Is your child easily frustrated, having meltdowns, or giving up as soon as things get challenging? Do you tiptoe around your child, not sure what will set them off?
I had a set of parents tell me last night that they’re so tired of the drama and fights with their son. When things don’t go his way, he quickly escalates. The day we met he had a meltdown over his mother asking him to put his water bottle into his backpack. He has no tolerance for frustration — and his parents feel like they’re always on defense, never knowing what will set him off.
The parents are frustrated, which is completely normal and understandable as their son’s outbursts are disruptive, affecting their whole family. Unfortunately, their frustration isn’t helping, as it has them reacting and switching to “command and demand” parenting. From there everything — and everyone, escalates.
Here’s the paradox that I shared: If we want to help our kids build frustration tolerance skills, we have to develop and model tolerance for their frustration.
Modeling frustration tolerance requires us to show up calmly and patiently, without blaming, shaming, or rushing our child. If our kids see us frustrated at their frustration, we send the message that it’s something they should be frustrated about. If we remain calm and patient when faced with their frustration, or our own challenges — we help them learn how to have a higher frustration tolerance when facing difficult situations.
I realize this is easier said than done, because more often than not the outbursts happen at times when parents have the least time or patience for them.
The parents I met with wanted to know specifically HOW they could remain calm when their son flew off the handle with frustration. The first thing I recommend is to simply recognize that frustration tolerance is a skill that kids need to learn. If parents remember to remind themselves that their child needs to learn frustration tolerance skills when a situation escalates, they are more likely to be able to remain calm themselves.
The second thing I recommend for dealing with frustration is deep breaths with your hand on your heart. Deep breaths send a signal to our bodies that we are safe which helps to calm our nervous system. Putting our hand on our heart gets our body to release a dose of oxytocin, which is a feel-good hormone that lowers our stress response.
When you pause, put your hand on your heart, and take an audible deep breath in and out — you are showing your child how to remain calm when faced with frustration. The deep breaths also help YOU remain grounded and calm so you don’t react to your child’s storm of frustration.
Finally, I recommend that parents get curious about their child’s frustration. In this case, if the parents notice that their son is consistently frustrated at certain things, is it because it’s hard for him or simply that he doesn’t want to do it at that time?
Working to understand our kids and the reasons behind their frustration helps us forge a deeper connection with them, and you may be surprised at what you learn.
Please note; asking your child questions when they’re frustrated is likely to increase their frustration. Help them calm down first, and then problem-solve.
If you’re looking to help your kids build frustration tolerance, I shared strategies on helping kids build a coping skill toolbox in this month’s masterclass inside my Confident Parenting Club. We cover helping kids build emotional coping and frustration tolerance skills, as well as how to manage your own discomfort or frustration so you can best support your child. The class is now part of the member library, which you can access by clicking here to join the Club. Use coupon code SKILLS to get over 25% off your first 3 months.
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