teaching kids to handle rejection

You don’t make the team

Your friend doesn’t invite you to to the party

Your essay, performance, or art work doesn’t win first place

Rejection is a part of life, for kids a well as for adults.  I bet we all know adults who never learned to handle rejection or obstacles well.  (Think John McEnroe and his famous temper tantrums on the tennis court.)  No one wants to raise a kid with similar outbursts.  So what’s the answer?  Teaching kids to control their mindset and to re-frame failure.

Here are some ideas:

Teach kids the power of not yet— When a child doesn’t win the trophy or make the team, don’t gloss over it and don’t get them a participation trophy so they fit in.  Instead teach kids that just because they didn’t make it this time there is always a chance to make it next time.  Teach them that persistence and effort make a difference.

Teach kids to be a learner, not a loser--Help kids understand that every failure has the seeds for growth in it.  An evaluated experience makes for an improved and better performance next time.  Teach them to ask:  What have I learned that I can do differently next time?

Teach kids positive self-talk–Often kids feel rejected, worthless and inadequate in the face of failure.  Teach them to identity the stories or messages they are telling themselves, to challenge those messages and replace them with a positive statement.  Instead of, “I always lose,” they can say “I’ll work hard and do better next time.”

Teach kids how to measure progress–Often we measure progress from how far we are from the goal; “I didn’t make a 100 on my test.”  Instead, teach them to measure progress from how far they are from where they started;  “On my last test, I made a C.  On this test I made a B.”

Teach kids that rejection can sometimes be redirection–And sometimes that is a good thing.  We aren’t meant to win at everything and sometimes it can be a sign that our strengths and talents lay in another area.  Evaluating whether or not to continue along the same path is part of the message that rejection can clarify.


Related posts:

The power of not yet in changing behavior

Four steps to change failure to success

Teach kids problem solving skills


Wyatt the Wonder Dog

Learns about Teamwork

Camping with his Boy Scout Troop is exciting and fun… until Max takes a serious fall while hiking.  When Wyatt and the rest of the Scouts use their emergency training to get Max safely out of the woods, they learn the value of teamwork and the power of community to achieve big goals.

Wyatt Learns about Teamwork

Kids and decision making

In a recent post, Tim Elmore discusses the consequences of removing risk taking from children’s lives.  In older times, summer or free time, was when kids roamed the neighborhood playing, creating their own games and developing their own network of friends. Parents relayed the rules. Kids knew their boundaries and what they were allowed to do.   Parents couldn’t check on kids’ movements with cell phones and days were not filled with scheduled activities that kept both parents and kids occupied from dawn to dusk. It was truly a different world that seems foreign now when every second of everyday is choreographed and planned with activity.  I’m not saying it was perfect or even better but it is true that left to their own devices, kids had to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills that are not demanded in today’s world where parents or other adults are always on hand to make decisions, influence consequences and even manipulate the environment.

Since it seems  unlikely that our society will step back in time to the previous generational model where children were faced daily with decisions that involved everything from how to spend their time (what to do) to determining which activities were dangerous and which were not (how to behave), it seems the least we can do is give kids some tools for how to make those critical decisions when they are faced with them.

Here are a few techniques we can use to help children learn to make effective and reasonable decisions on their own:

Have children ask what their role models would do– Help children through biographies, movies, television and other media identify responsible role models.  Make sure they recognize great role models in their everyday life.  Have them get in the habit of noticing how their role models handle tough decisions.  Then help children evaluate whether or not they made the right decision.

Link good behaviors to moral character- Develop core values as a family, as a classroom or as a team. Discuss them often.  Point them out in others.  Notice how behavior follows good values.  Develop empathy by pointing out how our behavior has consequences for others. Have kids learn to ask, “How would I feel if I were on the receiving end of that behavior?”

Develop critical thinking by emphasizing values over rules–  It’s not enough to just follow the rules.  Help kids evaluate rules based on values and determine why it is necessary to follow the rule (or not!).


Wyatt the Wonder Dog

Learns about Teamwork


Camping with his Boy Scout Troop is exciting and fun… until Max takes a serious fall while hiking.  When Wyatt and the rest of the Scouts use their emergency training to get Max safely out of the woods, they learn the value of teamwork and the power of community to achieve big goals.


