I Get So Frustrated With My Child – Help!!!
“I'm really struggling with my son, he's 8 this next month and frankly most days I'm struggling just to not lose my cool with him. He's very aggressive, he does not handle change well, and even when he's the one that causes a problem he doesn't see his fault in the situation. He loves to pick on his sister, which I know is normal, but he ends up kicking her or hitting her or squeezing her as tight as he can. At this point, it's beyond me and I'm extremely frustrated.”
Most parents have been in this same position at one point or another. My friend is not alone, but the fact that you are not alone is no consolation for your frustration.
Why Are You Getting Frustrated?
Frustration is a precursor to anger, but it is not the same as anger. Frustration stems from our inability to control something, or from the failure of set expectations. Let us not forget that our relationships with our children are two-sided, and for every act there is a reaction. Sometimes our very frustration and subsequent response is the greatest contributor in perpetuating the frustrating behavior. Parents generally struggle most with children who display defiant, “power struggle” behaviors. The problem in a “power struggle” is that, generally, the child is just as frustrated as the parent. He thinks, “Why can’t mom see this my way?”
We need to protect ourselves from the two main causes of frustration.
Inability to Control
Focus on the things you can control, rather than the things you cannot control. It is no secret that we, as parents, cannot control our children’s behavior or attitudes; but we can control the triggers and consequences, as well as how we behave.
When parents start to get frustrated with their children’s behavior, they need to step back and evaluate what needs to change. Ask yourself, “What can I control in this situation? What can I do?” rather than asking, “What does my child need to change? How can I make him/her comply?”
Usually, parents become frustrated when several behaviors or problems have piled up over the course of a day, week, month, or year, which we have not wanted to deal with or have felt unsuccessful in dealing with. It’s important to remember to deal with the behaviors individually, rather than as a lumped group. Rather than thinking of your child as an uncontrollable, aggressive boy who doesn’t handle change well, simply deal with him hitting his sister right now. Saying things like, “You’ve been very bad today! I get so frustrated when you act like this!” is not very helpful in producing positive change. It focuses on things we cannot control. It’s more effective to deal specifically with hitting or kicking his sister, by saying, “I’m sorry you chose to hit your sister. It stinks to have to be separated, so you can’t play together.”
The parent can control the consequence of the child’s actions. It’s important to allow the consequence of your child’s actions to teach your child; and if the behavior continues, be consistent and continue to enforce. Allow the consequence to teach. Some children take longer to learn than others. The important thing is to address the behavior when needed, rather than waiting and lecturing, in order to coerce things we cannot control.
Failure of Set Expectations
Parents can evaluate their expectations for their child and the tasks at hand. Are your expectations developmentally unrealistic? Sometimes, it is our impatience that gets a child in trouble, more than the child’s defiance. If you expect a six-year-old to complete a chore independently, in the same timeframe and manner as you, you will usually be disappointed and frustrated. If we have reasonable, positive, and child-specific expectations, there is greater likelihood of our children meeting our positive expectations.
Set up your child for success, rather than challenging him/her to fail. For younger children, that often means expecting that they will need assistance from you to complete tasks or follow certain directions. It also means that we manage things that trigger common behavioral problems. We make specific plans to prevent or deal with specific behaviors occurring regularly, and consistently follow that plan.