Helping Your Child Overcome Disappointment
By Glynnis Whitwer

I waited anxiously on the sidewalk while my seventh-grade son walked to the band room. Josh tried to act nonchalant, but I could tell he was excited. A letter awaited him, informing us of his acceptance or rejection to the school’s top jazz band. I held my breath as he returned holding a sealed envelope.

Josh prepared for weeks to audition for Jazz I. From the day he received the music, he rushed home from school to rehearse. Josh already had jazz band experience, as he’d played beginning jazz band in fifth and sixth grade. He was ready to move up.

However, there was only one spot for his instrument, the bass guitar, and Josh knew he had strong competition. At the audition on Friday, Josh was ready and played his best. After an agonizing wait over the weekend, Monday finally came, and with it the announcement of who made the band.

We both grinned as Josh ripped into the envelope, anticipation making us silly. Josh’s face told it all as he opened the letter to discover he hadn’t made the top band. Discouragement washed away the hopes and dreams of a moment earlier. He schooled his features quickly to reflect acceptance, but I saw the depth of his pain. As a gesture of kindness, the teacher said she would reserve his spot in the lower band if he was interested.

I forced a bright smile, told him I was proud of his effort and hugged him goodbye. Josh turned and walked towards his classroom with his shoulders hunched, and a slow step. Feeling hot tears burn my eyes, I quickly turned to walk back home before Josh could see the emotion threatening to overflow. My heart ached with sadness; not only for him, but me too.

I couldn’t stop the tears as I remembered the sports teams that had cut me, the high school play I didn’t make, the solo I didn’t get, and the recognition given to someone else. It was as if every personal disappointment flooded my memory, and added to the sorrow for my son’s experience.

When the sorrow eased, the unfounded anger came. Negative thoughts overtook common sense. If that teacher doesn’t think Josh is good enough for her top band, then he’s not good enough for the lower band. Maybe I should pull him out of band altogether. I hurt for my son’s disappointment, and I wanted to protect Josh from being hurt again. No child of mine should ever experience disappointment! In my overly-emotional state, I determined the only way to avoid disappointment was to avoid trying.

In the midst of my mental tirade, God spoke to my heart and reminded me His Son faced disappointment too, but that some things were worth persevering through. As I pondered that thought, I realized I had a decision to make that day. With God’s wisdom replacing a mom’s emotions, I looked again at my son’s situation. I knew this wouldn’t be the last time he’d be disappointed, and I determined to help him (and me) work through it, and learn from it. Once I had my emotions in check, Josh and I discussed his feelings about not making Jazz I.

We talked about how he should react to the boy who earned the bass spot. Josh decided to congratulate him sincerely. We discussed the teacher’s offer to play bass in the lower band. Although he would be with younger students, he reasoned it would give him good practice. We were able to get past our emotions and talk about how to use a disappointing situation to live out the things we believe as Christians. We chose to think affirming thoughts about all of the parties concerned, and then speak positive words. It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of discipline on my part to lead the discussion positively.

Josh had one more chance to make the top jazz band in eighth grade. Since my son loves music and has God-given talent in this area, we decided to prepare him for that last chance. Thankfully, he had a year to prepare for the next auditions. We knew Josh would be at a disadvantage trying out for the bass spot, since his main competition would have a year of experience in the top band. However, no one played electric guitar. Since Josh wanted to play guitar anyway, he determined to learn a new instrument. With three year’s experience playing bass and some private lessons, he transitioned easily.

One year later, Josh auditioned for Jazz I playing electric guitar. We waited another agonizing weekend and on Monday morning walked to the band room together. Another white envelope, another silly grin, another gut wrenching moment for me as Josh walked alone to read his personalized letter. Only this year, my son’s face showed a different response. His sweet eyes peeked over the envelope and his smile chased away all the fear in my heart. Josh had made the top jazz band!

While I can’t guarantee that every one of Joshua’s life disappointments will end the same way, I do know that he was much better prepared to overcome the next one. His mother is too.

Life is filled with little and big disappointments. Your child won’t be invited to a party, she’ll get cut from a team, and he may fail a test. The best training ground for dealing with disappointing situations is a loving home, with parents who will respond with kindness, will teach their children to learn from their mistakes, keep a God-pleasing attitude, dust themselves off when they fall, and try harder next time.

Jesus is the best model we have for persevering through life’s disappointments. In spite of the frustrations of dealing with human frailty, He chooses to love us, believe in us and see our potential. When our children face disappointments, we can learn from Jesus and not give up.

Glynnis Whitwer is a wife, mother of five and on staff with Proverbs 31 Ministries as the editor of this magazine. She is the author of “When Your Child Hurts” just released by Harvest House Publishers. Her other books include “work@home: A Practical Guide for Women Who Want to Work from Home,” and a Bible studies series entitled “Kingdom Living” co-authored with Brian T. Anderson. Glynnis and her husband Tod both work from home, are active in their church and live in Glendale, Arizona. Glynnis speaks to women’s groups around the country.

Proverbs 31 Ministries is pleased to offer Glynnis’ latest book, “When Your Child is Hurting.” Please see the back page of this issue for ordering information.

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