Recently, I had the opportunity to play Sorry with a five-year-old. As we played the game, the child picked her card at each turn and pouted, whined, and threatened to quit the game each time she picked a card that didn’t allow one of her pawns to escape from the START point. In comparison, I was able to pick my card and discard my useless card, all the while knowing that at the next turn my luck could change.
Unfortunately for the child playing this game, she did not yet have that skill. Each time that she could not move, her behavior became worse and worse. The adults surrounding her laughed at her and criticized her. What was happening in this situation was that the adults were angered by the child’s behavior. They did not like that she whined, cried and made threats each time that the game did not go her way.
But, instead of teaching her how to tolerate this major aspect of the game, they made fun of her and criticized her. As you can guess, this only made the whining, crying and threats worse. And of course, as the cycle goes, this behavior then increased the amount of anger and frustration the adults had for the child. Without an intervention, this cycle would have continued on and on, with no relief for the child or the adults who could not stand her behavior.
Instead of allowing yourself to get stuck in this never ending loop, try teaching the child a skill instead. For example, in this situation it would have been better for an adult to say: “It’s frustrating when we don’t get the card we want. We have to wait until our next turn and hope that we get a card that we can use.” Then, when the adult has the chance to take a turn, the adult can role-model for the child how to handle the disappointment that comes from their turn, if applicable.
When the child actually has a chance to play, which will happen at some point, the adult can then remind the child of the good that comes from being patient and waiting for the cards to turn out right. At the end of the game, when the child most likely loses, the adult can name the feeling of disappointment for the child and let her know that this is an acceptable feeling to have because everyone wants to win.
This is a great start to help children learn how to handle disappointment. However, it is only a starting point. If you want to avoid a never ending loop of frustration and annoyance as a parent, teach this skill at every opportunity available to you. If you don’t, your child may grow up to become a teenager or adult who pouts, whines, and threatens to quit whenever life gets hard, whether that be at school, at work, or in relationships. It will get more difficult to teach this skill as your child grows, so take advantage of their age and do it now!