Get Used To Disappointment (Episode 261)
As we build on our conversation from last week about our children not being the center of the universe, we're going to discuss another biggie: disappointment. Yes, your children will be disappointed in their lives, and it's actually a very important part of developing their emotional resilience toolkit!
When we have a change of plans, so often we'll have friends or family members cringe and say, "oh, I don't want to disappoint the kids!"
And Nathan and I laugh and say we have zero issue disappointing them - this is a part of life and the more they learn how to navigate it, the better they will flow with it!
Yes, we recognize disappointment is part of building up resilience when our expectations don't line up with reality. And this happens all the time. We're human, and there is only so much within our own control. Even if we created a world free from disappointment for our children for a while, you cannot dictate the weather and ensure that it isn't going to rain on the parade.
Have your children's demands gotten out of hand? Do they recognize the impact they have on others?
****Keep in mind that the blog below is a complement to the podcast - we share some additional content on the podcast, so listen in, and then share with a friend!****
Perspective Is Gained Over Time
Life has a lot of twists and turns. There are opportunities for course correction, and there are plenty of times that life just flat doesn't go perfectly aligned with our own personal agenda. Timing is a big part of this. The best laid plans can be crashed by poor timing - whether hitting someone up at the wrong time, weather going south, or a multitude of other variables, there are nuances that will impact all kinds of agendas.
It's way easier for me to equip my children with the tools to navigate what comes their way than to keep them in a bubble that protects them from the ups and downs of reality.
Disappointment is a powerful emotion to learn how to navigate in your emotional resilience toolbox. Learning to feel this and then let it go is a wonderful gift to impart to our children. It's not that we have to go out and pursue it; we simply open the door to accept it when it comes...and then let it pass through. And maybe that's the key. We don't sit in the stew.
But I Said I Would!
How many times have you held onto something just because you told your kids you would?
I personally have struggled with this so much. I always want to stay true to my word, so if I've told my girls I'm going to do an art project with them and then I get pulled into a work emergency that takes priority, I'm beating myself up over how to make them both work.
And what would often happen is that, in my efforts to cram everything in, I end up not doing anything well - my work is rushed, and my time with my daughters suffers as I'm distracted and stressed about what is left hanging to spend this "quality time."
"Dummy-proof" Your Commitment
Be very careful about what you voice that you want to follow through on. Go ahead and "dummy-proof" it a bit. Remember that old adage, "underpromise, overdeliver?" Think about that with your kids. Which is going to go over better - promising your kids you'll bake a cake with them and then not including them in the process, or not saying anything and then inviting them in when you are fully present and ready to engage?
Maybe, instead of saying you're going to do something with them on a day that already is full of variables, you sit down with them to truly make a commitment to a time-frame that is focused on them. We give that honor of an appointment to many adults in our lives; why not give the same respect to our children?
Two Minute Friends
In the podcast, we talk about the book The Wealth of Connection: A New Approach To Making Business Personal. As is often the case, I read this book out loud to the family, as there were so many principles that were valuable for basic life skills and development. In it, Vincent talks about "two minute, two hour, two day and two week friends." There are people that will be in our lives that do not add much to it - they take and exhibit toxic behavior that you recognize isn't healthy. Yet, for whatever reason they are still in your lives - they are the neighbor, the co-worker, the relative that you know you'll still be seeing. Then you have your two hour ones who are a great recharge, yet you don't go super deep with. Your two day and your two week friends are truly worth the extra time and investment in them because of the positive fruit that is created for both of you when you're together.
There are times our lives are consumed by so many "two-minute friends" - or even "two hour friends" and we lose the space to really focus on the ones that are more productive and fulfilling for everyone. If you find yourself constantly facing disappointment around who is taking up the majority of your time and pulling you away from the ones you value (ie, your children), pay attention to how you are using your time. And this is a valuable lesson for our children to learn. They will absolutely have "two-minute friends" in their lives.
Instead of shielding them from all of those two minute friends and potential disappointments, help your children to see and understand what a true "two week friend" is. There ARE people who are willing to show up and be there for them, and that's where their time and energy is best spent - in fostering those relationships.
You are teaching your children what relationships to pay attention to by what you are allowing in your own life. A great buffer for disappointment is having the "two week friend" support you can count on. A relationship requires two people to show up. And recognizing what expectations we hold onto to better connect with each other where we are.
Don't Get Trapped In Disappointment
If children don't learn how to handle disappointment in their lives, it can become a cancer that can limit them in everything they can possibly do. Disappointment breeds grudges and resentment, on top of anxiety and fear of it happening again. And when there is no outlet to process it, or it's seen as such a negative thing, it can definitely result in kids - and adults - acting out due to lacking the tools to navigate their emotions.
