It is sad, but oh so true in the life of a mom, when your child disappoints you. I don’t mean the little day to day disappointments when they have a temper tantrum or fight with their siblings; I mean when they will do or say something that will make your heart ache and cause you to question if you’re doing this mom thing right.
You’ll get a call from the school that your child tried to flush someone’s P.E. shorts down the toilet. (Not making that one up.) You’ll find out your rule-following child completely blew off studying for an important test. (Not making up that one either.) Or the quiet, sweet, easy to parent child will go through a season of poor choices. What can you do when your child disappoints you?
1. Remember that love motivates, shame devastates.
Your child might do something that angers you or embarrasses you. No matter the level of your disappointment, make sure your child knows that you love him. Even when there are serious matters to discuss with your child regarding the disappointment, begin from a place of love. You can be firm with your child, but be kind.
When I picked up my child from school after this child tried to flush someone’s bathing suit down the toilet, I was furious, and my child knew this. But I did my best to preface my comments with love, “I want you to know that I love you, and will always love you no matter what you do; however, I must still share with you how upset and angry I am about what happened.”
2. React calmly.
Build on the love you feel for your child and stay calm. This is easier said than done at times, but if you start screaming, crying, or throwing things around, your child will have a harder time understanding the points you are trying to make. It’s okay to feel angry but express it carefully.
3. Keep believing in your child.
Your child might disappoint you because you feel like she is not meeting her potential. She might disappoint you because she did something you thought she would never do. You might feel disappointed because your child isn’t a good athlete, doesn’t make good grades, or isn’t as dynamic as your friends’ children. You might feel like giving up on your child–don’t. Let your unconditional love for your child help you find the good in her. Believe in her ability to lead a good and full life. It might be different from what you envisioned, but your child needs to know that you believe in her, even when she disappoints you.
4. Avoid painting them with a “they’re all bad” brush.
Our children are human. They have good points and bad points. But when they do something that disappoints us, the action or choice might be bad, but they are not. Never let your children hear you say things like, He just doesn’t have common sense. She’s always going to give into peer pressure. Why can’t he act like the other boys? The challenges our children face are just a part of who they are. They do not define our children and don’t ‘ruin’ our children.
5. Show them a better way.
When your child knows he’s disappointed you, he needs to be able to turn to you for guidance. Address the disappointment and use the groundwork you’ve laid–showing love, staying calm, and believing in your child–to help them get to a place of restoration or starting over.
One more thing…
Check your attitude and your ideals about what you expect or desire your child to be. When I was a child, I knew my mother was disappointed in me at times over how I looked and my shyness in social situations. I can still remember how hurt I felt. Our children want our acceptance, especially when we disappoint them.
Tell us! What do you do when your child disappoints you?