Recently I wrote about what to do when our students disappoint us. As I was thinking about the experiences I’ve had with students, I found myself also thinking about the times when I disappointed some of my students. Yeah, it’s happened.
Like I shared in the earlier article, disappointment happens, and not just with our students. We can be just as disappointing. After all, at times we’re just adult versions of our teenagers. We make mistake just like they do. Thus, we can fall victim of disappointment.
I know we try our very hardest to keep every promise, grant every wish, and be all things to all students, but the reality is, at some point we’re going to slip up and someone is going to be disappointed by what we do or do not do. So what can you do when you find yourself in a situation where you have disappointed a student (or two, or three…)
1. Own it.
I have found it most helpful when I know that I’ve made a mistake to simply own it. Admit. Make it yours. acknowledge it. You messed up. But so does everyone else. The difference comes when you ‘fess up and deal with it. Nothing good ever comes from ignoring it or blaming someone else. In fact, I think it actually helps to build a strong idea of integrity when we humble ourselves and own our mistakes.
I can be stubborn when it comes to somethings. But when I know I am the one at fault, I know it’s my responsibility to say I’m sorry. When you know that you have let a student or even a parent down, for one reason or another, apologize to them. Let them know that you are aware from what happen, and that you are truly sorry for disappointing them.
3. No Excuses.
Be honest with them. If you forgot to do something, then say that you forgot. Sure it’s lame and maybe you shouldn’t have forgotten, but you did. So don’t make up some crazy excuse that you were busy rescuing some neighbors cat from a tree and it slipped your mind. No, you forgot. Be honest with them and let them know the truth.
4. Avoid Promised that You know You can’t Keep.
Have you ever been in that situation where a student asks you to do something, and you know you can’t, but you don’t want to disappoint them by saying no? Warning!! Don’t make the promises or say yes to things that you know you probably can’t fulfill. Doing so only sets you up for failure and a great disappointment. It would be better to be honest from the beginning instead of creating false hope.
5. Learn from Your Mistakes.
Okay, disappointment happens. Students disappoint their youth leaders. Youth leaders will disappoint their students. But if we learn from our mistakes and disappointments, it might help us to avoid those mistakes and disappointments in the future. Whether it was a promise or an oversight, recognize what it was that you did or didn’t do and make a note to be aware of that same thing in the future.
There is no magic formula to prevent disappointment. Disappointment is usually linked to the expectations that either we create or others project upon us. When those expectations aren’t met, disappoint ensues. It happens. But I do think that if we are aware of how we deal with disappointment, we will learn how to handle it better in the future.
As you think about disappointment as it relates to you as a youth worker, realize that at some point you too will let someone down. But how you conduct yourself in the moment will have a great impact on both the situation and the relationship.
Have you ever disappointed a student or a parent?
How did you handle it?
What advice would you give to someone in a similar situation?
JAY HIGHAM is a 25 year veteran of student and family ministry; having worked with students in the local church and Christian camping settings. Jay is currently the Youth Director at Hickory Church, located in Western PA. Jay has been married to Amy for 20 years. Together, they are raising 5 kids. He is passionate about student ministry, family ministry, and resourcing and training fellow youth workers. You can learn more about Jay and his ministry to students and families by visiting his blog at WWW.JAYHIGHAM.COM!