We have all been there. We have such high hopes and amazing dreams for our children. We want the best for them and we want them to succeed. There are all of these things that we want them to do, to be good at, to succeed at, to love, to experience.
And then they fail. They disappoint us.
Frustration sets in, and sometimes, depending on the circumstance, so do fear and anger. How can someone we love so much disappoint us so deeply? And what can we do about it?
How do you react when your kids disappoint you? Do you yell, hang your head, take things away, add more chores, spank them, or put them in time out? How do you handle it? Do you act, or do you react?
Mom FAIL of EPIC proportions.
I found myself in this situation the other night. I was tired and frustrated, and I had been up since 5am – at least. Work was stressing me out in a big way. I had just spent 4 hours at a (volunteer!) parent meeting to plan next year’s dance magnet events at my daughter’s school (which I LOVE being involved with). I logged into the grade system to check my daughter’s grades and whoa – not what I expected. My heart sank and I was completely disappointed. She’s a high achiever and a perfectionist and has ALWAYS been on honor roll, but this last grading period – well, she tanked. For a minute I thought it was someone else’s grades by mistake. I lost it. I let her know I was disappointed. I lectured her. I told her she would probably not be able to dance for the first grading period of the next school year because her grades were so low (Keep in mind here, all of her classes are either Honors level or AP – not an easy course load. But I was tired and frustrated and couldn’t see the forest for the trees – she didn’t fail anything- just mostly B’s and 2 that were lower than that – on the grand scale of things, some kids would wish for those grades, but they were super low for her).
Outside of my frustration, I knew there were several contributing factors, but I was so focused on my OWN disappointment that I completely missed hers.
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In light of my epic mom failure, I have put together a helpful list of 11 Ways to Support Your Child Through Disappointment or Failure
1. Put it in perspective.
How bad is it, really? Is it going to change your relationship? Can someone get hurt? Will it matter next week, or even tomorrow? If it isn’t that serious, don’t allow it to be that serious. Acknowledge it, fix it, and move on. If it is bad, then address it immediately. Work with your child to correct the situation and stand by them. If you need outside help, please seek it.
2. Recognize your feelings as your own.
Your feelings are important. Before you react to the situation, take a moment to stop and acknowledge your feelings. A lot of times, we let our feelings take over and the result is disastrous. Stop and acknowledge and then ask yourself – what reaction would I hope to receive if I were in my child’s place? Think before you act. It could make all the difference in the world.
3. Realize your child is a person too.
Children have intense feelings, and they look up to us for guidance, love, and acceptance.
Take a step back and think about how your reaction is going to affect your child. Each child is different – for one child, your disappointment could be catastrophic; for another, it may be sobering, but not devastating.
Express your feelings, but remember the old phrase, “let the punishment fit the crime.” Do not overreact, even if you really, really want to. Words can never be unsaid once they are said.
4. Allow your child the freedom to have, and pursue, their own hopes and dreams.
Their life is not your life. Don’t push your dreams on your child. This is a hard one for many parents. We want so much for our kids. However, pushing our own dreams on our children sends the message that their thoughts and dreams are not important.
5. Allow your child to make mistakes.
We have already been where they are standing, and more often than not, we can see where a situation is leading. Unless their decision will cause harm to themselves or others, sometimes we just have to stand back and let them make the mistake.
This is probably one of the most difficult aspects of parenting. We never want our children to fail, but sometimes failure is necessary to grow and to learn.
Let your child fail, and then be there to support them and guide them to correct the failure. Not only does this help build strength in character, it can strengthen your relationship with your child.
6. Give hugs and let your child know you love them. NO. MATTER. WHAT.
You don’t have to agree with their choices to love them, and this is so important.
Love for your child should never, NEVER be conditional. Ever.
Your child needs to feel loved, accepted, and safe. Yes, even the teenager needs to feel loved, accepted, and safe – even when they try so hard to say (& prove) otherwise. 🙂
7. Be authentic.
Be disappointed if that’s how you truly feel. Show your true feelings. Do not hide.
Always, always keep open and honest communication with your child. Encourage it at all times no matter what. Tell your child how you feel and tell them why.
8. Be realistic.
Failures happen. It’s what we do with them that matters. Things happen, and yes, it stinks sometimes. Do not let a failure ruin your day, your week, and especially not your relationship with your child.
Remember, a failure can be a good thing if we learn from it and move forward to improve our lives.
9. Communicate your expectations.
Communication is the #1 important factor in this – you never, never want to alienate your child from communicating with you because they fear disappointing you, or because they fear your reaction.
Again, it is our job as parents to lead and guide our children and that takes open communication. Period. So they disappointed you. Okay. What now?
Tell your child exactly what you expect from them, and then stick to it. Be consistent and clear with your expectations.
10. Offer a solution.
What can we do together to fix this? It is so important that throughout your disappointment your child knows you are still on their side and that you will help them through whatever difficulty they are facing.
11. Take a step back and figure out WHY you are disappointed.
Evaluate – is your disappointment warranted or are you being unfair? If you’re being unfair, then swallow your pride and move on. Just because you disagree with your child’s decision doesn’t mean it is wrong.
Take a look at the situation from your child’s point of view. You may learn something. After all, they are our greatest teachers sometimes.
There are plenty of ways to support your child through disappointment or failure. It is my hope that you are able to use some of these as you walk through your daily life with your child. If you can think of any other ways, I would love to hear from you!
Leave a comment below and let me know how you have overcome failure and disappointment – or how you have struggled with it. What worked for you? What didn’t? How can I help you?