I wonder how many Positive Discipline parents struggle when their kids whine, sulk or complain after parents set limits? I know I wrestled with this issue for a long time. At first I framed Positive Discipline parenting around a picture of smiling kids who would appreciate that I didn’t punish them or shame them. Somehow I expected them to know how hard I was working to give them more tools than I had as a child.

I finally realized that my kids couldn’t know the learning curve I was climbing – all the books I read, all the questions I asked – to at least be an educated parent. So my next tactic was to explain to my kids how lucky they were. I causally mentioned details about my childhood – similar to “I walked to school in the snow uphill both ways,” but more realistic, of course. “I was grounded for a week for not coming home when my parents called.” Guess what? I didn’t notice any difference in my kids’ level of appreciation when I used the Positive Discipline tool of setting limits with kindness and firmness at the same time.

Why weren’t my kids overjoyed that I was pushing them gently to learn life skills? Why couldn’t they see the benefits of me saying “no” without yelling or putting them down?

Thanks Go Out to My Favorite Parenting Author

I remember it was Jane Nelsen’s voice that helped me see things in a new way. I don’t remember if I was listening to an audio recording of her or if I was actually in the same room with her, but her words spoke volumes to me. Jane suggested that parents say to kids, “My answer is no and it’s okay to be disappointed.” A different time I heard Jane’s voice speak, “It’s okay to cry.” Soon, my mind had turned 360 degrees.

I had never heard the message that it was okay to be disappointed. Now to defend my wonderful family, I am positive that my entire extended family thinks it’s okay to feel disappointed. But no one had ever stated it aloud and I grew up in a family that genuinely blossoms with an attitude of gratitude. The upside is that I generally have a positive attitude towards all in life. The downside is I didn’t learn healthy skills to deal with disappointment during my childhood.

Parenting Skills to Teach Kids about Handling Disappointment

One of the reasons I love the Positive Discipline curriculum is because it includes the teaching of social and emotional skills to children. I haven’t found another parenting curriculum that does as good a job. And acquiring more social-emotional skills translates to having more self-discipline.

Why does our culture think that kids shouldn’t cry or be disappointed? Was this value ingrained in your family? Did you hear, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!”? Many parents today are struggling with the issue of teaching social and emotional skills alongside virtues of gratitude and fortitude. How do parents give permission for kids to have feelings without turning their kids into big babies? How do parents let kids cry and then not feel manipulated by the crying?

Here are a few ideas for giving children permission to have their feelings while still setting limits:

  • Acknowledge Feelings: “You feel _________ because __________.” You feel frustrated that you can’t play with your friends until after you’ve cleaned up your room.
  • Share a Similar Experience from Your Childhood: “I remember getting so upset because my friends were ready to play and I didn’t know where to start to clean up my room.”
  • Model Handling Disappointment: When you experience disappointment yourself, voice it to your children. “Wow! I’m so disappointed that it’s raining today. I really wanted to have a picnic.” Statements like this heard again and again create patterns for kids, phrases that they will begin to use themselves. Ask for a hug when you feel disappointed. Again you’ll be modeling what you’d like for your kids to do
  • High and Low Rituals: In the 1999 movie, The Story of Us, the family members have a ritual that involves each person sharing his or her “high” for the day and “low” for the day. Creating a similar ritual sends the message to kids that ups and downs are a part of everyday life and both are acceptable to talk about.

I’ve named a few. I’d love for you to share other Positive Discipline tools that can be added to this list. Do you struggle with the questions in this article?


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