Parenting

It’s Okay for Kids to Feel Disappointment

It's Okay for Kids to Feel Disappointment

 

This past weekend my little guy turned one. We are so lucky because he also shares a birthday with my sister, so it’s twice the fun! My sister and I are three years apart just like my kids, Emma and Lee. When birthdays come around in my family there has been a tradition that the other sibling would also receive a small present so they wouldn’t feel left out. The thought here was that it would be hard for a younger child to understand why their sibling was receiving gifts but they were not. This way no one was left out and everyone felt included.

So when Lee’s birthday came around, I’m not sure why I was surprised that every member of my family also bought Emma a present. While I know that my parents always meant well, I’m not sure I agree with the tradition when it comes to my own children. In this world of “everyone gets a trophy” there’s not much room for teaching children compassion and generosity for others.

Before Lee’s birthday, we spent time talking with Emma about how we were going to celebrate the day Lee was born with family, cake, and giving him and her Aunt presents. The day after Lee’s party, she asked my husband why she had also received presents from everyone. “It wasn’t my birthday, daddy,” she said. “When I went to my friend’s birthday party, I gave him a present, but I didn’t get one. It was his birthday.” Emma was genuinely confused. She was also 100% right.

As parents (and educators) our instinct is to try to save our children from any sort of discomfort. So in an effort to save Emma from feelings of sadness, she was actually robbed of the experience to work through those emotions and learn from the situation. Our ultimate goal is to teach her compassion and generosity for others, so why not give her as many opportunities to do so? If we were to wait until she were at an age to be able to “handle” being left out, what age would that be? When infants learn to walk do we not work with them several times each day until they finally master the skill? We also work with our children on learning letters, colors, and shapes until it is completely ingrained. Social-emotional skills are no different. The more opportunities we give our children to identify and work through their emotions the more adept they will become. Being able to function socially in everyday situations is an important life skill that definitely outweighs my need to “protect” my child from disappointment. Giving children the skills they need to cope with emotions can only result in more well-rounded, compassionate human beings for the future.

Our ultimate goal is to teach her compassion and generosity for others, so why not give her as many opportunities to do so? If we were to wait until she were at an age to be able to “handle” being left out, what age would that be? When infants learn to walk do we not work with them several times each day until they finally master the skill? We also work with our children on learning letters, colors, and shapes until it is completely ingrained. Social-emotional skills are no different. The more opportunities we give our children to identify and work through their emotions the more adept they will become. Being able to function socially in everyday situations is an important life skill that definitely outweighs my need to protect my child from disappointment. Giving children the tools they need to cope with emotions can only result in more well-rounded, compassionate human beings for the future.

Wishing you well,

Heather

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