Do you ever find yourself trying to protect your child from frustration or failures?
Growing up, children are bound to experience frustration and failure. Many parents are very quick to protect their child from any upsets in fear that it will scar their self-esteem, but often it is all that rescuing that may be detrimental. Moments of difficulty and challenge actually help children flex and build resiliency and it is how they learn to overcome frustration and failures.
Experiencing frustration can actually be a great starting point for children to learn how to problem solve and how to overcome anger, sadness and many other feelings. The key lies in actually supporting our children positively when they are faced with frustrations.
Recently, my 6 year old son decided to use his allowance to purchase a toy. After playing with the toy for a while, it broke. My son was upset, he cried about the toy being broken. I won’t lie, it was really hard to just watch him feel so crummy and upset. Part of me wanted to race to the store and replace the toy and restore the happiness. I decided instead to stay by him and listen to his frustration and shortly after some tears and grunts he paused, took a huge breath and asked if we could try to glue the toy together.
What are some ways to help children learn to cope with and overcome frustration and failures?
Help Children Learn About All Feelings & Emotions
As parents, guiding our children through their emotions is invaluable.
When we strive to acknowledge emotions, give them names, and validate all feelings in our children even from a very young age, we are helping children understand the role emotions play in life.
Use Encouragement and Focus on Effort
Encouraging parents focus on effort and improvement rather than perfect results. By focusing on those elements, we strengthen a child’s courage to move forward even in the face of limitations.
Avoid Diminishing or Judging Feelings
Children cannot overcome challenges and learn from frustrating experiences if we do everything for them or if we diminish their feelings about something. Sometimes we may answer on auto-pilot – “oh it’s not really a big deal” or “that’s nothing to be upset about,” but maybe in that moment, in that circumstance, to a child it may feel like a big deal and something to be upset about. We can do a lot to help our children by striking a balance between honoring and empathizing with those feelings but not swooping in to fix it all.
Trust that your child is capable of doing things, solving problems and overcoming his feelings. This doesn’t mean we cannot be helpful, encouraging or be a supportive presence, but it does mean it’s alright to let them go ahead and feel their feelings freely and do things on their own, keeping in mind what is age appropriate and safe.
Allow Chances For Learning From Mistakes
There will be times, many times, when children may make mistakes or bad choices. Allowing for natural consequences (when safe) and giving children the time and space to learn from their own mistakes is really important.
Use Language that Keeps Mistakes & Failure Separate
“When a child makes a mistake or fails to accomplish a certain goal, we must avoid any word or action which indicates that we consider him a failure. ‘Too bad that didn’t work.’ ‘I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you.’ We need to separate the deed from the doer.” —Rudolf Dreikurs, Children: The Challenge (p38)
Trust the Process
While it’s sometimes difficult to see our child struggling, feeling upset or downright sad, when we focus on understanding and trusting that learning from mistakes and failure is an important part of a successful life process, it becomes easier to have faith and allows our children to make wonderful discoveries.
Even knowing that children can overcome frustration when given a chance, I have to say, it was quite awesome to see the process unfold when that toy broke and see my son solve his own problem, as hard as it was to stand by and do “nothing” in the end that “nothing” was what he really needed.
Peace & Be Well,