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Managing the Disappointment of Perceived Failure and Other Critical Skills

Beginnings School

At Beginnings, we accept feelings of failure and frustration. We acknowledge that children are sometimes sad or angry. We respect their right to be disappointed.

In the current environment of what The Boston Globe recently labeled Snowplow Parenting in which parents go to extreme lengths to ensure their children don’t have to deal with failure, frustration or lost opportunities, the Beginnings approach to promoting the healthy development of children from birth remains unchanged. Emotion is what distinguishes us as humans; children should be allowed to experience their full range.

In today’s society, emotion is not the problem. It is what we do with emotion that matters. In fact, when understood and managed, emotion can be a very powerful force. It should not be denied or overlooked. 16-year-old climate activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg was not denied the despondency she felt over climate change. What mattered is that she channeled that despondency to become a powerful advocate for change.

At Beginnings, we recognize that children need to experience the full range of emotions to develop into healthy, productive and resilient adults. We understand that we can best help our children not by trying to “protect” them from the disappointment that comes with their perceived failure or the anger that comes from injustice. Instead, we strive to serve our children by helping them understand and manage these emotions. In so doing, we help them develop emotional competence, or what is more commonly called emotional intelligence, now widely evidenced as critical to lifelong learning, success, and mental health.

At Beginnings, we have scientific evidence that demonstrates that our approach is effective. Through teaching young children from birth emotion knowledge and emotion regulation, we found in our recently published study that children significantly improve in emotion regulation, empathy, self-regulation, attachment, initiative, and prosocial skills. They also significantly outperform students nationally in these same constructs.

And it’s not just our findings that evidence the importance of these skills and competencies for lifelong learning, success and mental health. Extant research shows that the earlier we can help children learn to effectively and successfully deal with emotion—including frustration, anxiety and stress—the more we can help them develop their own emotional, cognitive and social capabilities; be empathic with others; take another’s perspective; self-regulate and develop a strong, positive and secure sense of self. 

Instead of Snowplow Parenting, we need to let our children feel and manage the disappointment that comes with their perceived failures, as well as the joy that comes with their accomplishments. In so doing, we will better equip them for life.

Tags: self-regulation, Social and Emotional Learning, begin to...ECSEL

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