February 15, 2018

12 Things To Say To Your Kids When They're Disappointed


When I was a senior in high school, I wanted to be Cinderella more than anything in the world.

Actually, I wanted to play the role of Cinderella in our high school production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.

Actually, I wanted to land the lead in a musical.

As a senior, this was my last shot at the coveted top role--my ultimate chance at the big dressing room and the final curtain call. The two years prior, I'd been thrilled to play second leading-lady parts (Lady Larkin in Once Upon a Mattress and Kim in Bye-Bye Birdie, if you're just dying to know). But I'd never scored THE lead. And I wanted it. 

I took care of the audition and waited for the cast list to be posted. And there it was, at the top, across from "Cinderella." 

Not. My. Name.

At the time, I thought being bitterly disappointed personally was pretty much the worst thing that could happen. Now, as a mom, I know that the only thing worse is watching your child suffer that kind of letdown.

If when disappointment makes an appearance in your house, here are a few words that might ease the sting a little. 

1. I'm sorry. 

When I say this to my daughters in this kind of setting, they usually respond, "It's not your fault." And I tell them, "I'm not sorry because this is my fault; I'm sorry because when you're hurting, I'm hurting. I'm sorry because I wish you didn't have to feel this way."

2. It's okay to feel sad. 

Our society prizes and favors cheerful optimism above all else, so sometimes our kids need permission and guidance to spend some time in sadness when it's appropriate. And it's also okay to show your own mom emotions to your kids, to let them know they are not alone in what they want and in hurting when it doesn't happen. When my sister had to tell my oldest niece that she hadn't gotten a part she wanted in a musical production (like aunt, like niece), my sister didn't have to say a word: she burst into tears the minute she saw her daughter. 

3. You don't have to get over this right away. 

As moms, we fix things. We make things better. We solve problems. But when our kids are dealing with disappointment, we need to let them feel what they feel for a while. We need to wait with them while they walk through--not around--seasons of regret and unmet expectations.

4. The way things are can be different from what you were hoping and still be good. 

As it turned out, the role I DID get all those years ago--the ironically named wicked stepsister Joy--was my dream role even though it was not the role I'd dreamed of. It was typecasting, really: all I had to do to play the part was be myself in exaggerated form while wearing a shiny purple ballgown and a black hair bow so enormous it almost took over my head. I'd never had so much fun in my life. It was different from what I thought I wanted, but it was still good. In fact, it was better.

All of which fueled my conviction the other day when I passed along this particular bit of counsel--"the way things are can be different from what you were hoping and still be good"--to my college freshman. Whereas I lived for choir and the annual musical all through high school, my firstborn lived for band. Starting the first day of fifth grade and continuing literally until she walked off the graduation field, band was who she was. It was what got her through. So we were thrilled when the college she chose offered a small, friendly, low-commitment band very much open to non-music majors. After the first rehearsal of second semester, though, when I asked how it had gone, she said, "I don't know...I'm not enjoying it the way I thought I would." I told her that she had loved high school band so much that anything else was almost certain to be a letdown. I advised her to try to enjoy her new band for what it was...that it could be a good experience even if it was different from what she was expecting. (I didn't have to haul out my Cinderella story just then, but I keep it on hand at all times for just this kind of mom moment, and you can believe my daughters have heard it before.)

5. Just because this didn't work out now doesn't mean it won't ever work out.


Maybe you weren't ready. Maybe this wasn't the right time. But maybe a little ways down the road, you will be, and it will be.

6. Do you want to try again?

Do you want to reload and give it another chance?

7. If you do want to try again, what can you do to prepare for that? 

What action can you take now to get ready for then?

8. Do you want to just be done with this?

Our culture is big on "never give up." And "quit" really is considered a four-letter word. But as parents, we need wisdom to know when love for our kids looks like giving them our blessing to let something go. 

9. What are you looking forward to?


We don't want to rush our kids through seasons of disappointment (see #3, above), but encouraging them to anticipate something good down the road can help with the healing.

10. I'm proud of you for giving this a shot.

Whether "this" is a relationship or a hobby or a competition or anything else that requires effort and risk, there is something to be celebrated just in the doing and the trying.

11. Do you want some ice cream? 

A recurring theme in our house (see #13 on this post). At the end of my Disappointment Day, my friends Amy and Jenny (the newly cast wicked stepmother and the other stepsister, respectively) hauled my weepy self down the street to our local ice cream shop. An hour and two scoops later, I'd had my perspective adjusted and was looking forward (ish) to hamming it up with those very funny other not-leading ladies.

12. I love you.

It's what we say as moms when we don't know what else to say and even when we do know what else to say. Because it's the beginning and the end and the foundation for everything worth saying in between.





Me (in the purple) as the stepsister Joy...
the role I didn't know I wanted.


**This post may have been shared at some of these blog link parties.**

20 comments:

  1. I love this! As a mom of girls who aren't quite to the tween years yet I love every point in this post. It's true that it's okay, sometimes, to quit. Or take a step back then try again. I want to be that supportive mom who lets my girls fail and then feel okay about it. I'm going to share this on my FB page.

