That's Life: Helping Kids Deal with Disappointment

What Not to Say When Your Kid's Disappointed

You mean well, sure. But when your child cries, throws a tantrum, or talks back, it's easy to say the wrong thing. Richard Lerner, PhD, director of Tufts University's Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, tells you how to get your foot out of your mouth.

"You're acting like a baby."

A better response: "It's okay to feel disappointed. I'd be really upset in this situation too."
Why? Relating to your child lets him know it's normal to feel upset, which will make letdowns feel less scary over time.

"Let's do this instead."

A better response: "Do you have any ideas for what we can do instead?"
Why? Asking the right questions to help a child come up with her own solution not only helps her feel better in the moment but also shows her that she can find ways -- on her own -- to make a bad situation better.

"It's not a big deal."

A better response: "I know this is hard for you."
Why? Odds are the disappointment is a big deal to your child, and dismissing it as unimportant conveys that you don't know what really matters to him.

Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the March 2008 issue of Parents magazine.

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