Getting Out of Discouragement

Discouragement, at its origin, is defined as “to be in a state of being away from the heart.” And surely this is the experience.  According to it is “to deprive of courage, hope, or confidence; dishearten.” Away from our hearts, out of our ability to tap into the loving and gratitude that motivates us to move forward, try again. Are you or your child feeling discouraged? It can be deadening.

It brings us down like a chain around our ankles. It slows us, submerges us, and it is hard to shake off. It takes fortitude to shift our attitude and turn back to our hearts. Mostly because we can justify our discouragement so easily; there is so much evidence that things aren’t going the way they “should.” I am well aware of the phenomenon. Life will be going along; I think I have overcome major obstacles and then Boom! there it is, a major pothole and I get scared again or frustrated and feel like we aren’t getting anywhere.  Time and time again as my daughter’s learning challenges ruled our lives, I felt like she was making headway and then she would be fully confused again and not able to do a project or find the math impossible again. Or a temper that seemed under control would rail again and I would feel discouraged and hopeless. How long I stay in that place depended (still depends) on my ability and the speed with which I refocus myself.

Resilience is a wonderful thing. It takes practice and training and we parents, educators and counselors get plenty of opportunities to bounce back, to find our hope when discouragement sets in.  How do we do it? Do you know how you bring yourself back?

I have compiled a short list of reasons we get discouraged and turnarounds. Do you have others? Please send them my way and I will share them with the group. We can support each other on this journey.

Discouragement happens, it is our willingness to get up one more time than we fall that is important, and ultimately what we model for our children.

3 Reasons we get Discouraged:

  1.     Our expectations are too high – we have very high expectations of ourselves and/or our children.  We don’t just want them to understand math, we want them to get an A in it, and if they don’t we are discouraged, they aren’t learning. No matter how hard the subject is for them and how hard they need to work for the C, they aren’t getting the A so we are discouraged that they won’t make it in life; that they aren’t doing well enough.
  2.     We undervalue the small steps – we have a goal and focus on this almost exclusively so that any small step towards achieving the goal is minimized as not that important in and of itself, it is the goal that is important. For example, you want your son to read like his older brother. He is struggling to identify the simplest sight words. If your eye is only focused on whether he reads fluently then all the developmental steps along the way will be inconsequential since he isn’t at the goal
  3.     We run perfectionism to the extreme – in our desire to instill high standards and not “slacker standards” in our children, we accept only “perfect” as “good,” pointing out the missteps and mistakes as much, if not more than, the accomplishments.  Much to the contrary of our intention, this breeds discouragement in our children, and sets us up for discouragement as well.

3 Ways to Shift and Bounce Back

  1.  Establish and honor intermediate milestones along the way. Do not expect yourself or your child to go from 0-60 in 3 sec. Remember learning of any kind is a progressive process and sometimes takes longer than we thought/hoped/wished/imagined. Each little step counts – in fact it is foundational to get to the larger goal. So have the larger goal and keep it in mind, and also establish smaller goals along the way that are reachable wins to recognize.
  2.  Celebrate the small wins. As we said, the small wins are foundations to the larger ones. They are developmental building blocks, worthy in and of themselves. When a baby rolls over, we celebrate. We don’t say, “Wow, great, glad you can finally do THAT, but REALLY, you are not walking yet!” Even though we know it is a step along the way to walking, we marvel in the accomplishment on its own. You don’t need a party with each small growth step, however, inside yourself take the time to acknowledge it and honor it, be grateful for the progress and express that as it fits the situation.
  3.  “Excellence is motivating, perfection is demoralizing,” a paraphrasing of a quote by Harriet Braiker and quite true. If the only accomplishment that is acknowledged is one with no errors, not even inconsequential ones, then very few, if any, accomplishments will be recognized. We are human, and errors, blips and imperfections are part of the perfection of our humanness. Open up to going for excellence and accepting the variation that come forward.

Possibly the greatest way to shift out of discouragement is to accept what is going on, right now – not try to change it, stop judging it as “not the way it should be,” just accept it. Grieve the way we wish it could be or would be, and accept it. From there we can lift – we can find the courage-the heart- to find the next steps, establish the next intention, and be grateful for our resilience.

It is this courage to get up one more time that truly moves us forward and the gift we model for our children.



  1. I don’t have an autistic kid, but if I did, I would send him to you. I perused your post to get an idea about your company as a DDS provider (to talk to you about mileage documentation for you and your employees-yes…we have a very useful online service…) And, when reading this post, I cannot say how wise and useful I found it. e.g. about the brains negative bias and choosing happiness. You have woven in cutting edge brain research with ancient principled concepts of self.
    Well done- it has application to all aspects of growth – as well as parenting your parents.

Speak Your Mind