WHEN YOU’RE DISAPPOINTED IN YOUR CHILD
Parents experience disappointment with their children for many reasons, legitimate and otherwise:
Sometimes, as with the “wrong” color eyes, the disappointment is fleeting and the parents quickly accept the situation. Other times, especially if the disappointment is chronic and unreasonable, it can poison the parent-child relationship for life.
Here’s what to do when you feel disappointed in your kids:
Ask Yourself Honestly if You Have Cause
There’s nothing inherently wrong with scoring less than 100 percent or having interests different from a parent’s. If it really bothers you, ask yourself why. Do you feel people are judging you? Were you a poor athlete, now hoping to get a “second chance” through your child?
Talk your feelings over with your child, but not in an attitude of self-pity nor with secret hopes he’ll change yet. Make it a mutual exchange of honest interests and concerns, with a goal of understanding and appreciating each other better.
Don’t Criticize, Condemn, or Complain
Even if a child is obviously in the wrong, don’t assassinate her character (“You’re nothing but a hoodlum”), lay on the guilt (“Your grandmother will have a heart attack”), or rant about how you “thought I raised you better than that.” Don’t even say, “I’m ashamed of you,” which implies, “That was an unforgivable action and you are an unredeemable person."
Instead, state the facts as objectively as possible: “I am very disappointed that you tried to sneak a pack of snack cakes out of the store without paying. That was a violation of basic honesty and has caused considerable inconvenience and embarrassment all around.” Then ask, “What do you think should be done to make amends?” Always show respect, even in the face of willful irresponsibility.
Apply “Tough Love” if You Have To
The deepest disappointment is when a child is stubbornly and unrepentantly defiant. It may be a preschooler refusing to apologize for breaking your favorite vase, or an eighteen-year-old who’s involved in illegal activity and proud of it. When all else fails, swallow your personal hurt and apply firm sanctions for everyone’s good:
“I’m sorry, but since you have cut school again after being warned, I will now be delivering you there personally, however embarrassing you find it. If you show improved responsibility over the next month, I will consider trusting you to go to school on your own again.”
Disappointment hurts, but you don’t have to compound the pain by dwelling on your feelings. Make it your first priority to stand up for your values—which should definitely include an all-around-healthy relationship with your child