How Do You Help Your Kids Deal With Disappointment?

It was tough walking out of the gym last night.  Six points. Six stupid points dashed all hopes of a trip to the state tournament.  This stinks for our seniors and for a team who four years ago had to forfeit every game because they did not have enough eligible varsity players.  With two eighth graders, eight players total, and a brand new coach, they endured painful blowout after blowout.  Two of this year’s seniors were part of that “restart” group and how wonderful if they could have seen their hard work all of these years pay off with a trip to Spokane.

So tomorrow we head back to school.  It will be a day of downcast faces and awkward silences as we all try to not think about the schools that will be making the trip to Spokane instead of us.  We’ll pep talk ourselves about how we’re not mad that others made it, just sad that we didn’t.

Basketball, of course, weighs pretty light on the scale of life’s big disappointments. There are “real” problems coming … failed relationships, loss of jobs, health challenges, death of loved ones  … on stretches the list. So then, how do we help our kids  deal with disappointment, knowing that the light stuff paves the way for when boulders drop?

Four thoughts occur to me.

1. Blame others.  Actually, this isn’t something I recommend doing (smile). Rather, blaming is about the worst idea when it comes to dealing with disappointment.  Sure is easy though.  With a camera full of proof of uncalled violations like goal tending and fouls, I was frustrated.   However, letting the refs take the fall overlooks that while our team was down one of our key players, our guys made an amazing 20 point come back and even held the lead at one point in the last two minutes.

And here’s the bigger issue – there aren’t enough bad refs to take the fall for all the missed opportunities and slammed doors in life.

Have you ever sat in a room full of adults  commiserating how much better their life would have been if “so and so” hadn’t screwed it up for them? It’s like being trapped in a room full of stinky garbage and you feel desperate to get out and breath.

That is the smell of bitterness; the stench of the blame game.  So not worth it. No matter what others do to us or what avalanche blocks our path, life isn’t going to get any better if we sit out the hard stuff, pointing fingers at the past, stinking up the room in the process.

2. Shut down the head games. Loss, bad things, and disappointments are not a critique on you as a person.  You aren’t a bad person because you lost a game.  You aren’t evil because you had an accident or failed a test.  Not being accepted into a college program, job, or team you really wanted to be a part of is not a statement on your worth as an individual.

Our head tells us the opposite.  Culture allows the discourse … “Loser!”  “Moron.”  “Idiot.” That’s why I hold tight to the treasure of truth I find in the Bible.  God looks at me from an eternal perspective.   He sees the end result, not the momentary blip on the screen. (And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Phil. 1:6)

There’s something else about this “disappointment equals failure” thing that bugs me. I picked up on it when reviewing a writing lesson on fallacies in logic.  As we went over the “either-or” fallacy, several students were stumped to come up with an example beyond, “Either you’re for me or you’re against me.”

It occurrs to me that this mentality is all over the place.  Do you recognize it?  We point out our favorite athlete and insist any one who doesn’t measure up is a poor athlete.  We do the same with actors, thinkers, writers, musicians, preachers, artists, models … everyone, really.  Only one is good enough … one standard gets held up and that’s it.  Everyone else falls short; everyone else fails.

The only place this comparison works is with Jesus.  Sinless, He is perfection.  Everyone else falls short yet, amazingly is offered redemption

If we’re listening to culture, it’s no wonder we struggle when we face disappointments.  We aim at one idolized goal or we face failure.  What a stringent, unrewarding way to live life.

Again, how important to help our kids understand God’s perspective.

3. Learn.  While blaming others and ourselves is unproductive because it erases the perspective of a big picture, it doesn’t mean there’s not a lesson to learn in the face of a disappointment.

Sometimes we’re not ready for the advancement that we so MUST. ABSOLUTELY. HAVE.  Maturity may be lacking. The opportunity we think we wanted may not have been so great after all.  Sometimes disappointment comes because we felt entitled to the proverbial “it,” and have a bad attitude that needs to get turned around.

And sometimes disappointment just happens.   Period.  Thus the nature of a broken world.

4. Let it start with me.  I think I need this “pep talk” the most.  All too often I can hear myself blaming and complaining.  I have to remember that I’ll teach what I am, not what I “think” I am.  With that in mind, my goal is to let disappointments become a bridge, not a dead end.  (Besides, I always feel foolish when I throw a fit only to see how God works the problem out after all.)

The BEST way to let our kids deal with a disappointment is to let them live it out.  Of course it’s gut wrenching for a parent (and teacher) to watch, but sheltering them masks the most important truth of all – they will survive.

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. I Corinthians 4: 17-18

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One thought on “How Do You Help Your Kids Deal With Disappointment?

  1. Well said! The best thing we can do is help them focus on things BEYOND the disappointment as they walk through it! Love reading your stuff….

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