Wyatt Learns about Teamwork



Handle parent-teacher crucial conversations effectively

In my years as a school counselor, I coordinated and lead a lot of parent-teacher conferences.  Lucky for me, I worked in a school with an amazing dedicated team of teachers who came to those conferences prepared and eager to serve.  It’s an important mindset to cultivate.  However, I also talk with parents and teachers who encounter a very different environment.  Typical problems include an unwillingness to listen, a need to be right or prove a point and a lack of sensitivity to the intentions and efforts of others.  How can you best ensure that a conference starts on the right track, ends with an action plan for moving forward and doesn’t get derailed in between?

Here are some tips to create a positive environment during crucial conversations:

  • Begin by clarifying what you really want to accomplish in the meeting. Are you sharing information and bringing someone up to date?  Do you want to make a decision about services or placement?  Are you creating a behavior plan or academic plan for moving forward?  Make sure everyone is prepared for the goal and on the same page.  Being blindsided as to the real purpose of a meeting creates tension.
  • Ask yourself how you need to act to accomplish your goal?  Calm and focused? Confident and prepared with the facts?  Sensitive and empathetic?  Take some time to create a positive mindset beforehand.
  • Avoid the extreme choices of:
    • Maintaining peace and harmony at all costs by withdrawing, not speaking up or not identifying what you think is the best goal and why.
    • Being more concerned about making a point than making a difference.  Being determined to win and express your opinion at any cost.
  • Instead of looking for differences and either/or decisions, look for common ground and make decisions that incorporate everyone’s concerns.  Anticipate and encourage cooperation and investment in a positive outcome on everyone’s part.

Related Posts:

7 secrets to effective teacher-parent communication

10 secrets to effective parent teacher communication

The greatest gift a teacher can give


 Wyatt Learns about Good Manners

Wyatt is always wondering about something and lately it is how to get his friend, Max to change his bossy ways.  What can he do?  Join Wyatt as he considers some rather unusual options until he finally discovers that a heart to heart talk with Max can create a new friendship with an old friend.  Wyatt_the_Wonder_Dog_Cover_Manners_Kindle

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Good Manners





Be the hero in your story

In a school where I was doing some training, I found this quote on a classroom wall: “Be the hero in your own story.”  I love the concept.  In recent years the art of story telling has been incorporated into business and many other mediums where we might not expect to find it.

What if we helped kids recognize that their life is a story that they are writing every moment of everyday?

Would it make a difference as they make decisions and choices on a regular basis?

Since elementary school is the age where we learn about writing stories with a beginning, middle and end, it seems like a perfect time to also teach students to consider their life as a story telling opportunity as well.

Here are some common characteristics of writing a fictional story and a life story:

  • There is a main character or a hero- This is the student.
  • There is a problem- This is the challenge that they face.
  • There is tension- This is the difference or gap between how things are now and how they want things to be in the future.
  • There are possible solutions- These are the strategies, the tactics that they try to solve the problem.
  • There is closure- This is the solution or resolution of the problem.

Helping students see their life as a story is useful in several ways:

  • It gives them ownership of their life-  It places them clearly at cause in their life rather than at effect.  It sets them up as problem solvers not just someone who is waiting for life to happen to them.
  • It promotes a growth mindset-  Problems in most stories, just as in real life aren’t solved immediately.  In fact, it often takes many tries to solve the problem with sub plots and distractions, false starts and mistakes. Thinking of our lives in the same way gives us confidence to kept trying even when we fail.
  • It gives them hero status- When kids see themselves as heroes, it helps them recognize their strengths and skill set.

Related posts:

Positive Storytelling

Four Ways to Teach Your Best Lesson

Teaching Kids Problem-solving Skills


Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Cooperation

Wyatt wants to play Frisbee. Max wants to build a fort and Callie wants to have tea party. How do the three friends reconcile their differences? Can it be done? When Wyatt doesn’t get his way, Max’s mother suggests he be the Superhero for the day. Join Wyatt as he learns how the magic of cooperation and compromise can bring the five friends closer together.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog -Cooperation Cover
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Cooperation (Volume 6)


