Frustration is a part of life. It’s annoying and it’s hard, but we must be prepared for it. We already know we don’t always have to make our kids feel better, and here’s why frustration might actually be good for them.
My son gets out of the swimming pool and comes over to me dripping wet. “Mom,” he says in a sweet voice, “I’m hungry. Can I have a snack?”
“No, baby,” I responded, “lunch is in 20 minutes and we’ll fill up then. Keep swimming.” You can imagine how that went. His eyes grew big, his mouth made a face that mirrored his internal horror.
“But I’m hungry NOW! I can’t wait 20 minutes… how long is 20 minutes? NOOO. Please!” Insert tears, Big Whines, and stomping feet.
He was frustrated and understandably so. He was hungry. Hangry, even. I get frustrated when I’m hangry too. The fact was, lunch wasn’t ready.
And he didn’t need a snack to tide him over for 20 minutes then ruin his lunch. Honestly, sometimes it’s okay for your kid to go hungry.
We don’t always have to ease our kids’ frustrations. In fact, I’d go so far as to say we shouldn’t.
5 Reasons Frustration Will Make Your Kids Better Adults
I’m not talking about needless frustration here or making them suffer to prove a point. We’re reasonable mothers, we don’t need to play mind games with our kids.
However, there comes a time when we need to stop managing their frustrations.
Why? Because frustration is not always a bad thing.
Frustration Encourages Problem-Solving
My 18-month-old is in a shoe phase. Particularly a Big Siblings and Mom Shoe Phase. He wants to wear everyone’s shoes and he wants to walk around the house.
The trouble is, the shoes are big and his feet are tiny and this makes walking hard. He’s thrown frustration tantrums left and right for days about this Very Important Toddler Concern.
My response has been minimal. I’ve helped him fit his tiny foot into my flip flop, but it just comes out. I’ll point him towards other shoes that may last longer, but I’m not going to spend hours a day keeping shoes on his feet.
His response to my overall lack of response?
He finds other pairs of shoes. He puts it back on his foot 2,356 times. He keeps going after what he wants. He keeps throwing fits and making a big deal. Then he gets back at it until achieving his desired result.
Frustration Fosters Patience
Nobody is patient during intense frustration. But it’s the act of having to wait or being made to wait that helps you flex those patience muscles. Kids who are given whatever they want the minute they are frustrated do not learn to wait.
They think things should happen immediately. That whatever they want is available as soon as they ask. This, unfortunately, is not the way the world works.
Most things in life worth having require patience, hard work and delayed gratification. Starting this lesson early on in life will help your kids learn – deep down – to handle frustration.
Frustration Builds Perseverance
Frustration occurs because things don’t go like the kids plan. If a challenge seems too much, frustration sets in. If a desire seems impossible to attain, frustration builds. In business circles, people often talk about Resistance.
It’s that feeling of being stuck, frustrated, and doubtful that you must push through to get a breakthrough.
Kids are the same. Being frustrated can become a catalyst for perseverance. Frustration can drive the kids to try harder, keep going, and think of new ways to do things. If I am around, the kids get frustrated and wait for me to dive in and rescue.
If I’m not around, my kids Figure It Out.
Frustration Can Put Off Entitlement
Entitlement (n): the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.
We all love doing special things for our kids. Showing them love, showering them with affection, and even giving them gifts. These things in themselves don’t promote entitlement.
But it’s okay to teach them patience. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay if they are disappointed and upset. It’ll pass. It’s not forever. When kids become frustrated and throw contagious tantrums, have meltdowns, or whine incessantly, it’s okay to walk away. It’s okay to let them learn to process those emotions.
This is how they grow up knowing the world doesn’t just give them everything they want.
And that is an important lesson to learn.
Frustration Is Part of Life
One thing I’m big on in our home: preparing the kids for real life. We already know modern moms are (inadvertently) raising victims. We don’t want to keep doing that once we realize it’s happening.
We don’t want to interrupt sowing and reaping and cause and effect in our homes. Why? Because they are both very real natural and spiritual principles.
Kids need to learn to handle frustration. We can be empathetic to their emotions, and we should be! But that doesn’t mean we need to orient ourselves towards stopping their whining, tantrums, or anger just to help them avoid frustration.
“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning do to do afterward.” K. Vonnegut
But back to the Snack Episode…
After the meltdown and tears and whining, he got back into the pool. He forgot about his snack and he moved on with life. Twenty some odd minutes later… lunch was served. He popped over to the table and proceeded to eat heartily.
He’d forgotten about his frustration.
He’d moved on with life.
He’d gotten over it.
Next time your child is frustrated, sit back and wait before intervening. You may be surprised to learn frustration is giving your kids a nice gift… something we here in the south like to call gumption.