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Why Kids NEED To Experience Childhood Disappointment

As parents, our instinct is always to protect and shield our children from harm. We tend to bruises and cuts, we wipe away tears and we try to make their lives as happy as possible. But by protecting them from childhood disappointment, are we actually setting them up for harm further down the road?

mum kissing child on forehead

The drawbacks of coddling

Completely preventing your children (from tiny tots to teens) from experiencing any form of disappointment means you are hindering the development of vital life skills. Resilience (the ability to ‘bounce back’ and manage disappointment) and coping skills are vital for life – both in childhood but particularly in adulthood.

Imagine if you wrapped your children in cotton wool so much that they were never told “no” or that they needed to try harder. While it might seem like the easier, more protective option at the time, it will manifest in them not being able to learn from their mistakes or understand the true values of hard work and develop a sense of diligence. Childhood disappointment does not mean that you’re a bad parent – it means that you’re arming your beloveds with a range of abilities and skills that they’ll be able to call on well into adulthood. It’s not a pleasant emotion by any means but it should be present in order to promote growth.

Childhood disappointment to help kids learn

One of the biggest learning curves for us as humans is how we deal with anger and disappointment. Again, imagine a work environment. You complete a project and are then told that your entire work needs changing.

A resilient adult will take constructive criticism on board and work hard to lift the standards of their project to an acceptable level. They will deal pleasantly with their colleagues and be able to control their anger (and manage those disappointed feelings) to shape the experience into something positive.

Now imagine the mindset of the adult who was never permitted to experience childhood disappointment. Their response to feedback from management on this project could be vastly different. They may lash out with anger, take feedback personally and will potentially have a distinct lack of ability when it comes to learning from their mistakes.

crying child girl sitting outside suffering childhood disappointment

Promoting coping skills in children

So how is this done?

It’s easier to always say yes. Yes to the toy, yes to the chocolates at the supermarket, yes to the parties, yes to the phone at a young age, yes yes yes. You’re the favourite, you’re their friend and you’re never arguing with your child.

This is certainly the easier path of least resistance in childhood but it’s not one that will arm your child with the tools they will need to succeed. The dramatic rise of anxiety disorders in teenagers means that something needs to give when it comes to the way that we parent. Children need boundaries in order to safely practice the skills that they need to navigate adulthood and it is our responsibility to ensure that this begins in the home.

Managing childhood disappointment

Acknowledge the feelings that your child has when they are disappointed. “I understand you wanted that toy but we can’t have that right now.” “I understand that you worked hard on that assignment but maybe you didn’t correctly follow the criteria”. “I know you want that toy but your brother had it first, you have to wait”. Rather than swooping in and fighting all their battles for them, let your child develop their resilience and coping skills in a safe space by seeing the value in childhood disappointment and respecting it as a valuable life lesson.

mum talking to child - Teaching Kids About Consent

Got any tips?

How do you navigate childhood disappointment in your home? Let us know in the comments.



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5 Comments

  1. 05/03/2018 / 12:24 am

    Thanks for the party. Always a treat seeing all the creativity in one place 🙂

  2. 05/03/2018 / 6:47 am

    I think there has to be some connection with the teen issues at the moment. I’m not entirely sure if there’s not more too it than that, but it’s definitely part of the puzzle. Good post.

  3. 05/03/2018 / 9:41 am

    I try really hard to model resilience with my kids and teach them to deal with disappointment. It’s not easy but it’s so very necessary. Case in point – the fact I helped with the delivery of resilience training in my workplace because we could see this was a huge problem throughout the office. Resilience is so important to cultivate from an early age and it seems, sadly, that it’s a skill less and less people are growing up learning.

  4. 05/03/2018 / 9:29 pm

    Parenting is such a crazy, big responsibility! I only have a 4 month old, but already I’m trying to brainstorm ways that I can teach him that he needs to earn things, not just have the right to do things as he pleases. We definitely want to instil in him good money management (my husband is brilliant with this), and respect.

    What I do feel though is that teens these days seem to struggle with dealing with issues, and you’re right, it starts from when they’re young. I hope I can give my bub the tools he needs later in life!

  5. 06/03/2018 / 2:03 pm

    Good post. While we went without things as kids due to budget restrictions, it would be absolutely nothing for me to drop $14 on a LOL Surprise Doll every time we went to the shops, but I’m really mindful of building that resilience and, in the immortal words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want”.

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