It can be hard for little ones to handle disappointment. They can throw tantrums, have meltdowns, or become emotionally withdrawn. Here’s how to help.
“Holes” in the grits’ bowl.
The wrong colored fork.
Socks with a large seam.
Not getting the “middle” plate.
These are a few of the things that cause one of my offspring to meltdown. He doesn’t like his plate so he steals his siblings plate and then Apocalypse happens and we all need ice cream.
When he melts down, unfortunately, it often becomes contagious.
There are certain personality types and temperaments that do not handle disappointment well.
Their emotions are “over the top.” If something unexpected happens, they become very angry. They take a long time to process these emotions.
If we’re not careful, we parents can begin walking on eggshells around these kids so as not to disappoint them. We can even begin to make decisions based on how to avoid upsetting them.
But there’s another way…
I know my son doesn’t like girly colors. Staring at his food on a pink plate tends to make him whine the entire meal.
One particular day his favorite plates were dirty and all that was left was flowers or pink. I thought about how I might distract him from noticing, and then thought of a helpful phrase instead.
“I’ve got some bad news…”
“Baby,” I said, “I’ve got some bad news. Your plates are all dirty so you’ll have to eat on sissy’s plate. I know you don’t like it and I’m sorry.”
“Oh,” he said, “alright. But next time I’d like my blue one.” And he began eating.
The skies parted.
The birds sang.
A cold Diet Coke appeared suddenly in my hand…
This one phrase helped prepare him for news he did not like and then – when it came – he was better able to cope.
Examples of “I’ve got bad news…”
- I’ve got bad news. (Pause… always pause to give it time to sink in). I told you we’d go to the park but there’s a storm outside and we can’t go. Can we pick another day?
- I’ve got bad news. (Pause)… We’re eating chicken pot pie for dinner. I know you don’t like chicken or vegetables or pastry so if you’ll just give it a try I’ll be very proud of you. Tomorrow night I’m making your favorite!
Pull out these fun connecting questions to share some laughs with your precious ones!
Use them at:
- meal times
- car rides
- as a “calm down” trick
- for dinner time conversation
- or any time the day is getting chaotic or
- you need a reset to connect.
Why “I’ve Got Bad News” Works
Note: this is not a manipulative phrase if you use it correctly. If you are giving your child news you know usually disappoints them (however trivial it may seem to adults) then it’s a true statement.
It gets your child prepared for some type of disappointment
We already know that frustration can really be a good thing for kids. There will be times when they’ll getfrustrated with us, their siblings, and life.
That said, there are other times when it is compassionate for them to soften these blows. Help prepare them to deal with frustration. Letting them wear floaties instead of throwing them in.
We know our children. We know what’s best. Two of my oldest kids can handle disapointment in stride. They get annoyed and move on. One child, in particular, struggles with being overwhelmed by his emotions and this phrase works best for him.
It helps your child get a better perspective
Humans tend to have limited perspective on things. We get tunnel vision. We fall into the nature trap…
“We can’t see the forest for the trees.”
Children can ignore All the Good to focus on one Semi-Bad. The reason this phrase works is because it addresses your child’s disappointment as well as the silver lining. I’ve got bad news… (pause… ) but here’s what we’ll do.
It helps validate your child’s emotions
Empathy is a powerful thing. It can be misunderstood and misused, but there’s no denying its effectiveness. When you tell your child, “I have some bad news…” you are showing them understanding.
You know This Thing will not make them happy, yet you are there with them. You get it. Kids sometimes need an anchor to settle down.
They’re on their boat and the waves seem high and the water is choppy and they are scared and yelling and flailing and about to jump over the side except… the waves are high and the water is choppy so there’s nowhere to escape.
A mother saying, “Look, child, I know you won’t like this. It’ll be okay,” is often enough to stave off a major meltdown.
It won’t work everytime.
It isn’t a guarantee.
But believe me, it’ll help.
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Parenting little ones can be crazy at times, but these proven phrases will teach your kids to listen. And the best part? You can stop repeating yourself!Learn More
I happen to have a four-year-old for whom this should work well… I may need to use it at every meal time, as most meals are a disappointment to him. :) As always, you save the day! Thanks, Rachel.
Rachel Norman says
Ha, Anna :)
Thanks for another great tip! Will have to try this with my 4 year old!
Sounds bright! I’ll try it!
I wonder if the “I have bad news… [pause] dinnertime is coming so we have to leave the park” will work with my 2,5 yo!
Rachel Norman says
It seriously works very well with my older ones. I’m not sure 2.5 year old will get it but HE MIGHT!
Alyssa Hof says
Thank you. It’s those simple things that when you were able to focus on them, write them out, and share them is genuinely helpful. Thank you for the Momma encouragement. :)
Heather @ Strong With Grace says
This is great! So simple and yet so impactful. Thanks– will be trying with my three girls, as it can be hard for them to change gears. =)