How Kids Benefit from Disappointment
Whether it’s a trip to the playground that gets ruined by rain or there are no more chocolate sprinkles at the ice cream shop, life is full of little and big disappointments. And as much as we’d like to spare our kids from letdowns, we can’t — and that’s a good thing. “When children learn at an early age that they have the tools to get over a disappointing situation, they’ll be able to rely on that throughout childhood and even as adults,” says Robert Brooks, PhD, coauthor of Raising Resilient Children. “If you bend over backwards to shield them from disappointment, you’re keeping them from developing some important skills.”
That’s not to say you shouldn’t lend a hand. “If you help a child learn to ask for realistic support, lean on others, communicate well, and stay optimistic, you’re assisting that child to handle what life throws at him,” says Dr. Brooks. The most effective approach: Tailor your tactics to how your child currently reacts when a curveball comes his way.
When Minor Problems Cause Big Tantrums
Would your child burst into tears if you ran out of his favorite brand of apple juice? Or throw himself on the floor if another kid were playing with his favorite Thomas train? If the tiniest disruptions spell big-time trouble or if your child dwells on a disappointment for hours, then you have to begin with the basics.
- Expose your preschooler to different activities until he finds one that he really enjoys — and that you could see him mastering. If a child can turn to something he knows he’s good at when the chips are down, it’s like an instant ego boost, says Dr. Brooks. “It can immediately change his thought pattern from, ‘Poor me, nothing ever goes my way,’ to ‘Oh well, it’ll work out next time.'”
- Don’t punish your child for a negative reaction to disappointment, especially if she’s prone to tears. While that can be hard — especially mid-tantrum — remind yourself of the times you’ve needed to vent or have a good cry to get through a rough situation.
– Meghan Rabbitt
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