The first step when dealing with frustrated kids

Mar 23, 2023
How to deal with frustrated kids

When your child is frustrated or upset, how do you typically respond?  If you’re like me, you typically try to help fix whatever is causing the frustration or you try to help them see it from a different perspective.  We just want to help, but unfortunately that approach can often backfire.

This happened with me and my daughter over her college schedule.  She had worked with her advisor to pick out her classes, and ended up with morning and evening classes but nothing in between.  She was not happy with the big break in between and was loudly venting her frustration.

I started by suggesting that she reach back out to her advisor to see if there were any other options, and she informed me that she had already done so.  Then I tried to tell her that would leave a nice window for her to get homework done in between so it might not be that bad.  That frustrated her even more and she stormed away.

I was trying to be helpful, but I only made things worse.  Has that happened to you?

When our kids are frustrated, it can be frustrating and uncomfortable for us.  Our first instinct is to find a way to help them feel better, which can have us trying to reason with them.  We try to explain why they shouldn’t be feeling frustrated and talk them into feeling differently.

Do you ever hear yourself saying…

It’s not that bad.

There’s no need to worry.

There’s no need to be this upset.

It’s okay.

You’ll be fine.

When we say these things we are trying to comfort and help our kids feel better, but they can end up feeling like we don’t understand.  They want to feel seen and heard — but instead of looking at the situation from their perspective, we are telling them to adopt ours.  

This leaves our kids feeling misunderstood and unsupported when all we are trying to do is support them.

The first step to dealing with frustrated or upset kids, is to just meet them where they are.  Consider the situation from their perspective, and acknowledge how it’s frustrating or upsetting for them.  When you meet your child where they are, they feel like you’re on their team instead of working against them.  This alone helps them start to calm down.

Know up front that if you have been at odds with your child for a while, they may have a hard time believing that you’re on their team.  Once you acknowledge their frustration, just be patient and sit quietly while you give them time to process what you said.  When you stop talking and wait for them to speak, what they say can help guide the conversation from there.

If this is a new style of communication for you, be aware that it will likely go against all of your natural instincts. It’s a simple concept, but it will take awareness and diligence to implement and then you still won’t remember every time.  Obviously I still don’t!

I do want to point out one important thing: meeting your child where they are and getting on their team does NOT mean accepting bad behavior. You can acknowledge and validate feelings so they feel like you’re on their team, without accepting the behavior.

As for my own conversation with my daughter, after calming down she informed me that all she wanted from me was an acknowledgement that it wasn’t the best of schedules.  I apologized, gave her a hug, and told her I would work on listening better.  She laughingly pointed out that I need to follow my own coaching advice!  Thankfully I’m much better than I used to be, but I’m still far from perfect.

If you struggle parenting easily frustrated kids, I can help!  I am running a Parent Workshop on How To Parent Through BIG Feelings in Beverly on April 4th.  It is free, but space is limited so click here and register soon!  If you want to get notified as I schedule workshops in other locations so you can add some new tools to your parenting toolbox and get your most pressing parent questions answered, click here to sign up.

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