Why It’s Important for Kids to Feel a Little Frustration
While we are extremely protective of our kids, we have to accept they will face difficulties in life.
Holding your new born for the first time is an overwhelming experience. Apart from cherishing and safeguarding her, you aspire to provide a happy childhood.
Parents are right to think this way, but the child must face the world. While we may be extremely protective to make their life comfortable, they will experience difficult emotions early in life.
Babies cry for attention which if denied immediately upsets them. They cannot summon the patience to wait for the feed or attention. This is the first experience of disappointment and a lesson that things don’t go according to our wishes all the time.
Experiencing frustration early is required for emotional well-being. It teaches patience, tenacity and acceptance. Over protecting kids, making them comfortable or keeping them perpetually entertained, as dictated by the present-day culture makes them immature, demanding and mentally and emotionally weak.
The world is not an easy place and coping and adjusting skills are a must. Experts believe that while parental support is crucial it shouldn’t hamper a child’s learning of life skills.
Handling frustration requires loving support of parents who understand the complex emotions. As author, Tricia Goyer, mentions in her book, Calming Angry Kids: Help and Hope for Parents in the Whirlwind:
Kids don’t know how to handle frustration and disappointment, so they just get mad. And it doesn’t help when we tell our kids to just calm down and have a better attitude.
Strategies to Help
What is frustration? Simply put, it is anger of helplessness. Normal anger increases the flight and fight response and motivates action. However, frustration blocks any action. In the absence of a vent for emotions, kids express anger by screaming or yelling.
Frustration is not a bad emotion. It is a perceived obstacle towards a goal, reasonable or unreasonable that requires maturity to understand. As a parent, teaching your child to deal with frustration peacefully helps curtailing negative spiral of emotions that may follow.
By throwing a tantrum a kid is trying to convey inexpressible emotions. If parents disregard or resist these reactions, they fail to understand the silent message. In her book, Building Emotional Intelligence: Techniques to Cultivate Inner Strength in Children, Linda Lantieri, international expert in social and emotional learning, conflict resolution, and crisis intervention says:
When adults ignore their children’s feelings, children come to believe their feelings are not important. When we repeatedly threaten or punish children for a display of emotion, children learn that emotions are dangerous things that need to be held inside and hidden—an invitation to later depression or rage.
Supporting your child while she is experiencing difficult emotions is enough. Most tantrums last only for a few minutes in absence of any resistance. By sitting next to her or holding her hand if allowed will calm her. Once she is subdued, gently convey why her wishes cannot be granted. Tell her that you understand her anger and know that it hurts. There is no need for any solutions at this stage. Once she understands the reason, she might herself come up with a solution.
This strategy teaches a child that there is someone who comprehends, acknowledges and appreciates her feelings.
For a toddler to understand ‘no’ is unimaginable. She doesn’t possess the mental and emotional ability to do so. Calmly explain why he cannot go to the park or have an ice-cream at the middle of the night.
Parents need to be firm on few issues like engaging in dangerous activities, understanding the money sense, harming someone physically or verbally and clear about some crucial or urgent situational demands. With older kids, discussions that lead to acceptable solutions help in learning life skills.
Consistent parenting helps kids to anticipate the outcome. Awareness and experience of composed parenting helps them to quickly bounce back to a neutral or happier state.
Dependable parental support at times of crisis, cultivates trust and security. The knack of combining high yet realistic standards with loving care is the best way to bring up well-adjusted kids.
Discussions convey thoughts, feelings and needs. Open ended discussions help to reach effective solutions. Finding the appropriate time to talk is essential. Speaking when the child is emotionally disturbed could backfire. Kids are extremely persistent getting their demands met and can pester you to give in to their wishes.
The outcome of these conversations depend on the situation. If you are granting the wish a child would be happy to listen, but if the answer is ‘no’ she might not be that receptive. Patiently explain the reason behind the answer. This might take time but, slowly, children learn to accept.
Authoritative child-care is a thing of the past. Parenting is not only about always saying no and expecting your kid to accept, but giving in to her wishes sometimes and watch how her eyes shine by getting an unexpected or requested treat.
Life should be planned enough to be safe and spontaneous enough to be joyful.
(Nupur Roopa is a freelance writer, and a life coach for mothers. She writes articles on environment, food, history, parenting and travel.)
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