Should I Help My Easily-Frustrated Child?

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My child is easily frustrated. Anytime he tries to do a task he melts down. Do I help or let him work on it?

This question is a tough one. When a 2, 3, or 4 year old is struggling, our instinct is to jump in and help. Your kids are sad, and they’re tantruming, they’re crying. It can be heart-wrenching. We should help, right? What’s the big deal? Why is it so wrong to just do it for the distressed child?

Well, I’ll tell you what the big deal is. When we do a task for a child – one that they can do or achieve – we tell them that they can’t, they just can’t. Of course, you are not doing that on purpose, but that’s the message that is sent.

Remember: kids feel big, so when they get frustrated it can be earth shattering for them – and for us. Volcanic. LOUD. Our job is to keep them calm and mentor them so they can see that they actually CAN do the task – or at least some of it.

Step one

Have them take a breath, give them a drink of water, give them space. Yup, space. Let them tantrum, and then calm back down. Sometimes walking away can chill a child out more than standing there observing or trying to fix the tantrum. If we stay, then they will keep yelling. Yelling for us to do it. Yelling that we are mean. Yelling about why they can’t.

When they are calm, start talking them through it

“What is the first step? What is next? New things can be tough, but you didn’t know how to put your jacket on, and then you practiced and pushed through, and you did it.”

You may need to walk away again. Let that child struggle. Let them work at it. A struggle is not a negative thing. It’s how we learn. It’s how we discover that we CAN. And it’s how we find that feeling of accomplishment once we have mastered a task.

There is nothing like the look on your child’s face when they carry out a task that they thought they couldn’t do. Let’s not rob them of that feeling.

If your child CAN do a task, have them do it.

If you think your child can, have them try – like really try. Batting a zipper around is not trying. Tossing a shirt about is not trying to put it on. Have them really try. Sure it takes longer, but you will be giving them a great gift – the gift of self-esteem (you know, the thing we all want our kids to have buckets full of) – the gift of knowing that when they come upon a struggle they can at least try to overcome it.

You might think, “Why now? They’re so young.” If not now, when? When will we start believing in them so that they can believe in themselves? Oh, and when we DO jump in during a tantrum and DO those things for them, what do you think they are going to keep on doing? Yup, tantrums. ‘Cause why should they do it if they can get us to do it?

Kids are smarter and more capable than many think. I believe in them, and so can you.

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Brandi Davis, ACC, is a professional Parenting Coach, Parent Educator, and Author of O.K. I’m A Parent Now What? She can also be found on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and be sure to catch her parenting podcasts on iTunes. The goal of Brandi’s practice is to bring respect, calm communication, teamwork, and FUN into the home or classroom. To discover all that Child and Family Coaching can bring to your family stop by