• Blog By
    Sumita Sen Mazumdar
    Principal – Erode KG Campus
    The Indian Public School – Erode.
    August, 25 2023 | In Blog

As a parent or early years education provider, an inevitable part of life is dealing with a child’s reaction to a perceived “disappointment”. Whether it is a missed opportunity for a favourite activity or something promised but not received, disappointments can come in all forms and magnitude. While the first impulse as an adult managing the child may be to somehow “make it better”, an umbrella-like shielding approach will prevent the child from cultivating an important life skill – how to deal with disappointments independently.


  • Listen, validate, provide perspective and find alternative solutions together

If possible, listen with silence to the child’s outburst or expression of disappointment instead of silencing them with threats at the very onset. Let them say what they want to say first. Do not match their agitated tone or physical energy. Maintain a calm manner with eye contact. Do not meet a storm with another storm. Instead, try to bring in your calm to dissipate their storm. Once they have finished saying or doing what they are doing to express their disappointment, state in a very calm voice, in terms they will comprehend, that you understand they are disappointed because of what happened. “I understand you are disappointed because…” followed by a very short explanation that sometimes, things won’t go our way and that is fine because we can always choose alternatives. Don’t underestimate this step or assume your child won’t understand because they are little. They will. Then, proceed with possible solutions or options. “We couldn’t go to the park because it rained so heavily, but we can’t control rain, so, how about, instead, we do…? Try to include among the choices something you know they like to do. Adapting this strategy according to the situation will pay off in the long run compared to threats, punishments or bargaining to handle the situation “for now”.

  • Model how you handle disappointment yourself – find the rainbow

Children learn by observing how adults behave. Rather than hiding from your child something which disappointed you, how about using it as an opportunity for them to learn? Explain in simple terms what disappointed you. Do not go into lengthy protracted causes as that is unwanted for a small child. Break it down to its simplest form in a way that can be expressed in small sentences with enough processing pauses in between — I am upset, my meeting ended suddenly — but it’s okay, people can have an emergency — I know my meeting will continue day after tomorrow — In fact, now I have extra time to prepare! — That is wonderful! Let children learn whenever it rains, instead of expressing gloom over what they can’t stop, focus on finding the rainbow or the positive in the situation. It’s sure to be somewhere. This is an important coping mechanism that will help them even in adulthood.

  • Foster resilience

Empower children to develop resilience. Build their sense of what they can control. Offer them choices to independently evaluate and choose from. Encourage them to help with chores around the house or volunteer on a neighbourhood project, visit an old age home, etc. Unselfish acts tend to help us all, adult and child alike, in putting our own problems in perspective. They help us feel that we have made a positive difference. This increases confidence in oneself.

Problem-solving skills

Encourage the child to develop problem-solving skills instead of you rushing in to fix things or a situation for them all the time. This may not be successful the first couple of attempts in situations like sharing toys or disappointment over something that broke, and this is okay! Eventually, they will learn to find their own solutions to a problem at hand, and the lifelong benefits far outweigh any initial setbacks.

Coping skills

Empower children with coping skills. Practise handling outcomes that aren’t successes. Telling a child they must do, to succeed all the time is unrealistic, puts pressure and takes the joy out of everyday living. Let them understand, sometimes, they may win, get what they want, sometimes they will not. Somebody else will. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are any less in any way. Sometimes, that is simply how life is. If they want to do better next time, help them identify through concrete steps what they can or cannot do. Give them the tools to embrace a supposed “failure” graciously. It is not the end of the world. It never is. Instead, use failure or what did not work as an opportunity to learn what will work. Guide them to be better than their former selves, not someone else. Practise with them what to say or do when they are disappointed with an outcome, especially, if you as the adult are aware that is going to be likely for the situation. Not getting their favourite snack at the fair doesn’t need to be an outburst or blame game between parent and child on who was late. Or, right before playing a game they might not win, role play with your child what to say if they’re disappointed so that they will remember, such as — take a deep breath and say it’s okay— or there’s always next time —or there are so many other things for me here to try, etc. Such practices steadily build inner grounding and resilience. The more we develop resilience, the better we become at handling life’s ups and downs.

Learning how to handle disappointments is an important life skill that can be mastered in the early years.

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June 2024