Life is an exercise in dealing with frustration, but what do you do if your child struggles with intense feelings of frustration and anger? According to Rose Allen, a family-development educator at the University of Minnesota Extension, anger is a direct result of frustration and feelings of being misunderstood and belittled by others. Imagine feeling frustrated when your older sister takes away your toy or you can't quite figure out how to button your coat, and not knowing how to handle or express this emotion. Chances are, you'd be a tiny time bomb too. Teach your child practical, simple ways to express and deal with these icky feelings without blowing up.
Maintain a regular routine. Wake your child up at the same time every morning, keep a regular nap and snack schedule, and put her to bed at the same time every night. You get frustrated more easily over the simplest tasks without a good night sleep or that morning cup of coffee, and your child is no different. A well-rested, satisfied child is less likely to suffer a frustration-induced meltdown over the simplest task.
Remain calm when your child is frustrated. This can be difficult, but it's important to take a deep breath and help your child work through his frustration without blowing a fuse. Yelling and losing your cool will only make matters worse -- and possibly lead to the dreaded temper tantrum.
Determine the root cause of your child's frustration. For instance, if your preschooler is throwing his untied shoe across the room, chances are he's frustrated by not being able to master this necessary skill. He might also be frustrated by hearing the hated word “no” when asking for a new toy or a second scoop of ice cream.
Help your child deal with feelings of frustration through self-soothing and distraction if he's having trouble mastering a task. For instance, if your child is still frustrated over that untied shoe, give him a big hug and suggest he take a step back and color or take a walk through the park. Later, encourage your child, and when he does eventually tie his shoe -- or write his name or put the puzzle together correctly -- give him a big hug and lots of praise.
Stand firm when your child is frustrated over hearing the word “no.” Don't give in to end the frustration; instead, let your child know you understand his feelings, and offer him a reasonable alternative. For instance, if your child is frustrated because he can't spend the night at a friend's house, offer to let him camp in the backyard with Dad.
Praise and reward your child for using his words or not acting out when frustrated. Give your older toddler or preschooler a big hug and a high-five when he tells you why he's frustrated instead of simply hitting his big sister on the head.