As a parent, it is very common to face situations of great tension and frustration in which children get angry. It is common for children to get frustrated because they lack the right way to express their feelings. They end up yelling, hitting, or breaking something.
Many parents, overwhelmed by these events, may not know how to react or manage these situations. However, instead of helping the child to calm down, they end up fueling their anger by yelling back or, at worst, by hitting the child.
These fits of anger, however, sometimes wrongly called “tantrums,” are nothing more than frustrations from children. the frustration of not being able to express themselves and/or that adults are not able to understand and respond in the way that they expected.
The frequency of these moments of frustration decreases as they grow, mature, and learn to better communicate their feelings. Yet they still have moments of frustration that often overwhelm parents due to their emotional intensity.
Possible causes of frustration in children
There are many possible causes of frustration in children. Here are a few common ones:
- Developmental limitations. Children’s brains are still developing, and they may not have the cognitive or emotional tools to handle certain situations or emotions.
- Lack of control. Children may feel frustrated when they don’t have control over their environment, such as being told what to do or having their toys taken away.
- High expectations. Children may feel frustrated when they are unable to meet high expectations, whether from themselves, their parents, or their peers.
- Physical or emotional discomfort. Children may feel frustrated when they are hungry, tired, or uncomfortable in some way.
- Difficulties with communication. Children may feel frustrated when they are unable to express themselves or understand others.
- Changes or transitions. When their routines or environments are changed, such as when starting a new school or moving to a new house, children may become frustrated.
Every child is unique, and what may cause frustration for one child may not affect another in the same way.
How to deal with Frustration in Children
Frustration is a natural and common feeling that everyone, including children, experiences. When children struggle to cope with their frustration, it can result in unpleasant behaviors that are difficult to manage for parents and caregivers. Let’s look at some ways you can deal with a frustrated child.
1. Validate their feelings.
Validating your child’s feelings is an effective approach to helping them healthily deal with their frustrations. When you validate your child’s emotions, you demonstrate to them that you understand and accept their feelings, making them feel heard and supported. These are some strategies for validating your child’s feelings:
- Listen actively. When your child is expressing frustration, give them your full attention. Make eye contact, nod your head, and ask questions to show that you’re listening and interested in what they have to say.
- Reflect on their emotions. Repeat back to your child what you think they’re feeling, using phrases like, “It sounds like you’re feeling frustrated right now.” Moreover, this shows that you understand and acknowledge their emotions.
- Normalize their feelings. Let your child know that it’s normal to feel frustrated sometimes. You could say something like, “It’s okay to feel frustrated.” “Everyone gets frustrated sometimes.”
- Avoid dismissing their feelings. Don’t try to talk your child out of their feelings or tell them that they shouldn’t feel a certain way. Instead, accept their emotions and offer support.
- Offer empathy. Put yourself in your child’s shoes and try to imagine how they’re feeling. Offer empathy by saying things like, “I can see why you would feel that way.”
By validating your child’s feelings, you’re, however, creating a safe and positive space for them to express themselves and healthily work through their frustrations.
Related: The Different Parenting Styles and Their Effects On Children
2. Help them identify the problem.
Helping your child understand the cause of their frustration is a great step in helping them cope with their emotions. Here are some ways you could help identify the problem:
- Ask open-ended questions. Instead of asking the usual yes-or-no questions, ask open-ended questions. These questions encourage your child to think more deeply about the root cause of their frustration. For example, you could ask questions like “What happened that made you feel frustrated?” instead of “Are you frustrated?”
- Encourage them to describe the situation. Ask your child to describe the situation in detail. “What happened?” “Who was involved?” “What were they trying to do?”. This will help you better understand how to handle the situation.
- Brainstorm possible solutions. Once your child has identified the reason for the frustration, encourage them to brainstorm possible solutions that can ease that feeling. Besides, this helps them feel more empowered and in control of the situation. You could say something like, “What are some things I can do to make the situation better?” or “What do you want me to do to make you feel better?”
- Help them think through the consequences. When your child is considering different solutions, help them understand the potential consequences of each one. This can, however, help them make a more informed decision.
- Offer your perspective. If your child is struggling to identify the problem or come up with solutions, offer your perspective in a non-judgmental way. For example, you could say, “From what you’re telling me, it sounds like the problem might be… what do you think?”
By helping your child identify the problem and think through possible solutions, you’re also empowering them to take control of their emotions.
3. Offer comfort
Helping your child deal with frustration is never easy, especially when the reason for the frustration is unknown. Comforting your child might just be the best solution. Sometimes, a child just needs to feel comforted when they’re upset. Here are some ways to comfort your child when they’re feeling frustrated:
- Offer physical comfort. Sometimes, a simple hug or cuddle can do the trick. You can sit next to your child or wrap your arms around them to let them know you’re there for them.
