Teaching Kids the Value of Tolerating Failure and Rejection

09/05/2017 09:35 pm ET

Teaching Kids the Value of Overcoming Failure and Rejection

If we want our kids to try new things, learn new ideas, try out for activities that interest them, set goals to accomplish and ultimately build their confidence and self-esteem, they may stumble and fall at times.

How do we help them overcome odds and pick themselves up and try again? How do we help them tolerate frustrations and still seek to achieve? Sometimes we know as adults we fail at things we try in big and small ways and experience rejection socially or when seeking job placements.

Yet to be successful in the long run, means being able to absorb the falls and learn from them and even take them as learning opportunities for the future. But how do we help our kids learn all this tough stuff so they can feel like accomplished children, teens and adults?

Tolerating Frustration

From the time kids are babies they experience frustration. They aren’t fed at the moment they are hungry because mother has to open her blouse to give the breast or fill the bottle with milk. The baby waits briefly but incrementally learns he will be fed.

The toddler falls when he tries to run, but is helped up or even better, gets up on his own if it’s a small fall, and proceeds to chase his buddy.

The school child finds that to learn he has to not know something first. That is he tolerates waiting to understand the new skill before he can implement it.

The teen challenges himself to an advanced class and is suddenly surrounded by kids smarter than she is but she works harder than that more intelligent kid and does just as well or better.

And so over time little and big kids tolerate frustration and reap the rewards. They learn by your example, encouragement, and affirmation that it’s worth waiting to learn and to feel satisfied in time. To accomplish means to wait. To wait until you’re capable of the skill you are working at. To wait until you’re capable of mastery. As parents we demonstrate and teach our kids that failures come along the way, but we tolerate them and learn from them and then we can surpass them. We can’t achieve everything we want, but we learn our capabilities and strive to expand and stretch them.

Tolerating Rejection

Rejection may be even tougher to tolerate than a failure. It strikes us sometimes unexpectedly and can be heart wrenching. As parents we share with our kids that their peers have different needs and wants and interests. Sometimes the buddy you want to spend time with has other goals and doesn’t pick up on your wish to be with him. This happens early on sometimes, when kids are at worst bullied and ignored.

But other rejections can be smaller yet hurtful as well. When your classmate doesn’t choose you for their team or sit with you on the bus or chooses another table to have lunch at, you feel left out and hurt. If you’re very brave and it’s worth it, you may have the courage to ask the other child why they left you out, but it’s not always wise to encourage this. Sometimes, kids are in fact mean-spirited because they have inferior feelings and take it out on your child. Yet sometimes, being brave and confronting the one who rejects you leads to a positive resolution.

One of the keys to helping our kids tolerate rejection is to know that we don’t ever reject them. We may chastise them for a behavior, but love is sustained. Ultimately they know you, their parent, are their ally come what may. Then they can come to you to seek solace when they are rejected and together you can discuss the ramifications and wise course to follow. Then they don’t feel alone with their pain and this in itself helps remedy the deep feelings of rejection.

Learning About Life’s Ups and Downs with Your Child

When you are a parent who discusses feelings with your child when they need support, they build the confidence to try new things, meet new people, and adapt to difficult situations because they know you are behind them. They know you are behind them even when you are not actually with them. This is key in not feeling alone. When you are with them you help them gain perspective on failures and rejections big and small and slowly after accepting their feelings and pain, they can continue on to create and meet their goals.

They become kids who look to the future with hopefulness knowing that being knocked down a peg or two now and then is just part of everyday life. They can tolerate this inevitability because you are there, their steady rock of love and security. These are the building blocks of a sound and steady parent-child relationship that they carry inside them.

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior found on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Visit her website for more inspiration and guidance: http://lauriehollmanphd.com

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