What do you do when children are disappointed? How do you solve their upset if you have let them down in some way? Should parents placate an upset child? Or is this a place for tough discipline? What is your solution?
Children Face Disappointments
Every child faces disappointments along the way. They may want you to be excited about something and you are unimpressed. Maybe you’ve seen or head it before. Maybe it just doesn’t seem important to you. Maybe you think it’s a bad thing altogether.
At other times your child may have special expectations of you which you fail to meet. You might forget a promise you made them or forget their birthday or something special to them. They might catch you out showing favouritism to someone else or being more interested in something else than them.
You may not buy them the present they have asked you for or you just may not have the finances, talent or skill to meet the needs they believe you should meet.
After all, parents are only human, aren’t they? So parents are going to disappoint people, including their spouse and children. So parents bring disappointments into the life of their children through the years.
What Disappointment Does
The Bible teaches us that disappointment has emotional impact. When an expectation exists and it is not met the experience is called “hope deferred”. That is to say that the thing being hoped for has to be put on hold, either temporarily or permanently. The Bible tells us that facing that kind of disappointment makes our heart sick.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes it is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12
Being ‘sick’ in heart involves the emotions being pained. And since all the issues of a person’s life come out of their heart, having a sick heart can be quite serious. Let me show you how central the heart is in life’s journey.
“Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23
So, to make the point clear, disappointment challenges our emotions and that is dangerous, because if we respond wrongly our whole life can be affected. That’s why it is important for parents to take the issue of disappointment very seriously.
Mind you, husbands and wives, friends and associates all need to be attentive to the issue of disappointment. What I am applying here to children works the same in us all, young and old, in and out of the family.
The first wise response from parents is to see the disappointment. The worse thing you can do in a case of disappointment is to ignore it or fail to see that it is there. If you allow disappointment to go unchecked and unaddressed then you leave the child with a ‘sick heart’ and vulnerable to unwise responses which create ‘issues’ in their life.
Most people are carrying ‘issues’ around with them that have come out of wrong heart reactions to things they experienced in the past. If you help your child deal with disappointment you will not only save them from developing a life issue from the case in point, but you will help them learn skills for resolving other issues that come up along the way.
The next wise response is to nurture the child’s heart. Remember that it is ‘sick’. The child who is feeling ‘hope deferred’ is not trying to be difficult, but is struggling to deal with internal responses that they may not want. They will be contending with hurt feelings, frustration, anger, resentment or other dangerous reactions which spring up within them due to what they have been through.
If you act in anger, using your authority to punish them for struggling with pain, you will only compound the problem.
Nurturing the Child’s Heart
If a person is feeling hurt, rejected, unloved or disappointed they will most likely be helped by a healthy dose of loving care and affection. They will benefit from any reassurance that they are loved and valued.
An apology is a good start. This shows the child that the parent did not intend to hurt their feelings. It teaches the child that we can all take responsibility for our actions, which is something you will want your child to do too.
As mentioned earlier, nurture is not achieved by being angry or reacting negatively to the child’s hurt feelings. You are going to be their parent for the rest of your life, so why in the world would you want to make a difficult situation worse? Surely you will want to build quality bridges into your child’s heart, forging a strong, life-long bond of affection and care.
So go ahead and nurture that relationship. Take care to build those bridges. While your child is feeling a little raw and sore their feelings are more easily able to be spoken into. Cold, unfeeling children are harder to build close relationship with than those who allow you to see their emotions. So capitalise on the soreness that they are feeling to touch their emotions and link their heart with yours.
Hold Your Ground
Another important thing for you to do, that will greatly benefit your child in the long run, is to hold your ground. Some parents feel they have failed if they upset their child. Those parents may go out of their way to placate the child by giving in to the child’s demands. This is not healthy for the child.
If you give in to your child’s upset feelings you teach your child that they can get their way by expressing emotion. You are training them to sulk, cry, complain, exploit and give in to hurt, and so on. Such processes do not work in the real world. So don’t lead your child into lifestyle habits which set them up for failure and further pain.
Responding properly to life’s disappointments is a skill we all need, for we will continue to face our share of unhappy moments. Anything can turn out to be worse or less than we wanted, from the weather to our health, or the performance level of others, or ourself. A mature person handles those disappointments with purpose and wisdom. You want your child to be a mature person, so help them face the disappointment and come to terms with it.
Don’t crumple in the face of your child’s disappointment, but show them how to embrace their situation, even though it is less than they want.
Coming to Terms With Disappointment
In order to resolve disappointment a person needs to work through the various feelings which erupt from their chest. So coming to terms with disappointment is a tailor-made process, customised for the child’s individual emotional responses.
Some children readily become resentful. Others embrace despair. Some feel worthless and rejected, while others retreat into their own world of self-reliance. There are many possibilities.
A wise parent will seek to understand the issues emerging within the child and then escort the child through the appropriate steps to resolve whatever that is. I suggest that my Steps to Release, which I discuss in other posts, will help.
Certainly forgiveness toward those who let the child down will be important. Accepting their lot, even though it is less than they wanted is also important. Repenting of wrong reactions is also very valuable. So too is expressing faith in God, recognising that God knows the end from the beginning and can be trusted to sort things out, even if they are disappointing.
Deal with Disappointment
The bottom line is that parents must be ready and willing to deal with the disappointment which they create in their children. But remember not to respond with intolerance, anger or frustration at your child’s hurt feelings. Instead, help the child deal with their personal struggles so they grow strong in facing this reality of life effectively. God bless you as you do.