Thursday, January 17, 2013

Working Through Disappointment

When we first watched the original Star Wars movie nearly a year ago, my son was only mildly entertained. And so, we did not get any more Star Wars films for our weekly movie nights.

Recently, though, Kai’s interest in Star Wars has picked up. The reason: Angry Birds Star Wars.

At school, the kids are allowed to play on iPads during breaks and at lunchtime. Angry Birds has been one of their most popular free-time activities for some time now. And a couple months ago, we found out from Kai that there is a Star Wars version.

It wasn’t long before Kai was talking about Wookiees and R2D2 and Obiwan.

He became all things Star Wars. He even found a Lego parody of Star Wars.

It wasn’t long before he was talking about Jabba the Hut and Ewoks. I was surprised as they weren’t in the first movie that we had watched. But they apparently are in either the Angry Birds version or some Lego film.

With Kai’s newfound passion for Star Wars, we got the next two films in the series for our recent movie nights: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

This time, Kai was highly entertained. He loved both films and wanted to watch many parts over and over. It was funny that my wife, who did not particularly like the first film, also enjoyed the subsequent ones. And, perhaps influenced by Kai’s enthusiasm, I loved them much more than I did when I first saw them years ago.

Of course, Kai’s love of Star Wars meant that he wanted to collect Star Wars toys – specifically, the Angry Birds Star Wars collection.

He told us about an Angry Birds Star Wars Mystery Bag. For $3, you can buy a foil bag that has two mini figures. We decided that it was a great incentive for our Point Store.

Regular readers may recall that we copied our son’s school in opening a Point Store that offers Kai an opportunity to exchange points he earned for specified good behavior for preferred items.

With a powerful incentive like Angry Birds Star Wars, Kai was highly motivated and earned points quickly. A couple weeks ago, he earned his first mini figures and was very happy.

He set about to earn his next Mystery Bag, and earlier this week, he had accumulated enough points for his second one.

He opened it up, and….

was tremendously disappointed when he found that the two mini figures were the exact same ones as were in the first bag.

I can certainly understand the disappointment. But when Kai is disappointed, he becomes a very angry bird.

He demanded that Mom take back the Mystery Bag and replace it with a different one. My wife explained that you cannot take back something that has been opened. She looked at me with a questioning look.

It would have been easy for us to take back his mini figures and replace them with a different reward.

But I didn’t want to take the easy way out. I wanted him to learn about disappointment.

My wife and I explained that you never know what will be in these bags, and sometimes you may get duplicates. We encouraged him to keep working hard to earn another reward and the next one may contain different figures.

This did not satisfy him at all.

I told him about how I used to collect baseball cards as a child, and many times I would get a duplicate card. I understood how disappointing that is. But I often was able to trade my duplicates with friends to get new cards. Perhaps he could work out a trade with one of his classmates at school.

That finally seemed to relieve some of the disappointment.

But then Kai started talking about how Josh better trade with him.

Oh, boy! Did I just open a huge can of worms and set up a problem for the school staff?

I emailed Kai’s teacher and explained the situation. I apologized if I might have caused a problem, but was wondering if she could help facilitate a trade.

She wrote back quickly that evening. She explained that the school doesn’t permit trading between students as they’ve learned that it often leads to problems when kids change their minds later. However, she would be happy to offer Kai a trade herself, perhaps with Pokémon cards.

And so, yesterday, Kai went to school with his extra mini figures. And he returned with five Pokémon cards.

He was happy and I was relieved.

We hadn’t given in on appeasing his disappointment. Kai learned the concept of trading, and that there can be value in items that he has, even if they are duplicates.

And we were reminded about how awesome Kai’s teacher is in helping him work through his disappointment as a learning experience.


  1. Kai's teacher was not only pleasantly flexible...she was smart to come up with a solution which would pre-empt a problem. Observant people can spot problems and solve them. Observant people with experience properly engineer situations so there are no problems in the first place. Kudos to her :) (and good thinking on your part for giving her the heads up).

    1. Your description actually applies to everyone we have interacted with at Kai's school. We consider ourselves fortunate that he has flexible teachers who find creative ways to solve and preempt problems.


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