We Should Be Letting Our Kids Face Rejection Early On

Written by Bethany Adkins
Published on August 28, 2020

As a parent, one of my biggest struggles is seeing my kids get hurt. Whether it’s physical or emotional, it cuts me to my core. I think most parents can relate, and we’d all agree that if we could save our kids from every hurt they will ever face in this life, we’d do it. 

Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world and that’s not possible. We are even promised in the bible that we will face trials (John 16:33).

So what do we do to prepare our kids from pain, more specifically pain from rejection?

I want to share a story with you that made a lightbulb go off for me recently and made me realize that perhaps rather than trying to shelter our kids and protect them from rejection, we should be exposing them to it as early on as possible.

Are you cringing yet? Hear me out.

The other day, I took my five-year-old to the beach. We were enjoying the sunshine and searching for seashells. There were lots of kids around, and after a few minutes, my daughter started eyeing up another little girl nearby.

“Mommy, can I go ask her if she wants to play with me?”

Knowing this could go one of two ways, my reflex was to protect her from the potential rejection and convince her to continue playing with me: her safe place. 

However, something within me quickly left me with a conviction and in a moment, I let her attempt to make a new friend.

“Sure!” I said, trying to hide my nerves for her.

As she started walking over to the little girl, she paused glanced over her shoulder at me nervously as if asking, “Are you sure this is ok?”

“Go on, you’ve got it.”

She walked up and I watched the engagement take place. About five seconds later, she came walking back with a smile on her face and sat right beside me.

“She said no,” she told me as she picked up right where we left off and started searching for shells again. 

My heart sank.

Rejection teaches them empathy

I forgot to mention just a few days before this we were swimming at another beach and my daughter was asked to play by another little girl, and almost immediately she coldly told the little girl no. 

I was right there and had explained to her that wasn’t a kind way to respond even if she really didn’t want to play, but I also knew my daughter was just being shy. So, I encouraged her to go back up to the little girl and play. They had a great time, and played as if they were life-long friends. 

My point is that without second thought, my daughter rejected the little girl with no regard to how that might make her feel. I found it ironic that just a few days later, she found herself in exactly the same situation but with the roles reversed: she was the one getting rejected. 

It’s painful to see our kids not be wanted, but unfortunately that’s real life. By letting our children be exposed to these situations early on, we are giving them opportunities to put themselves in other peoples shoes. I know she did not like the feeling of being rejected, but my hope is that through this engagement, she is slower to speak next time someone is asking her to accept them

On the flip side, I also had the opportunity to remind her that just a few days ago she told another little girl no, and didn’t mean anything by it. Maybe the girl that rejected her was just feeling shy like my daughter was a few days ago.

Empathy is being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and let yourself feel how they feel. The best way to understand empathy is by letting our kids face real life experiences that force them to feel emotions that we might otherwise protect them from.

By this experience my hope is that next time, she will consider how she responds because she will know how it feels to be both accepted and rejected.

Rejection teaches them bravery 

“That was really brave of you,” I said to her as she sat back down beside me. My mom instinct was to get up and question the little girl about why there would be any reason that she wouldn’t want to play with my perfect little angel (can anyone relate?), but the reality is that sometimes there just isn’t a good reason.

I recently read somewhere that our goal as parents shouldn’t be to raise good kids, but to raise kids who will one day be good adults. Taking that into account, I know that my little girl isn’t going to be five forever, and she is going to face a lot of rejection in her lifetime. We all do.

How I let her be exposed to that now, and how I teach her to respond will shape how she respond to rejection as an adult.

If we don’t teach our kids how to handle rejection the right way when they are young, it could cripple them when they are adults. 

If we do let our kids face rejection early on, we can reinforce their effort with positivity and encouragement so that they can learn that rejection is just a part of life and something that we have to embrace and learn to respond to in a healthy way. 

If we grow up being taught to avoid it, we will always avoid difficult situations and we will never grow. 

Rejection is not the end, sometimes it just means it’s not the right time, opportunity, or relationships for us. And that’s ok. 

We should be teaching our kids to be brave and do little things like asking someone to play with them when they are young so that they have the courage to go for the job when they get older. 

Rejection teaches them confidence in who they truly are

When my daughter walked away with a smile on her face, I thought for sure the little girl had told her yes. When she said that she was told no, I had to ask her twice just to be sure that I heard her right because her positive response caught me so off guard.

“Maybe her mom told her that she wasn’t allowed to play with anyone or maybe she just didn’t want to play. Either way, she is missing out because you are kind, funny, and awesome.” 

“I know,” she said.

So often I see responses to rejection knock people completely over. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see my daughter come back crying because she had been rejected, but the thing about her is that she radiates this unshakable confidence, and she knows the value that she brings to the table. It’s something I don’t ever want her to lose.

Rejection can leave us feeling like we are lacking, inadequate, and an outcast, but that’s simply not true. Sometimes rejection is just that: rejection. 

We need to make sure our kids know this.

Maybe what they are hoping for isn’t a good fit. Maybe God has something better planned. Or maybe they simply have some growing to do. Whatever it may be, the bottom line is that if we know who we are, know what we bring to the table, and we are confident in that prior to facing rejection, we can handle rejection in a much healthier fashion and walk away still knowing that it does not decrease our value.

My daughter has been taught since the day that she was born that her identity lies in Christ and Christ alone. Of course, we tell her that she is beautiful and smart, and funny, but she knows that at the end of the day, even if she is rejected by the world, she is loved by our Father. And because she knows that, her confidence is almost unshakable. It’s easy for her to walk away with her head held high because she knows her worth does not lie in a social group.

When we let our kids face rejection, we are giving ourselves the opportunity to teach them these truths first hand so that not only are they told where their worth lies, but so they can lean into God and feel His presence when they are rejected.

If you have a child that doesn’t handle rejection well, it’s important to reinforce that their worth lies solely in Christ alone. When they are taught this over and over again, they begin to believe it. And when they believe it, we raise children who can walk into potential rejection knowing where their worth lies even if they are told no. 

Rejection is a beautiful opportunity to raise empathetic, brave, and confident children of God. Let’s not cheat them of this by trying to save them from pain. 

Let’s armor them with the truths that God has given us.

Live perfectly imperfect

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Bethany Adkins

Bethany Adkins is a former Pediatric nurse who left the comfort of her job to pursue something she never thought possible, and is now encouraging others to pursue what’s on their hearts as well because it’s there for a reason.
Through posts on her website, conversations on her podcast, and writing her first book, the core of her message is one simple thing: you have a purpose. When she initially decided to write a book, she never thought it would lead to anything. But over time, it has shown her just how tangible dreams can be. All she had to do was step away from the expectations that culture sets (you know, work a good job that equals good pay), prove that she is more than they make her generation out to be (a lazy Millennial, of course) and rise up to pursue the purpose deep inside her.

Read more about Bethany

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