5 Ways to Help Your Kids Deal With Rejection

There are 15 spots on the Little League team, and 30 kids are trying out. There’s one lead role in the musical, and 10 kids are auditioning. And out of six candidates vying for student council president, only one will win. Kids take risks all the time when they try out for something, and sooner or later, they’re going to face rejection. How they handle it depends a lot on how you deal with it.

The key is changing the concept of failure and helping kids see competition as a way to improve their skills, according to California State University professor David Hibbard, who has studied the development of perfectionism among kids. “That way, a ‘failure’ is not a failure at all; it’s the road to competence and mastery,” says Hibbard.

Here are five ways to lessen the blow for your child and turn a negative experience into a strength-building one:

1. Manage expectations.

You can’t shield your child from disappointment, but you can help him prepare for the possibility. Without being a naysayer, remind him that many more kids are trying out this year or that he’s up against players with more experience. By making him aware of the hurdles he faces going in, he’ll gain a better perspective if things don’t work out.

2. Offer encouragement, not accolades.

When kids are competing for a spot, there’s no such thing as “the best.” There may be three, five or 10 equally strong contenders — all of whom think they’re No. 1. Tell your child you’re proud of the work he’s done to prepare for the tryout and that you think he has as good a chance as anyone else (assuming that you do), but stop short of telling him he’s the best.

3. Allow venting.

When your child doesn’t make the team, don’t put a cheery face on the situation. It’s a huge blow for her in the short term, and she needs you to acknowledge how painful it is. Let her cry or stomp around furiously for a few minutes, knowing that you accept and support her no matter what. Then, talk about the feelings around disappointment. “Having a warm, compassionate discussion helps a child learn from the competition,” says Hibbard.

4. Help your kids reach out.

Kids often retreat after a rejection — particularly a public one. But pulling back only reinforces the feelings of being a loser. If a friend made the team or won the election, encourage your child to call and offer congratulations. Suggest that he email the coach and find out what skills he should work on. Your child will see that failing at one attempt doesn’t affect his relationships or reputation.

5. Set new goals.

Once your kids have gotten past their disappointment, help them develop new goals to work toward – shaving a minute off their speed before the spring track tryouts or improving their vocal range before the next set of auditions. Stress to them that both failure and success are the result of trying, and that many failures have led to future victories.

By giving them the tools to handle rejection, you’ll teach your kids that it’s worth setting goals and taking risks, no matter what the outcome.

About the Author

Gail Belsky is an editorial consultant and writer, and an adjunct professor of journalism. A 12-year veteran of women’s publications, she was a senior editor at Parents magazine and an executive editor at both Working Mother magazine and Time Inc.’s custom publishing division, where she created and edited two women’s service magazines for Target stores. Belsky worked on the launch of Time Inc.’s All You magazine and was an editorial consultant at Meredith Corp., where she created four custom publications for American Baby magazine. Most recently, she wrote a book for women, entitled The List: 100 Ways to Shake Up Your Life (Seal Press 2008).


2 Responses to “5 Ways to Help Your Kids Deal With Rejection”

  1. I get so sad when I see my kid in a potentially awkward situation and want to step in so bad but I know he has to deal with things by himself and he’s great at it but geez….I want the world to rock for him.


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    […] 5 Ways to Help Your Kids Deal With Rejection : Pediatric Safety There are 15 spots on the Little League team, and 30 kids are trying out. There's one lead role in the musical, and 10 kids are auditioning. […]

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