Helping kids cope with loss and grief

Loss and grief are always difficult emotions for everyone, adults and children alike.  As school counselors, we are in an especially challenging position since we are expected to be a resource to others while we can be equally affected and emotional about the situation. When faced with the death of a student, a teacher or someone related to a student or teacher, what can you do?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Try to move the discussion from what happened and why it happened to a more personal and more positive means of coping with the tragic situation.  I might say something about how we all know about the tragic death of our friend and classmate and that while we know a lot of details about what happened and how it happened, there are a lot of things that we will never know or understand and speculating about them doesn’t help make the situation better for anybody. I might mention that often bad things happen to good people and while we can’t go back in time and change what happened, what we can do is remember the good things, the things that we will miss about our classmate.  Then I would allow some time for students to express their memories and perhaps share some emotions.
  • I might then talk about the grief process  and what they can expect to feel over time; sadness, anger maybe even fear or anxiety.  I would normalize those feelings and suggest that they find someone they can trust to talk to when they have those feelings.  I might ask students to give examples of who they can talk to and offer my services as well.
  •  I would also point out that often times when someone dies it reminds each of us of losses in our own lives and causes us to grieve again for those losses.  I might ask if anyone has found themselves thinking about other sad situations in their own lives and felt themselves grieving over them again.  I would allow some time to talk about those related situations.
  • I would point out that sometimes kids feel that because something bad happened to someone else, it must mean that something bad will happen to them. However, events are not connected in that way and I would reassure them in whatever way is appropriate to the situation that we can feel safe.
  • Finally, I would address the fact that often when something bad happens, we feel guilty that we didn’t in some way see it coming or prevent it from happening but that again, the best thing that we can do is to give ourselves credit for doing the best we can in each and every situation we are in.  I would remind them that rather than regretting something they didn’t do in the past, the best we can do now is to be sure to care for and support each other as we grieve in the present.  I might have students give examples of what they need and would appreciate receiving from others as they grieve this loss.

Need more ideas?  Here is a website with lots of grief resources:


Coping With Loss: 115 Helpful Websites on Grief & Bereavement

My all time favorite book to use with individual students who are grieving is, Marc Brown’s When Dinosaurs Die:  A Guide to Understanding Death. It outlines and explains everything from what to expect at a funeral to the many emotions a child might experience.

Another excellent book is,  Grandad Bill’s Song,  by Jane Yolen.  It is a lovely sensitive book about each family member’s memories of Grandad Bill after his death. This book could be easily used with a grief group and followed with an activity where group members discuss memories of loved ones.

Stuff Parents Want to Know:  Answers to Frequently Asked Questions 

In twenty years of school counseling I’ve been asked a lot of questions.  This ebook is a compilation of some of the most common ones along with some effective strategies and books you can read with your child to address the problem. stuffparents   Click on the link below to purchase:

Stuff Parents Want to Know: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions



four steps to change failure into success

I’ve written a lot of posts on how to handle failure.  There are several of reasons for this.   As a kid, I don’t know that anyone ever helped me understand the role that failure plays in growing, improving and becoming your best self. I just figured out on my own that failure was something to be avoided at all costs and that misguided perception would rule my life until well into recent years.

As a school counselor for 20 years, I also spent a lot of time consoling kids who felt devastated when life didn’t go as they planned.  They failed a test. Their work didn’t win the prize.  They weren’t chosen for the team or club.  I want to help kids learn to handle failure because it so often involves learning to handle losing, making mistakes and criticism. Each one of these experiences can either provide needed helpful information for our future or it can crush our spirit.  It is all in how we perceive the information as well as how it is delivered.

Most of the time when someone feels crushed by failure, the problem is the message or the story that the individual is telling themselves about the situation.  This is obviously true for adults as well as kids so the steps that I’m going to suggest below might be something that you will find helpful in your own life as well as kids that you teach, parent or counsel.   Here’s the secret sauce for turning failure into research and development.

  • Become aware of the message or story that you are telling yourself or repeating in your brain.  Here are some examples that I’ve heard:
    • How could I be so stupid?
    • I’m a loser and now everyone will know
    • What’s the point of trying?  I can’t do anything right.
  • Change the message to change the feeling:
    • It’s okay to make mistakes.  That’s how I learn.
    • I’m not a loser, I’m a learner.  Everyone makes mistakes and those who don’t understand don’t need to be in my circle of friends.
    • I haven’t learned the best way to succeed yet.  There are lessons to be learned from this experience.
  • Ask the question:
    • What have I learned from this experience?
    • How can I apply what I have learned?
    • Where is the opportunity in this experience?
  • Set a new goal to apply what you have learned
    • Create a new goal with a timeline- I will study differently for the next test by reviewing the material nightly.
    • Create an opportunity for constructive feedback:  I will ask my teacher for suggestions for the best way to learn the material.
    • Evaluate how the action steps are working:  I will take a practice test before the final exam.

Related posts:

What if failure is really a gift?

The growth mindset and success

Teach girls bravery not perfection

Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others?  Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)

Lesson Plan on Winning/Failure on Teachers Pay Teachers