Parenting the Easily Frustrated Child

When parenting young children, structure, predictability, and boundaries are essential features of creating safe, secure, and happy families.  In addition to these fundamentals, it is essential to recognize our children’s unique personalities and temperaments, so that we can tailor our parenting style to best fit their needs. For the easily frustrated or “temperamental” child, around whom we feel like we are walking on eggshells, this is especially important; adjusting parental interventions can go a long way towards teaching affect regulation and flexibility.

For children (and adults!) who are easily frustrated, a few minor challenging events can deplete their resources for managing future challenges, so that something minor can result in a major reaction.  Because of this, it is important to choose what is really a deal breaker to you, as parents, and what you can either compromise on or let slide altogether.  A key point to remember is that these decisions need to be made beforehand, not in the moment (or at least right at the beginning of the interaction), so as to avoid negotiations and “giving in,” which only reinforce the behaviors we are trying to avoid (arguing, yelling, crying, etc.).

For example, on a chilly day, a child wants to go outside without his jacket.  Is this something really worth fighting about?  If he’s in the front yard and gets cold, he can always come in to get his jacket.  Let him go outside.  Alternatively, this is also a great opportunity to teach compromise: “Hmm … I think it’s too cold for no coat, and you don’t want to wear yours. Do you think we could figure out a compromise?”  A sweatshirt might do the trick!

Engage the child in the process of compromise when appropriate (not negotiation!), recognize what’s important to take a firm stand on, and try to keep yourself calm when confronted with your child’s frustration. If your child still seems to be struggling, contact Georgetown Psychology Associates for additional help.