Make it into a game. It shouldn't all be serious. However, if you get into a meeting where your perception is the teacher is attacking your child, model assertiveness behavior. Remember, your child has to stay in this class, though. Set an example of problem solving with someone who is unreasonable, then discuss what happened when you left.áá

9. Resist the temptation to feed your child when he or she is disappointed or hurt. If you do, it sets up a pattern of eating to push down or soothe emotions. That can cause more problems as an adult. For more information on that, see Body Sense.

10. Relax. Being a good parent is the toughest job in the world. The fact that you took the time to read this article demonstrates that you really care about raising a responsible child. Pat yourself on your back!

For more tips and strategies on becoming a more effective parent, enroll in our Improving Your Parenting Course today. You'll be able to take the stress out of parenting, while helping your child's self confidence, ability to set reasonable boundaries and sense of responsibility.

Brenda Crawford-Clark, LMHC, LMFT, NCC

Author: Body Sense Balancing Your Weight and Emotions 

ęCopyright 2001 Brenda Crawford-Clark