As I took my turn working at the front desk last week, I overheard an exchange between a mom and her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter as they were preparing to leave Family Resources.
The daughter had found a children’s book on display that she had picked up and was enjoying looking at. The mom, needing to move along quickly, told her it was time to leave and to put the book back right away. After a pause, the little girl did do as she was told but not without some tears. I watched this mom pick up her daughter and compliment her for “Good listening – even though it made you sad. Sometimes it does.” And they walked out the door.
How true is that! Often the things we have to do or give up or not get to do make us sad.
I recently came across a term I had not heard used before. It was in regard to allowing our children the opportunity to “exercise their disappointment muscles”. I love that expression. That was exactly what this wise mom did so well, while also acknowledging her daughter’s feelings.
As parents, though, we often do everything possible to avoid having our children experience disappointments, no matter how small. None of us like to see our children sad, of course, but it’s helpful to recognize the significance that learning how to accept life’s small challenges is great preparation, “exercise” for being able to successfully cope independently as they get older.
We hear so much about young people today who want immediate gratification, instant success, inability to take no for an answer. As parents, we struggle with feeling it’s our responsibility to provide everything a child wants, in order to keep him happy – in order to be a good parent.
But, actually, the healthy, responsible thing to do is to sometimes, gently, say no – can’t go – can’t buy it – can’t eat it – can’t play it – not today. Allow your child the chance to exercise her “disappointment muscles”, to feel them get stronger even as she may feel sad. Because sometimes she will.