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June 24th, 2011

Disappointment Can Build Confidence in Kids

Imagine a young person who has never known failure. He or she could have strong leadership and social skills, perform well academically, and be a star athlete. That’s a winning combination, right? Sometimes in college or high school that star kid may be smacked in the face with disappointment. Does that young person have the skills to deal with it?

It’s painful to watch your child fail, make a mistake, or feel disappointed. Yet, there is an upside to failure and disappointment. A child or teen can
learn to manage hurt feelings and mistakes and still come out whole. In fact, a little disappointment can build confidence in the long run.

Parents can help dramatically when their child’s hopes and dreams are temporarily crushed. Sometimes a kid gets a poor grade, doesn’t make the team, or doesn’t get a good part in the play. At times it’s fair, and other times it isn’t. If an injustice has been done, help the child understand it and evaluate if it is appropriate to question it in a respectful manner. Other times, it may make more sense for the child to move on, and try the next time. You may not realize it, but you are modeling ways to deal with disappointment.

Actually, handling criticism, mistakes, and failure are all crucial self-esteem skills. Young people need these skills when you are not there to help them pick up the pieces. Some experience with self-esteem setbacks is a necessary prerequisite for managing the emotional complexities of high school and college, when disappointment and revision of one’s goals is commonplace. The next time you listen patiently, help your child see his or her role in a difficult situation, and don’t rush to fix the problem. Remember you are teaching a much more valuable skill.

Other articles about self-esteem which also may be of interest are:
Learning from Mistakes Builds Confidence;
High School Students and Stress: Emotional First-Aid Tools Can Help