Teach Your Children to Tolerate Frustration

· June 2, 2017

It’s one of the most uncomfortable emotions there is, and at the same time one of the most common: frustration. Frustration appears when a desire, a dream, a goal or an illusion cannot be achieved, at least at that moment. Despite how hard you try. It is the clearest way the world has to make us understand that, unfortunately, it is not always a fair place.

We do wish our children to be sad. We don’t allow them to experience any frustration at home. Regularly when they play with us, we let them win. We believe that exposing then to these emotional defeats and frustrations will only bring them a momentary sadness. By letting them win, we try to avoid this sadness.

However, the emotional reactions established during childhood shape the majority of a person’s emotional future. If today we take care of the negative emotions, tomorrow we will reduce the impact of problems derived from this type of emotion.

Knowing and learning to manage negative emotions during childhood, within a safe environment like the family, will help our children develop a series of coping mechanisms and self-emotional regulation. This will enable them in time to develop emotional maturity. 


Why must we learn to tolerate frustration?

Why is education in frustration tolerance so important? Frustration is one of the most powerful emotions that affects a child’s self-esteem. Learning to tolerate frustration at an early age allows children to begin building the foundations of resilience.

This implies that negative emotions associated with frustration will not control their lives. When the time comes   to face situations that will make them question their abilities to achieve things and their capabilities, they will be fully equipped with coping strategies learned at home. Children with frustration intolerance issues often show emotional symptoms such as anxiety or depression. In addition, it is often common for them to exhibit behavioral problems, such as aggressiveness towards objects and people, tantrums, opposition to authority figures and, above all, refusal to engage in activities that do not provide short term reinforcement.

Furthermore, if kids do not develop mechanisms to tolerate frustration, while growing up, activities that do not provide a rapid reward and recognition will become a threat rather than a challenge. They often fail in these types of activities and focus more on others that, although even more dangerous, such as substance use, provide short-term rewards.

This does not mean we should exclude them from facing frustrating situations. At the same time, we shouldn’t force them to face them unnecessarily only to measure their strength before it. We simply have to let frustrations happen normally during family games, sports or any other activity. When this happens,  be with them in that unpleasant emotional moment: recognize and validate the emotion first and help them generate alternative solutions later.

It will be best to let the child take on the responsibility of developing an alternative solution to daily problems at their level of development. We must not overcompensate for their failures. If we do this, we will deprive our children of the essential possibility of working on basic skills such as patience, acceptance, problem solving, and delay of reinforcement or creativity.

Steps to teach your children to tolerate frustration

To teach a child to tolerate frustration, the following steps can be helpful:

  • Be an example: There is no better way to learn “emotional expression” than to see parents verbalize the feelings that are born of frustration.
  • Do not give them everything: If we give our children everything, and we do not allow them to face their own challenges, it is difficult for them to make mistakes and learn from them. Keep in mind that you will not be able to accompany them every day of their lives and prevent them from stumbling.
  • Respect their times and ways: Probably they do things very slowly or badly. It is their way of growing and learning. You have to respect their actions, even if they make mistakes or do not do things as you would. By doing this you are enabling him/her to experience mistakes as something positive. You are helping him/her develop a sense of achievement and personal competence. These two are essential to the development of a solid self-esteem.
  • Do not give in to their tantrums. But do not ignore or minimize their crying either. Frustrating situations often lead to tantrums, especially in younger children. If parents give in to them, children will learn this is the most effective way to solve problems. On the other hand, crying is a necessary, positive response. Crying on many occasions is a prior step to neutralize impotence. It helps us to be better prepared for future lessons.
  • Turn frustrations into lessons: problem situations are an excellent opportunity for the child to learn new things and retain them. Frustration is a powerful engine to generate alternatives if we don’t surrender to the negative emotions it generates. This way, they will be able to face the frustrating situation on their own if it arises again.
  • Teach them to persevere: perseverance is essential to overcoming adverse situations. If our children learn that constancy can solve most problems, they will control frustration in many situations. Perseverance does not need to be immediate or very insistent. We can teach him/her to give it another try once he/she’s calmed down.
  • Teach them to ask for help when they need it: we ​​do not walk alone in life. We can always learn from each other. You will have to allow them to learn from you so that when you are not present, your children can find solutions on their own.

In summary, frustration can be a positive emotion if handled well. It has a significant motivational value for those who are not carried away by the negative emotions it produces. We all encounter frustrations to some extent during the course of our lives. Teaching our children about this emotion and its possibilities will help them succeed in the future. It will allow them to develop better emotional health.