Frustration Tolerance is a Beautiful Thing

It is essential that both parents give the same message to the child.

The challenge of listening to our children express frustration begins at the very early stages of their development. We try to set boundaries, such as an appropriate feeding or sleeping schedule and they cry and cry. We know that all is well; they are dry, fed and in no pain. But we typically begin to question if we are right or wrong. And at that moment, we begin on a course that will either foster our child's ability to develop delayed gratification skills and tolerate frustration or hinder it.

Setting the Rules and Consequences:
When we set fair limits we create a partnership with our children designed to help them learn what is expected of them and the consequences for their behavioral choices. For young children, it is important to learn that throwing tantrums won't get them what they want. As we reinforce, with consistency, they learn how to soothe themselves so they can tolerate the limitation. As they grow, they become more aware of their participation in the process and learn to make better choices.

Consistency is Key:
It is essential that both parents give the same message to the child. If the rules in the house include completing homework in a timely manner so the child will be rewarded with a half hour of the Wii®, then the child must hold up his end of the bargain to gain the reward.
Parents must not lessen the expectation just because the child is noisy in his disappointment. If he dawdled during homework, then he will have a chance the next day to win his reward for improved homework performance.

Rewarding Positive Behavior and Enforcing Consequences:
If a child likes a story before bed as part of the nightly routine, and then the parent exits the room without the child complaining, then this routine can continue nightly. However, there is absolutely no story the next night if the child does not comply. He might cry, but in the long run you will have helped him learn an important skill.

A Teaching Moment:
A teenager is rewarded by sharing Friday nights with friends if all of his homework assignments have been completed and submitted throughout the week. If not, he is aware that the consequence for his choices means he sits home. When parents ignore his rage and expression of frustration, they reinforce a lesson that will help him throughout his lifetime. Whatever the age of your child, follow up with a conversation that will allow him/her to demonstrate an understanding of the agreement you had, and the role he played in earning the consequence, whether positive or negative. Review future choices that will result in a positive outcome.

Effective parents are unwavering in efforts to teach lessons that will enhance a child's chances for successfully coping with life's ups and downs. Instead of blaming others, children will grow up owning their responsibility and gain confidence in their ability to manage delayed gratification and frustration tolerance. Your consistent parenting offers them a very special gift for life!

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