What To Do When Your Child Disappoints You

As a parent, you believe your child has a certain potential. When he does not live up to that, do you struggle with feelings of disappointment? Here is how to deal with this in a healthy manner.

By Ashwin Lobo

What To Do When Your Child Disappoints You

The parent–child relationship is one in which you invest a lot of their time and effort to make sure that you bring up your child the right way. Naturally, you will have some belief in your child's potential. It is quite possible while she fulfils some of them, she may be unable to meet others. This may cause a parent to feel disappointed. 

Some of the things children do which disappoint parents are:

  • Not doing well in academics
  • Making poor choices
  • Displaying bad habits

It is understandable that you feel disappointed when your child does any of the above. But, make sure you take it in the right spirit. Dealing with the situation in a positive and constructive manner, can make a word of difference to your child. Here are a few tips:

  1. Cope with the moment: Disappointment gives rises to negative emotions within us. It is important to cope with these feelings in the right way so that they don't influence our thoughts or thinking process. When you feel disappointed by something your child has done, don’t fly off the handle and immediately react. Instead, give yourself some space and time to understand why your child acted in an undesirable manner. Put yourself in his shoes. Also, remember that no matter what your child has done, it does not necessarily reflect on you or mean you’re a bad parent.
  2. Express your feelings calmly: After deliberation, if you feel that the reasons for your disappointment are genuine, then express this to your child in a calm manner. During the conversation, let her know what you hope from her and how you feel when she does not meet those expectations. Also, allow your child to explain herself so you understand what caused her to act in the way she did.
  3. Show the way/another way: Just expressing disappointment at the way your child conducted himself isn't enough. Ask your child to think of what he should do in future to do things the correct way, or do better. Help your child if you feel that he needs further help. For example, your child has fared poorly in a subject. Discuss with him what needs to be done. Should he spend more time studying maths or go for tuitions or, can you spare a few hours to guide him during the weekends?
  4. Keep believing in your child: If it so happens that your child disappoints you repeatedly, you may lose hope and give up on your child, thinking that you’re fighting a lost battle. At times like these, it is most important to keep believing in her. Perhaps your child is going through a difficult phase and needs your love and guidance to get through it. Remember, change takes time. Support your child and be there for her.
  5. Be disappointed in the specific instance: Disappointment can make us lose sight of the bigger picture. Sure, your little one may be always getting into trouble over the same thing, but there are so many lovely, wonderful things about him. Remember, your child doesn’t have to change himself but only work on what is holding him back from meeting his potential. So, when you are speaking to him about it, avoid generalisations like, 'You always let us down'. Instead, try to focus on the specific problem area and see how you can work on this together.
  6. Be forgiving: Nothing conveys the importance of forgiveness like this old adage — 'To forgive is divine'. Letting go of your hurt or disappointed feelings and forgiving your child is one of the most important duties of a parent. A large part of forgiveness comes from not taking the child's behaviour personally. Revisit your expectations, if they are unreasonably high, reset them. For example, you may be disappointed that your child is not good in sports. However, it is important to realise that not all children are athletic and that your child’s talents may lie elsewhere. So, it is unreasonable to hold on to disappointment that stems from a behaviour or characteristic your child cannot change. Instead, make sure your child gets a chance to explore her talents and skills in other fields. Encourage her to change herself.
  7. Give opportunity to make amends: Along with forgiving your child, also give him a chance or create opportunities for him to make amends. For example, if you find that it was a mistake on your child's part to fight with a classmate or schoolmate, encourage him to apologise and make up. That is how he will learn to behave responsibly. At the same time, he will also feel happy to know that he has regained your trust.

The parent-child bond is a deeply emotional connection. Therefore, at times, one or both sides are left hurt by the actions of the other. Disappointment is part and parcel of this relationship, but if channelled effectively, it can be used to strengthen the parent–child bond.

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