    Much love
    ~Jess
    A Modern Mom's Life

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    1. Aw, Jess...thank you so, SO much! I can't tell you how much your kind words mean to me. Truly, you have encouraged me so greatly. Your girls are so very blessed to have a mom like you who is already getting ready to support and comfort and guide them when they face life's inevitable rough spots. You are a gift to them...and thank you again for the gift you've given me here. xoxo

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  2. Oh goodness! I loved reading your story. You are right about moms wanting to fix everything. The temptation is to remove pain and suffering, but that does our kids a disservice. They can learn from all types of experiences. Thank you for these wonderful thoughts.

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    1. Oh my goodness, thank you so much! I'm truly so grateful for your affirmation and agreement, and I LOVE the way you put this: "The temptation is to remove pain and suffering, but that does our kids a disservice. They can learn from all types of experiences." I'm going to try to remember this next time I'm tempted (in spite of my own post! ;))to "fix" my girls' struggles too quickly. Thank you so much for taking time to read this and to leave your thoughtful feedback!

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  3. My youngest son was in Cinderella, so I heard second hand about all the drama of the girl who didn't get to be the lead, but, like you, was cast as a step sister, and she was fabulous in that role. (As I'm sure you were.)
    This business of dealing with disappointment in our kids' lives has been one of the hardest parts of parenting teens. However, it's so important that they learn this so they are prepared to submit to the will of God and to trust His good plans for them.
    Definitely need to join them in the ice cream therapy!

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    1. Michele, as always you are such a source of encouragement and wisdom. And what a great story about your son and the stepsister in his production. It was a good lesson for me, which I have shared with my girls (naturally, they are always BLOWN AWAY by my wisdom...ahem). And when all else fails (other than God, of course, Who never does), there is ice cream.

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  4. Oh yes, that impulse to run in and fix everything is so hard to control and quite frankly just can't always be done! Such great advice.

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    1. "...quite frankly just can't always be done." You are SO right. There's the rub, but it's the truth. So much waiting in motherhood, isn't there? Thank you so much for stopping by and for your kind words!

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  5. Communication with children is so important especially these days with social media and bullying. Thanks for sharing your tips with us at #BloggersPitStop and have a great week.

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    1. You are so right, Sue! I'm thankful that so far, the foundation for good communication I tried to lay when my girls were younger seems to be holding up during the teen years. ;) Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  6. Elizabeth! You give such great advice. You remind me of my mom. Such wisdom!

    Also. Ice cream.

    I miss you now that I'm no longer on FB, but you made me smile. I was also in musicals. And I also never got the lead. It was a real bummer to be too tall to be Annie. (Okay, too tall and I probably didn't have the voice for it, but- after all these years- I'm still telling myself it was the height thing.)

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    1. Aw, I miss you, too! But what a treat to hear from you here! I think we need to somehow get together and eat ice cream and commiserate our lack of leading-lady status. (Not that we're still bitter or anything.) Thanks so much for brightening my day!

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  7. Oh, I am SO glad you posted that photo at the bottom of this post, because I was just sitting here wishing I could see just how you looked in that get-up...and lo & behold, there you are! I will be anxious to hear how the current band situation continues to play out and will be praying for her to feel peace about it all. Sometimes it's just really hard to close a life chapter, even if that means new, exciting, different chapters are opening up! <3

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    1. Heehee...I'm so glad I followed my instincts and posted that picture. It's a classic, alright. And thank you for your sweet concern for my little clarinetist: not long after I posted this, her director actually offered an opportunity for people who were not happy where they were at their section to play for him and move up. This she did last night and moved from the back of the back of the clarinet section on third part, which does not get to play very many notes, to the front row third chair overall! God is good.

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    2. Pssst...Besides loving this post (as always), I couldn't help but choose it for my feature this week! ;)

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    3. Oh my goodness...thank you so much! Thank you for that highest of honors, my friend. This makes my day.

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  8. Oh how do I love this?! Let me count the ways. I love everything about this post. Your sage wisdom - all 12 points of it. Seriously, I would have tanked after #3, which is why me and the other half of America read your blog.) :-) I loved this story about musical theater. I loved that you found the role you didn't know you wanted. I loved how your sister broke down and cried when your niece didn't get the part. I love your HS photo. Priceless! I love how you employ ice cream therapy. I think I'm overdue for two scoops! Seriously, this is good. Thanks for sharing, and I'll be sharing on Welcome Home's FB page. :-)

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    1. Aw, Tiffiney, you are such a DOLL! Bless your sweet heart for taking time to encourage me yet again with your wonderful words here. Thank you for loving so much of it...all things I loved, too. ;) And yes: I am 100% certain you are overdue for ice cream. Best take care of that now. THANK YOU for sharing this! Bless you, mama (and--AHHHHH--soon-to-be grandma??!!). You are a gem. xoxo

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  9. Such wisdom. I'm printing this one out and tucking it into my Bible to revisit as needed. Thank you!

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    1. Oh my goodness, thank you so much, Linda! I'm honored that this might be something you'd want to revisit. Bless you for your encouragement!

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I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!