Empowering Our Children Through Disappointment

Empowering Our Children Through Disappointment

I just heard a report on the evening news about a single mother who complained enough about the father/daughter dance at her child’s school that she got it banned.

I’m speechless.

Wait, I’m not.

Are we creating survivors of our children—are we empowering them to overcome the hardships they may face in life—or are we coddling them against things that might sting a little at the time, but will ultimately teach them valuable lessons?


I can surely sympathize with this woman.

She’s hurting for her daughter and hoping to take that hurt away, but to do so, she took away a thing of joy to many others.  The world just shouldn’t work that way. It doesn’t work that way, and we can’t give our children the false impression otherwise.

We have them for 18 short years, and in that time, we’ve got to love, protect—and, sure, maybe spoil ’em a teeny bit—but ultimately our job is to prepare our children for life.

Real life.

We need to guide them to become independent and capable adults: helping them develop an inner strength goes hand-in-hand with that goal.

Quite often, life is unfair.

Quite often, it’s messy and it makes our hearts ache.

Quite often, Little Suzy Yahoo has something Little Sarah Sweetie doesn’t, and Sarah Sweetie has to learn to persevere. She will be stronger for it. She will have character.

What is the lesson that little girl would learn, you ask?

I’m not sure.

Maybe it’s that even though her dad’s not present—for whatever unfortunate reason—there are men in her life who love her and can step in.

Or maybe it’s that while she may be disappointed that she won’t attend this particular event, she can spend some special time with her loving mom doing something else instead.

I’m sure everyone wishes this little one had a daddy to escort her. I certainly do, but this is the hand she’s been dealt, and her mom needs to help her play it with strength and grace.

What do you think, my friends?

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  1. That does sound pretty crappy to cancel the whole dance because of the one. It is unfortunate, but I think the Mama could have taught her daughter another lesson, perhaps a better one? What if on the night of the dance that Mama instead did something extra special in place of the dance? Like another outing? Helped her daughter create a special memory…other than this father/daughter dance. When you think about the whole situation…it’s kind of ridiculous. I remember having a father/daughter dance at my school growing up. For the few who didn’t have dads in their lives (for whatever reason) they were always allowed to bring a grandfather, an uncle, some other loved male in their lives. It’s sad the whole dance is gone for these other kids.
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  2. Hi Michelle! Thanks for following me through Friday Chaos Blog Party! I’m now following you back through GFC and BlogLovin :))

    Have a great weekend!

  3. Let me start by saying this story is happening in my city. I am devastated by this entire situation. I grew up going to the Father/Daughter dance I went until I was a senior in high school. It was a great time I spent with my dad. I have awesome memories that I wished my girls to experience. My husband and oldest daughter (who was in K) attended last year. She came home with the biggest smile and so happy to tell me details of the dinner dance. I am very disappointed the words are hard for me to come by because they are filled with so much emotion.


    • I should also mention that not olny does the PTO put together a “Ladies Choice Dance” they also put together a “Boys Choice ” event and a “Family Night”.

  4. I completely agree with you! I have seen this ever since college when I met people who had never been told “no” or never dealt with disappointment. When the parents aren’t there to make everything better, a complete melt down happens. Maybe not always, but I just saw it happen often enough to know it was a problem. So yeah, I definitely agree with you.
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    • I should add: my heart is sad for this little girl who doesn’t have a father in her life and I do understand that her mom wants to protect her. I definitely can see that side of it too. But I still agree with you that sometimes life is hard and we can’t always protect those we love from every disappointment.
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  5. {Melinda} This is so well said. Our job is to prepare our children for life. And life is unfair. And tough. And messy. I spent far too long as a mom enabling my kids and trying to make life comfy for them. I woke up several years ago and quit trying to do everything for them. Make everything easy. I only wish I’d started earlier. It has made such a difference in their level of independence and maturity — and their ability to endure and persevere through hardship.

