How to Model Disappointment for Your Child

By Rebecca Desfosse
Show your child that disappointment is just a part of life.
Show your child that disappointment is just a part of life.

Every child needs to learn how to handle setbacks and disappointments in their life. Although you might be tempted to jump in and rescue your child when something goes wrong, that way of reacting won’t teach her a better way of coping with disappointment in the future. Kids learn best by example, so try to model disappointment positively for your child instead. By looking at how effectively you handle disappointment, your child will learn the crucial life skills to deal with life when things don’t go her way.

Don't react negatively when confronted with disappointment in your own life. As hard as it may be, try to remain calm and collected. Remember that kids are always listening – even when you don’t think they are.

Explain to your child why you’re feeling disappointed. Turn the moment into a teaching opportunity so she can understand that it’s normal and healthy to feel these emotions. Tell her that certain things in life are out of your control and that things might not always go the way you want them to.

Talk to your child about different ways you can react positively to disappointment. Maybe you can write your feelings down in a journal or come up with different activities that will make you happy. By putting a positive spin on the situation, you’re teaching your child that it’s OK to feel disappointed, but it’s how you react to it that makes all the difference.

Don’t give up when disappointment strikes. Show your child how to persevere despite setbacks. Say, “Next time I’m going to try even harder,” and do it.

Show her that disappointment often works out OK. No matter how sad you feel, it always passes eventually. Tell her, “You know how I was frustrated yesterday? Well today I feel better because the sun is shining and it’s a great day.” By showing that sadness will pass, your child will learn to bounce back from frustration instead of wallowing.

Help your child deal with disappointments as they come her way. Listen to how she’s feeling and provide empathy. Swallow your initial reaction to make everything better or tell her that everything is going to be OK. Tell her, “That must be hard. I would be disappointed too.” Then work together to try to come up with ways she can positively deal with her emotions.


Provide your child with a strong support network of close family and friends who can also model disappointment positively and to whom she can turn during life’s difficult times.

About the Author

Rebecca Desfosse earned her bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies from Boston University in 2009. She is a writer and researcher in the fields of family, parenting, frugal living, health, beauty, fashion and style.