“This is stupid! I’m done!” shouts your 11 year old as he stomps past you. You watch the severe scowl of irritation on his face and his I’m so totally done with homework tonight vibe with some bewilderment. You wonder why he gave up so quickly or what was so challenging about the work. The reoccurring theme for your kiddo is his impatience and unwillingness to put in the extra effort. I see it in my office a lot—a low frustration tolerance in tweens when they fail. Failing is tough for all of us! That’s why is it so important now for your child to learn how to cope when frustrating moments happen in life.
Here are my tips on how to build your tween’s frustration tolerance up!
1. Let them struggle: That’s right, I said it. Let them struggle! The natural parental instinct is to help your tween, especially when they begin to get frustrated. But guess what? It is time that your tween learns what it feels like to sit with his frustrations. Don’t put on your Super Parent cape and rescue them. They have to experience this frustration. So stand back—and let go. Count to 10 to help cope with your feelings about this. ;)
2. Model Your Coping Skills: We as adults experience frustration every day, so how do you handle it? If you have a meltdown when you’re frustrated, your tween has more than likely picked up on it. Or on the flip side, maybe you verbalize your feelings and express what you need, saying something like: “I am so frustrated right now, I need a break.” Or “I’m feeling super stressed out, I think I’ll go calm down in my bedroom.” Guess what, your tween will pick up on this too! If you can step up and model good coping skills around your frustration, his will more than likely start changing too.
3. Positive Reframing: With behavior there is always an underlying message. So what is your tween really saying when he shouts: “This is stupid! I’m done!”? Maybe he is tired of failing and getting hurt. Emotionally translate his first statement into: “I am so frustrated with my homework, and I feel stupid by failing over and over.” Yikes, now it’s much easier to empathize with him—don’t we all hate feeling stupid? So, focus on responding to his behavior through understanding, patience, and having a positive mindset. Even Batman struggled with this failing. It was his father who taught him: “Why do we fall? So that we can learn how to pick ourselves back up.”
4. Identify Feelings! It is as simple as it sounds. Help your tween label his frustration and name it out loud. Let him vent about his ‘stupid homework’ and express his feelings around it. Maybe even help him by reflecting his feelings back by saying, “I can see and feel how frustrated you are. This homework sounds tough!” Identifying emotions is a helpful way of taming them when we feel out of control or under stress.
5. Coping take-home tricks: Allow for breaks. If need be, let your tween leave the homework for a couple minutes and come back after a walk around the block. Count to 10. Take deep, big breaths. Have your tween play with the family pets in the house for a couple minutes. Get a drink of water or healthy snack. Punch a pillow if the frustration is really big, then take those deep breaths! Listen to their favorite song and then get back to the homework once it is over.
Even with these coping skills, there must be boundaries, such as time limits and always coming back to finish as much of the homework as possible. As your tween builds up his frustration tolerance, remember—yours will be building too! Practice doesn’t make perfect, it simply makes better.
If your tween needs some extra help with this, let me know!
By Arielle Grossman