    Thanks for this excellent post. I’m tweeting it! 🙂
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  6. {Melinda} One more thing … if our kids are never allowed to truly endure disappointment, why will they reach out to God? It’s pain that always draws us closer to Him.
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  7. Spot on, Michelle! So many of the “new rules of school” these days cater to coddling kids: no dodgeball (too violent), no hugging (too touchy-feely), sending valentines to the whole class no matter who you don’t like, banning “winners” so that there are no “losers” at games, no sharing school lunches or snacks… All we’re doing is creating a generation of future whiners ill-equipped with the life skills need to help them suck it up and move on when life pops their balloon, or picks them last for the team, or offers an event which incidentally happens to exclude them. Should all the moms of the world get offended because there’s a Daddy/Daughter dance? GIVE ME A BREAK!! Frankly, the entire school board, PTO and community at large ought to be ashamed of themselves for bowing down to this one woman’s whining. We all know full well that NO WHERE is it written that ANYTHING is supposed t be fair. Nothing. God gave us all 24 hours in each day… what we do with it is up to us, individually, and that’s about as fair as it gets. “Fair” does not mean “equal”, and neither one means “right”. Every one of us can point to a moment in our lives when something really sucked and yet, because we had to face it on our own, in our own way, we came through it. Not necessarily happily, but we survived and often for the better. We do our kids no favors whatsoever when we protect and mollycoddle them by shielding them from life’s disappointments, whether they be great or small. The greatest gift we can give them is the assurance that we have faith in them, in their making the right choices, and that we’re there for them when they need our support. I want my sons to learn how to ride a bike and climb a tree–“dangerous things”, but I’m not going to ride it or climb it for them just so they don’t fall down and get scraped up. If they fall, I’ll help them up, dust them off, and give ’em a pointer on how they could try it differently next time. But if we didn’t own a bike or have a tree in our yard, I wouldn’t ban all the bikes in our neighborhood or cut down everyone else’s trees. How selfish can you get?

  8. thank you for this post. i struggle with this everyday. awhile back i read an article about how adults in their 20’s are getting therapy for depression but they don’t know why they are depressed. the study found that in the day of “everyone gets a trophy” children were graduating college, leaving home, and then experiencing an eye opening moment in which they are not shielded and protected from life’s realities. oh, the challenges of parenthood.

    am new follower by the by…..happy weekend!
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  9. While I agree that situations like these can be good opportunities for a parent to teach their child that sometimes that life isn’t fair and sometimes things happen that are beyond your control and you’re going to feel left out…. However, I find this to be a delicate situation, and I can’t really blame the mother for reaching out to the school to complain. The fact that a parent is absent can be a traumatic thing for a child, and unfortunately events like father/daughter dances… an event which calls attention to a attention to a particular kind of relationship, one this girl does not have… Depending on the personality of the girl in question, she could potentially come to the conclusion that her family is somehow defective or less than because she doesn’t have a father and assume that she’s unworthy of inclusion. Someone suggested that she could just as easily bring a grandfather or an uncle or another male role model in her life… but again, we’re making the assumption that she even has a strong male role model in her life. She might not, we don’t know that. I personally feel that the school, not the mother, made the biggest mistake here. In my opinion, they should have modified it to make it unmistakably clear that this was an event to help young ladies celebrate a family member or family friend in their life that they consider special to them and the school ought to embrace the diversity of the adults that are in these young ladies lives. Instead, they decided to cancel it which draws judgement and scrutiny to this family… something that could unmistakably been avoided.
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  10. Thank you for this post – it is insightful & reflects a concern that has been repeatedly raised for me recently: how can they be independent and strong when we don’t let them do anything for themselves or face any type of hardship? Bestie’s comment above makes so much sense to me – we are creating multiple generations that are told they are winners, that they can do ANYTHING they set their mind to … but not giving them any of the tools that they need. Concerning, to say the least!

    I am definitely a new follower after this post – thank you!
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  1. […] Posted on September 22, 2012 by nikkiana I ran across an interesting blog entry today called Empowering Our Children Through Disappointment which was telling the story about a recent news story about how a school had cancelled a […]

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