How To Support Kids Through Disappointment (Updated)

Christmas is coming, and if you celebrate it (with gifts) you might wonder how you will meet your children's expectations and/or disappointments.

I'm a big fan of:
A) Not being the one to disappoint my children
B) Not shielding them from disappointment

Let me explain A. I don’t make promises (EVER)… solution to follow.

Now, let me explain B. I will not prevent my kids from experiencing let down (and I am not afraid to ever-so-politely tell them to suck it up on occasion). Translation? I work on trying to help them to deal with things that don’t measure up in their life and not be so sensitive.

I minus the babying and pity. I will never over-band aid a little child who cries with every scratch and screams, “I HAVE AN OWEY!”. (I had one of those as a toddler, nixed it.) I do not coddle a child who has been let down by the weather that canceled a game (I’ve sympathized with my son when he has a rainout and use that time to spend together doing something fun or show him the cool things he can do instead of playing at the game). I do not over sympathize with a child who complains or chronically ‘mentions’ something they want. And I certainly don’t have tolerance for that type of thing they like to do when they don’t get  what they want.

They have more than many.
They sometimes just want attention.
They would like someone to fix their problems. 

(Does anyone know any adults like this?)
This is kinda where it starts.

My 10 year old son has a habit that could be categorized under this topic:

He complains about something that we have no control over at the moment.
For instance, we were out last night during a holiday event and it’s cold. (We are ALL cold.) And my son finds the energy to repeat that he is cold, several times. (Think annoying!) This is a common thing with him. I think he does it to hear himself talk (oh my I sound like my parents lol).

My favorite way to handle this is to answer the first time with, ‘I know buddy, so am I’ (Because it’s true, waiting for the wagon in the damp cold is well, COLD!) Then, after he says it more, I ignore him (I don’t even look at him). Then around the fifth time I say, ‘Dude (yes, he has me saying this word to him), we heard you the first four times’. If he says it again, I say, ‘you know what, so are all these other people waiting in line’.


Similar at Christmas time, when children think they need (let me emphasize NEED). But they often have all they actually need. Their need is ‘want’.  I want to be warm in line too, but if we have to wait five more minutes for a wagon (and we agreed we will), it surely will not kill us, and there are plenty of others in the world who do not have coats, never mind mittens, hats, and warm boots (so you are in good shape).

Now for B: Not Making Promises:
When I was growing up, my dad said a lot of things like ‘yes, we will do this’ or ’sure I will get you that’. He did not always hold up to his promises for whatever reason. My kids have experienced broken promises as well, and to see the disappointment and heartbreak is just reminds me of my own experience-- Which could have been prevented.

KIDS TRUST-But they won't trust forever. 
Break a bunch of promises and your child will stop trusting your word (or you). Life happens, things change. So, remember this. Don't succumb to wanting to be the hero before you are even certain that you can deliver. I do not make promises. Ever. Getting someone’s hopes up is not an emotion to toy with.

Bottom Line: 
We must find the balance between caring and protecting, while preparing our kids for the real world, and what happens in it. They need to learn that life isn't always going to go their way and that they might not always get what they want.

To them, it's always ‘need’, for parents, it NEEDS to be viewed as a WANT.

I’ve said it before, if you provide your child with the basic needs: unconditional love balanced with fair discipline,  healthy food choices at home, proper clothing, a safe semi-clean roof over their head, emotional support, some humor and hugs…honestly the rest is a bonus. If you are truly there for them, play with them, talk to them, care for their safety, health and needs, all the rest is actually unnecessary (ummm, except for books; books are necessary).

The better they understand this concept, and the sooner, the more successful (and happy) they will in the future.

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