Setting Himself Up for Disappointment


New Member
Our difficult child has a habit, which I would love to break him of - for his own good. He seems to get a concrete idea in his head and then he insists that will be the outcome - until he falls hard when it doesn't happen.

For instance, if he enters a contest (which we as :warrior: know about a zillion kids will enter), he has his heart set on winning. He is already planning what he will do with the winnings/prize.

A few weeks ago, husband took both munchkins to the mall for lunch while I was at work. There is a 'claw machine game' there that had a plush of one of difficult child's favorite cartoon characters in it. He saved his allowance for 2 weeks to go back and give it a try. I tried to explain to him that those darn games are packed so tight that it is almost impossible to get out what you want - not to mention that I think the claws are rigged so that you would have to spend 10 times what the toy is worth to actually get it out, etc. I tried to talk to him about not getting so set on winning because if it didn't work, it would be highly disappointing. He seemed to agree with me, but the whole shopping trip day, he focused on getting to the mall and that game.

You can imagine that when we stopped him after he spent $2.00 worth of frustrated attempts he was not happy. He did hold it together in the mall, but cried on the way home and told me I was right - he shouldn't have gotten so excited. Then, it turned to "stupid claw machine" language, etc.

I hate this habit. difficult child is so confident that whatever he does he will be successful at to the point of over confidence that is just so dangerous, because we all know that most things are not as great as you perceive them, etc. I'm glad that he goes about things enthusiastically, but is there a way to balance it out with some good old-fashioned common sense? He is over confident and then highly agitated and sad when it doesn't come to fruition.

Any suggestions??


Here we go again!
My difficult child 2 has similar problems right now with realistic expectations, or even the ability to correctly predict an outcome or consequence.

Not sure you can break him of it easily, but perhaps LOTS of discussion about what just happened, or other examples of similar experiences, can help him accept what happened and learn from it.

My husband has problems with this sometimes, too. I feel like banging my head when he does this! I've had to sit back and let him reap the rewards for his decisions many, many times. :wink:


Active Member
Eeyore has that exact problem with claw games. The problem was reinforced by a poorly set-up game at our old rec center. On that machine, he'd win 7 of 10 tries so he thinks all games are like that (they eventually removed the machine cause they were losing money).

Eeyore has been grounded from arcade games since January and it just now earning some tokens with direct supervision. Course he goes straight for the claws but at the new rec center -- no luck. I keep hoping he'll get it.


Active Member
We've banned difficult child 3 from arcade games. If he gets really caught up in wanting to play one, I make him watch while others play it.

As for wanting something desperately - he will see it and he's ALWAYS wanted it. He's actually a lot better with it now, but still pretty bad. He now does have a better understanding that the system is rigged to make money for the person who owns the machine.

We just got back from a time share holiday. In some of these time share places, the recreation room has games machines that aren't actually owned by the resort. We learned this one the hard way, a few years ago. One resort finally took over the machines and re-set them so you only had to push a button to play. No free toy or anything, though. These were just space invader games or similar, the ones that used to be coin in the slot - even THESE can 'cheat' you, if they're faulty.
And a lot of these 'franchised out' game machines just don't get serviced properly. There is a phone number on them sometimes, often out of date, and any coins get collected by some person unknown who doesn't care if the machine is swallowing coins and not giving the full quota of games.
Finally, difficult child 3 seems to have got the message - especially by waiting to see how other people fare - that these machines don't play fair.

But you'll love his latest trick - he's now checking EVERY arcade game, every coin in the slot, even public phones, for coins left behind. Because we spent a lot of time waiting in airports, he had plenty of opportunity to go back and KEEP checking. At one point, the coffee shop where we were waiting (Auckland airport) was beside a large arcade games area. difficult child 3 had to check out the machines before he'd settle to doing his schoolwork. He scored about $1 and was pleased with himself. Then a party of high school students came through - one of those large school excursions (New Zealanders fly everywhere). These kids hit the arcade machines right next to the coffee shop. As soon as the kids had been rounded up and moved through their departure gate, difficult child 3 slipped over and checked out the machines - another $3!

We've found op-shops are a good source of the soft toys that you can get out of those claw machines - kids play the machine but get a different toy to the one they want. It's worth a try, because you can show difficult child the really poor quality of manufacture of these toys - very inferior fabric (it's got that sort of shiny look to each thread, plus it's very sparsely plush, it looks like a balding monkey even when new). But it could net him the toy he wants, for a fraction of the cost of using a claw machine.

It's part of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) component of difficult child 3's autism, I feel, that he carries on this way (or used to, a lot more). Experience is slowly teaching him better and his new trick of finding money is compensating for his disappointment - I think he feels it's justice at last.

And one 'game' that ALWAYS pays out, as long as you have the patience - at a science museum an hour's drive from our place (Wollongong Science Centre) they have a large machine to demonstrate to people how big numbers really are. We have difficulty visualising numbers like a million - we can see the number o paper, but what does it mean really? With this machine, you turn a handle. For every full turn of the handle, the machine counts 1. For every 10, a lever drops. For very hundred, a hammer drops somewhere else. And so on. I'm not sure of the exact numbers, but it's something like - every 1,000 a small rubber ball pops out of the machine into the hand of whoever is turning the handle. Every 10,000 a party popper goes off and the technicians have to insert another one before the next 10,000 is reached.
difficult child 3 loves machines and how they work. So he rushes over to this thing and cranks the handle. I've seen him stand there, cranking and cranking. if you walk away before the 1,000 another kid could come and finish it off and HE would get the ball, so difficult child 3 especially the first time sat there, cranking and cranking. I think he scored two balls that day (mind you, 10c would have bought both balls).
We've been there enough times now, that he is more relaxed about it. He can now watch another kid cranking and not get anxious that the other kid will get the ball - we explained that whoever cranks the handle deserves the ball, he shouldn't be envious of the other kid for his sore arm.

Experience and explaining is what works, but much more slowly than with most other kids.

You just have to keep going. Don't get angry or you will push their anxiety up and make them worse, not better. Keep yourself calm to help keep them calm, which makes it easier for them to listen to you and accept what you're saying.

I used to have brown hair. Not any more.


Mrs Smith

New Member
You can imagine that when we stopped him after he spent $2.00 worth of frustrated attempts he was not happy. He did hold it together in the mall, but cried on the way home and told me I was right - he shouldn't have gotten so excited. Then, it turned to "stupid claw machine" language, etc.

Sounds familiar. I share your frustration. On a positive note- at least he kept it together until he got to the car. My son used to lose it on the spot. Still does if it's something he wants bad enough only mine doesn't cry, he explodes. I wish I had a solution too.

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
My difficult child is very much like that. Nothing we can say or do deters him when he is "positive" of the outcome.


New Member
I never thought about the fact that he did indeed hold it together in the mall. It's just so strange that I can attempt to forsee the outcome with him - gently tell him how the toys are packed in and the claw itself is so loose that it's virtully impossible to get the darn toys out of there - and yet he is still so sure he is going to beat it. I'm sure he visualizes it and everything.

husband has even emailed the corporation that owns the rights to the character difficult child is looking for. They have emailed him back that one company - who distributes exclusively (they think) to arcades and the like - owns the rights to the plush toys. He emailed that company, too, but so far we haven't heard from them. Gotta give husband credit for trying.

Yikes. With difficult child, it's either "I'm gonna win - I know it!" or "Why bother trying - it's stupid - and I'll never get it!". No happy mediums in this house!!

Thanks everyone!