- Use soothing language. You can speak in a calm and gentle voice to help your child feel reassured. Use phrases like “It’s okay” or “I’m here for you.”
- Acknowledge their emotions. Letting your child know that you understand how they feel is important. You may say something like, “I can see you’re frustrated right now, and that’s okay.”
- Encourage them to express their emotions. You can give your child space to express their emotions. You could say something like, “It’s okay to cry if you need to.” “Let it out.”
- Offer distractions: Sometimes, a little distraction can take your child’s mind off of what’s bothering them. Offer to play a game or read a book with them.
However, every child is different and may respond to different types of comfort. You may likely try multiple forms of comforting strategies before discovering what works best. Nevertheless, the most important thing is to let your child know that you’re there for them and that their emotions are valid.
4. Teach relaxation techniques.
Teaching your child relaxing techniques can help him or her deal with frustration. Here are some ideas for teaching your child relaxation techniques:
- Start by taking deep breaths. This is a quick and efficient approach to relaxing the body and mind. Instruct your child to inhale slowly and deeply and exhale through their lips. On the inhale, count to five, and on the exhale, count to five.
- Try progressive muscle relaxation. This technique involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body. Have your child start with their feet, tensing them for a few seconds, and then releasing them. Move up the body, tensing and relaxing each muscle group.
- Use visualization. You can ask your child to visualize a calm setting, such as a peaceful beach or a quiet forest. Encourage them to picture every aspect of the setting, including the sound of the waves and the rustle of the leaves.
- Do yoga or stretching. Yoga and stretching can assist in calming the body and removing stress. Many kid-friendly yoga routines and poses can be found online.
- Use guided meditations. Guided meditations are an excellent approach to introducing mindfulness and calmness to your child. Besides, there are many guided meditations for children available online.
5. Promote positive self-talk.
Promoting positive self-talk is an important aspect of helping your child deal with frustration healthily. Teach your child how to use positive self-talk to boost their confidence and abilities. Encourage children to say things like, “I’ll figure it out” or “I can do this.” Here are some ways to encourage positive self-talk:
- Model positive self-talk. Children learn by example, so make positive self-talk a priority for your child. Avoid negative self-talk in front of your child and speak kindly to yourself.
- Point out positive traits. Encourage your child to recognize their positive traits and accomplishments. When they do something well, point it out and congratulate them.
- Use positive affirmations. Positive affirmations are short phrases that can help boost confidence and promote positive self-talk. Encourage your child to come up with positive affirmations, such as “I am strong” or “I can do hard things.”
- Focus on strengths. Help your child recognize their strengths and encourage them to use those strengths to tackle challenges. For example, if your child is good at problem-solving, remind them of this strength when they’re feeling frustrated.
- Reframe negative thoughts: Teach your child to reframe negative thoughts into positive ones. For example, if they’re feeling frustrated because they didn’t do well on a test, encourage them to think, “I didn’t do well this time, but I can learn from my mistakes and do better next time.”
However, building positive self-talk takes time and practice. Encourage your child to use these techniques consistently and to be patient as they learn to adopt a more positive mindset. By encouraging positive self-talk, you’re giving your child a powerful tool to manage their emotions and deal with frustration.
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6. Model healthy coping strategies.
Children learn by example. Therefore, it’s essential to model appropriate coping strategies for your child. Moreover, as a parent, you are your child’s first teacher. Modeling appropriate coping strategies will help your child deal with frustration.
- Take care of yourself. Ensure that you are taking care of yourself and setting a positive example for your child. This can include getting adequate sleep, working out frequently, and practicing stress-relieving practices like yoga or meditation.
- Express your emotions. Encourage your child to express their emotions healthily by modeling them yourself. Talk about your own emotions and how you cope with them, such as by saying, “I’m feeling frustrated right now, so I’m going to take a break and go for a walk.”
- Problem-solve together. When faced with a challenging situation, work through it with your child and model problem-solving skills. Brainstorm possible solutions together and encourage your child to think creatively.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a helpful way to manage stress and stay present in the moment. Practice mindfulness techniques with your child, such as deep breathing or focusing on the present moment.
Modeling healthy coping strategies consistently and authentically is essential for better results.
It’s essential to understand that children experience frustration as a natural and healthy emotion. As they grow and encounter difficulties, they learn and understand how to properly express their feelings instead of being frustrated.
However, by practicing the above strategies, you are helping your child deal with frustration healthily. In addition to that, you are also teaching your child useful life skills that they can use throughout their lives while assisting them in learning healthy ways to express their frustration.
Children who are given support in managing their frustration will also benefit from increased self-assurance and a better capacity to bounce back from failure and disappointment.
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