Should you Tell Them You’re Disappointed?

Disappointment in the realm of family life is inevitable—our children disappoint us and we disappoint them. While we want to have clear communication and model owning our feelings with our kids, it can be a little unclear whether or not we should share our disappointments with them or not…

For me, the difficulty with sharing when I am disappointed in something my child has done is how to do it in a healthy way, without lying on a thick “guilt trip.” It can be hard! We need to express ourselves and we want our child to know how we feel so that they can make adjustments or we can learn from the experience, but how can we say it without trying to make them feel guilty or taking a stab at their self esteem?

Over the years, I have learned that if I take ownership of the disappointment, it does help us to have a cleaner conversation around what has gone wrong. Instead of saying something like: “You have disappointed me by what you did” I can say “I am feeling disappointed in the choice you made.” Or simply “I am disappointed.” That really is often all that needs to be said. If the child asks for clarification, we can share why or how we are disappointed and still without trying to lay the guilt at their feet: “I am disappointed that you chose not to call me when you were going to be late. I’m feeling frustrated and hope that you will make a different choice next time” is a healthier way of explaining one’s disappointment instead of saying something like “I can’t believe that you didn’t remember to call me? How could you have been so irresponsible and made me worry like that?” Our communication with our kids will be stronger and healthier if we can express our disappointments without trying to manipulate them into feeling guilty.