Teaching your child to handle disappointment

A couple months ago, T’s school had a Spaghetti Dinner night. The annual event is a way to get the parents to meet each other, but also to help raise some money for the school. Raffle tickets are purchased, and then they hold about 30 small raffles for baskets of goodies that have been donated by various parents and local companies.

I let T buy some raffle tickets, and then he got to put them in whatever basket he wanted to win. I thought it would be kind of exciting for him.

He got really into it. He threw his tickets in baskets of things that he wanted to win, and even put some in baskets he thought I would like (for example, one of them was a little spa gift basket).

Then we went to the cafeteria to enjoy some of Miss B—‘s fantastic spaghetti. After dinner, the school director got up and they started the raffle.

The children were all filled with anticipation. Everyone cheered whenever someone stood up with the winning ticket.

Very exciting.

Except for T. Every time they didn’t call his name, he stuck his lower lip out and furrowed his eyebrows.

Disappointment.

I kept up my enthusiasm, and tried to explain that he wasn’t guaranteed to win. It was like a game. You can’t just assume you are going to win.

Maybe I don’t have to tell you what happened at the end.

He didn’t win.

Cue the tears.

I sat with him and explained the goal of the raffle again and told him that you can’t win everything. “But wasn’t that fun?”

Then a teacher approached, concerned about the crying child. I explained the situation, hoping she would help me comfort T in his loss.

Instead, she handed him a cupcake that they were selling.

Please don’t get me wrong. I know what she did was a very nice gesture.

However, she took away from the lesson I was trying to teach my son.

Life is full of disappointments. It’s best not to dwell on them, but it is important to learn from them. And to accept that you can’t always be a winner (especially when it’s based on pure luck!).

I would have appreciated her taking me aside to ask if it was okay to give him a cupcake.

I appreciate things like that a lot.

I had an optometrist appointment yesterday after work, and I had to take T with me. As I was paying for my appointment, the assistant asked me in a whisper, “We have a prize drawer for our younger patients. Would you mind if I offered him a prize?” And since he had behaved himself, I told her that it was alright with me. I also thanked her for asking.

Because isn’t that something you should ask parents first? I would have thought this was a common courtesy, but maybe not.

I’m not angry with the teacher that just to give my kid a smile. I was just trying to teach my kid a lesson that is important in life. How will he ever be a gracious loser, a good sport, if he gets a treat every time he cries?

And I would expect a child’s teacher could understand something as simple as that.

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