I broke my daughter’s favorite bubble wand. It was an accident. I could have easily replaced it without her ever knowing, but I didn’t. Why?

Because I want to disappoint my kids.

I lost my son’s rough draft of his book report. I apologized for accidentally throwing it in the recycling and we ended up working as a team to rewrite the entire paper–alternating writing with playing games on the computer. A week later, I found his rough draft. I hadn’t recycled it like I thought I did.

I could have just thrown it in the recycling and he would have never known. But I didn’t. Why?

Because I want to disappoint my kids.

I know that sounds weird, because what parent says: “Yay! I disappointed my kids today!!”

Well, I do. And here’s why…

  1. I am teaching my kids what I want them to do when they make a mistake or disappoint me.

Do we want our kids to lie to us, hide stuff from us, or pretend something never happened? No. Do we want our kids to feel ashamed to come to us with the truth to avoid our reaction? No. Then why would we do that to them? Let’s show our kids the right thing to do. Let’s be honest. Let’s build trust. Let’s have tough conversations. Let’s admit our mistakes. Let’s let our kids know that it’s OK to make mistakes because mommy makes mistakes too (and lots of them.) Let’s show our kids what God’s unconditional love really looks like!

  1. I am protecting my kids from getting the Disappointment Disease.

Many kids suffer from this disease when they haven’t been exposed to enough disappointments. Kids are more vulnerable to being infected when they are rarely told the truth, almost always get their way, and never learn to deal with limits, boundaries, consequences, or other people’s mistakes. Symptoms of this disease include dishonesty, discontentment, and discouragement. If infected long enough, kids may also experience side-effects such as: ungratefulness, difficulty tolerating and forgiving mistakes, inability to see the bright side of situations, lack of problem-solving skills and serious perfectionism. I don’t want my kids to get this, do you?

  1. I am building my kids’ Disappointment Immunity.

I want to protect my kids from the Disappointment Disease. And better yet, I want to help them to become immune to it. I want my kids to be happy, but I want to teach them that true happiness is finding contentment even in our disappointments. 

Philippians 4:11-12 says:  “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

When we give our kids little doses of disappointments, we help them build antibodies like resiliency, forgiveness, understanding, empathy, contentment, and grace. 

After I broke my daughter’s bubble wand, I went up to her immediately and said:  “Sweetie, I’m really sorry, but I accidentally broke your bubble wand. I promise that I will replace it for you. Will you forgive me?”

She said, “It’s OK, mommy. It was just an accident. I forgive you.”

We hugged.

When my son got home from school, I went up to him and showed him the rough draft of his book report. “Look what I found!” I said, “Honey, I’m so sorry. I didn’t throw it in the recycling like I thought I did. I found it in a stack of papers on my desk. I’m sorry you had to take all that time to rewrite it. Do you forgive me?”

He said, “It’s OK, mom. At least I got all that extra time to play computer games with you.”    

We hugged.

I was shocked and yet I wasn’t. By being exposed over and over to disappointments like these, my kids’ resistance to disappointments is getting stronger. Their love…their grace…and their forgiveness is finally starting to fight off their former reactions of anger, frustration, and fits.

Because let’s face it. That broken bubble wand will someday be a broken heart. And that lost book report will pale in comparison to the loss of a friend. Life gets harder and those disappointments only get bigger. The more we walk them through the tough emotions that come with disappointments, the healthier and happier they will be.

Let’s set a good example for mistake-making. Let’s not protect our kids from feeling normal feelings. Let’s raise kids who respect the “no” and appreciate the Plan B’s, the Plan C’s, and heck, even the Plan Z’s in life. And let’s celebrate together that when we have to carry a screaming child out of the grocery store, we can proudly say: “Don’t worry. I’m just building my child’s Disappointment Immunity.”

Christine Leeb

Christine Leeb--Speaker and Christian Family Coach specializing in Parenting and Child Discipline.  Founder of Real Life Families--a non-profit organization building better families through free classes and resources.  Mother to three awesome (and exhausting) children from whom she shamefully hides brownies.  Wife to one patient (and polar-opposite) husband with whom she constantly quotes "Friends".  www.RealLifeFamilies.org