Tuesday, July 16, 2013

You Get What You Get, If You Don't Throw a Fit: Learning to Handle Disappointment

We all face disappointment, children and adults alike.  Whether it's missing the winning shot or rain that ruins a picnic at the park, life is full of big and little disappointments.  As parents and teachers we often would like to spare kids from these letdowns.  However, we can do them a greater service if instead we teach them tools and skills for how to deal with them.

"Melvin did not deal well with disappointment."  This is the beginning of Julie Gassman's newest book, You Get What You Get.  It tackles the problem of handling disappointment in a clever and straightforward way.  Melvin throws a fit whenever he doesn't get what he wants.  Apparently this is what works at home and he always gets his way, but at school the rule is "You get what you get if you don't throw a fit."  Melvin quickly learns to control his behavior at school and when he spills the beans at home, his parents take on a new philosophy as well.  The book makes a great lesson and relevant point about self control that any child can understand. With bright illustrations and a to-the-point message, Gassman has created a winning book with a great message.

While the book teaches self control, it doesn't teach children other tools for handling disappointment.  It is after all a picture book and can't cover everything.   Here are some suggestions for expanding the story:
  • Teach children that while feeling disappointed or angry is okay, certain behaviors such as throwing a fit are not.
  • Teach children to communicate and talk through their feelings in a respectful way
  • Teach children to recognize the difference between things they can change and things that need to be accepted. Not always getting to go first or to decide the movie to watch may need to be accepted. Not being accepted into the elite choir ensemble at school may need to be accepted but if this is a true goal then perhaps voice lessons and further practice should be considered for next year.  Help children develop critical thinking skills to evaluate different situations and the best response to each.
  • Teach children that here is often a lesson learned or even an opportunity in disappointment.  As a teacher or parent you can share a time that you didn't get what you wanted but in the end you got an opportunity that you would not have expected because of the disappointment.

Disappointment is something we've all experienced and our children will as well.  Developing tools for handling it is an important life lesson.

What about you? Can you think of a disappointment that turned out to be a lesson learned or an unexpected opportunity?  How do you react to letdowns?

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