We all feel frustrated at times, but it sure isn’t fun when our little ones experience such moods. Because they are irritated or disappointed and don’t know how to process their emotions, they whine and maybe even scream.
As loving and protective parents, it’s only natural that we’re eager to distract or placate our kids when they are frustrated. No one likes dealing with an upset or unhappy child, so we try and make them feel better. And yes, coming to their rescue does ease things for ourselves.
However, rushing to block out our kids’ feelings can actually do more harm than good. Dr Lim points out, “By just distracting or placating children, they may not acquire the ability to handle tough emotions and develop appropriate coping mechanisms when faced with frustrations in the future.”
“Frustration allows kids to understand that things will not always go the way they want it to, and prepares them for bigger disappointments in the future.”
So, it’s crucial that parents let their kids feel and work through their frustration. Feeling discouraged or annoyed benefits kids by making them stronger, better people in the following ways:
1. It teaches kids that life is not a bed of roses
As parents, our responsibility is to prepare our offspring for the world out there, so it makes perfect sense to let them experience frustration.
Dr Lim explains, “Frustration allows kids to understand that things will not always go the way they want it to, and prepares them for bigger disappointments in the future.”
This is an emotion they’re bound to encounter as teens and adults, so let them face it now. If all your child knows is a rosy life that’s smooth-sailing all the way, he or she risks becoming self-entitled, spoilt and ill-equipped to handle the challenges of adulthood.
Instead, trust that these challenges will prepare junior for future setbacks, like that job rejection or a failed test.
2. It raises emotional awareness
“As with any other emotion, it is important for parents to help their kids identify how frustration feels like, and teach them to verbalise and cope with it,” advises Dr Lim.
Coaching your kids in identifying feelings of frustration is instrumental in raising their emotional awareness.
Dr Lim explains, “Through being frustrated, kids learn what the emotion feels like and how emotions can affect them physically (eg experiencing a racing heart or a reddening of the face) and behaviourally. This helps them identify and be aware of these emotions.”
Being exposed to and aware of such feelings, they ultimately accept that frustration is simply part and parcel of life, he adds. They will then better be able to cope, and learn self-regulation and stress management.
3. It reminds them that it’s okay to be upset
Whilst not pleasant to deal with, kids need to realise that frustration is not a “bad” or “wrong” emotion. On the contrary, it can help if it fuels them to search for alternatives and work harder in reaching their goals.
Dr Lim says, “Being allowed to be frustrated and not be judged for it helps children learn that these emotions are okay, and that they can let themselves feel frustrated without having to feel guilty.”
Ultimately, what matters is how they deal with the emotion, since problems arise when they let the frustration take control, not when they have these feelings.
So, help your child understand that frustration can be a healthy, beneficial emotion. In this way, they’ll learn to live with and overcome it, rather than try to push it away out of guilt or fear.
“Emotions are transient, and it is important to learn that no matter how intense the feelings may be, they will go away.”
4. It teaches them that emotions come and go
Dr Lim stresses, “Emotions are transient, and it is important to learn that no matter how intense the feelings may be, they will go away.”
Though you may want your child’s negative feelings ― sadness, anger and fear ― to disperse quickly, letting them work through their frustration reminds them that even the strongest feelings will come and go.
It’s also crucial to remind your little one that they may not always get upset ― or feel the same intensity of frustration ― every time they have a similar experience. For example, completing a chore might be challenging and frustrating for them now, but it may be less annoying the next time they do it.
5. It builds patience and perseverance
You probably know that giving in to a frustrated kid all the time teaches them nothing about the value of patience.
The act of having to wait for that dessert or new toy helps them learn that most good things come as a result of patience and delayed gratification. The more they realise this, the better they’ll be able to handle frustration when they don’t get what they want.
Additionally, being thwarted also helps them develop perseverance. Failing at a task time and time again spurs them to explore new ways to solve their problems, and to not give up until a solution is reached.
Ultimately, coming to grips with feelings of frustration makes junior a sharper, smarter and more resourceful individual who can better deal with setbacks.
How to help your child cope with frustration
Since frustration is something to be dealt with rather than pushed away, try these tips to help junior handle this unnerving emotion:
- Don’t rush to your child’s rescue immediately. Tempting as it is to end these big feelings, offer comfort, empathy and encouragement instead.
- Observe if your child can self-soothe ― allow them to do that.
- Avoid being punitive or judgmental about your child’s feelings.
- Monitor what triggers your child’s irritation (eg being hungry or tired). Then help your child understand their specific triggers, so they’ll know when they’re more likely to get aggravated.
- Be firm during meltdowns. Remind them that frustration does not give them the license to throw a tantrum or storm off.
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