Dealing with Frustration with Children

What is Frustration?

Frustration stems from the gap we perceive between what we deem desirable, and what in fact is our reality. When we wish for something which we can not materialize, we may feel frustrated. Frustration belongs to a family of emotions and states of mind that includes impatience, anxiety, helplessness and fear. There is a connection between frustration and feelings of victimhood, as well as between frustration and a low threshold for gratification. An ability to deal with frustration is a predictor of a high quality of life. In children, it is a predictor of success in adult life. Therefore, dealing with frustration is of paramount importance when it comes to developing emotional intelligence in ourselves and our children.

The Problem - Good Things Grow on us Quickly

We all love to experience moments of transcendence and fun. A happy state of mind includes a mental focus on gratitude, positive self-talk, and choosing activities and situations that bring us happiness. But when the latter happens all the time, the threshold of excitement rises and we may feel less happy. Children have difficulty expressing this type of distress, so it seems to show up in their behavior via tantrums, inappropriate crying, and an inability to delay gratification.

It Starts at Home

If, as children, we grew up in a home where frustration was "tabooed", we may not have learned how to express and then deal with frustration in a healthy way. A parent who doesn't contain frustration in his or her own life, will find it difficult to teach their children how to deal with frustration, because they will not show them a personal example of proper functioning in situations of discrepancy between what is "desirable" and what "is". Such a parent would do anything to prevent the child from experiencing frustration, and in many cases simply pacify the child.

Frustration - What is it Good for?

The good news is that frustration has a positive function! All emotions are a kind of road sign to help us navigate our lives successfully. The role of frustration is to produce behaviors that will bypass or overcome the obstacles before us.

How to Cope With Frustration?

The way is to experiment. Here are some practical tips for dealing with frustration:

1. You can pour hope into the place of frustration. For example, it is possible to draw memories of similar situations in which you had hoped for something which later materialized, to draw hope from another person or from within yourself, or to think about how much better it could be when the obstacle is dealt with, when the journey is over, and so on.

2. When we are frustrated by another person, attention can be diverted to what we have achieved together, by shifting your self-talk from "I can not stand ..." to "what we have already done that is positive and fruitful." Such thoughts mitigate frustration.

3. Communicate about what you wish for, in order to give opportunity for your needs will be met, and for obstacles to be addressed. This will also ensure that resentment doesn't accumulate in addition to frustration.

4. Ask an awareness question such as "What am I asking for myself here and now?", or "What opportunities are awaiting beyond this frustration?" You're more likely to act to realize those opportunities without delay, while overcoming the source of frustration.

5. Frustration is associated with a decrease in perceived self-worth, in situations when we make a mistake, stumble or blunder. But you can also prepare for those situations in advance. If you know the expected stumbling blocks and how to deal with them, they will remain merely "momentary slips" and therefore will not lead you to doubt your self-worth. If you stumble, you can forgive yourself and think about what you can do so that the circumstances won't reoccur, thus preventing future frustration.

6. Make conscious choices - Who holds the power when you get frustrated - is it yourself, or the circumstances? Asking yourself about how you want to feel will help you move forward to make productive choices. You can choose not to be a hostage of frustration.

7. Remember that behind any negative action lies a positive intention. What is the positive intention that led to your frustration? Try to focus on appreciating the positive intention, which will help you be more empathic, communicate better, and take the sting out of the frustrating situation.

8. With the help of a qualified personal coach or therapist, it is possible to strengthen behaviors that help overcome chronic frustration; use guided imagery, learn how to regulate your emotions, and more.

Teaching Children to Deal With Frustration

When a child experiences frustration, it is important not to abandon him with emotion on the one hand, but on the other hand not to give him too much satisfaction. In such a situation we will tell the child: "I'm sure you'll calm down and talk about what else you can do." It is an approach that requires investment and creativity from the parent, and that the parent first of all will practice a healthy coping with frustration in his or her own life. Of course, we will make sure that this frustration is adapted to the age, ability, state of health, mood and developmental stage of the child.

Child is a Sore Loser? Teaching Children That it's Okay to "Lose"

To teach your child to cope with frustration resulting from defeat, choose to play a game that the child has a high chance of winning, and manage expectations with your child about winning and losing, in advance. Say, for example, "It will be fun, weather you'll lose or win." Then ask the child to repeat the rules of the game and the agreed expectations, and expose the child to occasional loss, slowly and gradually. Praise your child for having patience, for making progress, and for the ability to play fairly, according to the rules of the game. Wining isn't taken for granted, so praise them for wining with "Great job!", "You played a wonderful game!", etc. Provide personal example for dealing with frustration in a healthy way buy saying: "I lost and it sucks right now, but I hope to win next time," or in your own life: "I failed the test, I will use my friends to be more prepared for the next test", or "I didn't get the job, I'm sure there are other great opportunities for me out there to find", etc. This will demonstrate your own ability to see the whole picture, as opposed to collapsing due to a concrete defeat, and will teach the child to draw hope for themselves.

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