Disappointment can trap you in "should", and trying to force and create what you wanted. And it can confine you into a box of what you think you want while missing the new opportunities awaiting you. Sometimes we have to live the life we have to discover - and part of that is navigating through disappointment.
Instead of forcing a previous agenda, sometimes the biggest burst forward is letting go of what you thought and being open to something new. You choose what you get disappointed about. You choose what expectations you hold onto, and how they are serving you.
Remember Your Recharge
Maybe when you get disappointed you self-reflect. You go for a walk, or journal.
Maybe you talk it out with a friend - you verbally process with someone as a way to let it go.
Disappointment is more of a transitory emotion. How long do you truly sit in it - before it becomes anger, resentment, grief, sadness, hostility... where does it take you? How do you let it process through so you're not holding onto it?
How is disappointment holding you back...or fueling you forward? How are you modeling to your children how you navigate that?
Building emotional resilience is very very powerful.
Don't underestimate those life skills. You can teach 2+2=4 to anyone at any point. Life skills are truly developed through application and practice. These are the best gifts you can give your children. Education is always available to them. It's not confined to a classroom. This whole LIFE is education. Do they have the skills to navigate it?
- How do your children navigate and manage their emotions?
- How do the handle conflict?
- Do they know how to relieve stress?
These are our areas of focus. What is the point of knowing textbook terminology when you don't know how to connect and flow through life?
We have a big, big job of helping our children learn how to navigate this world we're still learning to navigate ourselves. How can we push through those things we don't want - or learn to create boundaries around them, to create more joy? How can we open more doors to joy as we move through - not deny - disappointment in our lives?
Maybe disappointments are opportunities for a pleasant surprise you never anticipated. Sometimes it comes simply because you face the reality of your own human bandwidth. You learn that, maybe you're holding onto that promise to play tag with your child and you're exhausted, and the reality is, your child simply wants your attention, and they are more than happy to shift gears and play a board game instead.
When we stop fearing disappointment and own up to the fact that it'll happen as we are real with ourselves and our expectations, we can learn to flow through it a bit smoother. Understand your goal. If the goal is connection, then maybe dragging a bunch of kids on a field trip isn't necessary - just some down time to hang and play with no agenda is better.
Live Life Together
Are you going to just set your life aside to manage your child's, or can you actually live life together? Yes, we have to move forward as we're helping them do the same. The more we openly live life together - the more I take the time to explain vs. steamroll, seek to understand vs. attack, and educate on the why vs. demand - the more my child sees me living life in this way (and thus models it themselves), and, the less volatile our decision-making is since everyone is in the know.
We don't fear disappointing our kids. They get it all the time. So do we! The weather doesn't cooperate. A mood is so off it completely skews the fun of the event. We have a change in plans for whatever reason. We simply look for a new opportunity to find joy.
A while back, Nathan and the girls were excited about getting a rare treat of donuts from our local donut shop. Unfortunately, they arrived to find out it was closed. Second thought - let's go to Aldi and grab a treat there. Also closed! Third - let's just go home and re-evaluate.
They talked through it all. It was a big disappointment. First lesson learned - look up open times - the earliest bird didn't get the worm in this scenario! They discussed just going over to Dunkin' Donuts - they were excited about donuts, so they could just force it with those, although no one really likes Dunkin' Donuts (why in the world would we waste this treat there then?) They decided they would rather delay gratification and come back when they were open another day.
Ultimately, they came home empty-handed, and instead of being in tears, they were ready to re-evaluate. We ended up going out for a breakfast at another restaurant, they got chocolate chip pancakes, and we all were happy.
Our plans for the morning were flip-flopped every few minutes and yet we all still survived. Why? NOT because we all handle change beautifully. It's because we navigated all the decisions and ups and downs together. They understand that life doesn't always work in your favor, so you can work with it or "throw your temper at it"...which does NOT help, as Juliet has learned (with my help) over the years!
"There are two lasting gifts we can give to our children - one is roots, the other, wings."
This has been up in my house since the year I was born. Are you giving your children both roots - a foundation of how to be a loving human and wings - the opportunity to struggle, experiment, and learn through natural consequences? Are you not only allowing them the joy and creativity of childhood, but equipping and empowering them for the ripple effect they have on the world?
Setting boundaries with your children, being honest with them when you struggle, and being firm on who you are and how you are to be treated are not signs of weakness or selfishness. These are signs of a responsible parent. Your first responsibility is to step into your own greatness as a model for your child to step into their own. The more you bring into their awareness how to be an awesome human - even amidst failure, disappointment, loss and inequality - the more you'll pave the way for a child that may not know everything, but they are equipped with the tools to navigate whatever comes their way.
It's not the knowledge of it all that allows us to flow through life - it's the critical thinking and resilience that allows us to bounce back and innovate as we move forward and grow, so we truly can see how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste.