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Coaching Kids Through Frustrations


My 11-year-old boy has Aspergers . He gets frustrated easily. What should I do?


Hello and welcome to Parent Guru! Getting frustrated in and of itself is not necessarily a behavior that is bad or requires you "to do" anything. What often needs attention is how either the child or the parent is responding to being frustrated. As I am sure you know, as adults and parents, we will experience and live through many situations that bring about frustration. Most kids, with or without Aspergers, are more easily frustrated than adults because learning how to channel the emotions and feelings that arise through frustration is a social skill that must be learned. It is challenging to offer you specific feedback without knowing what situations may be leading to your son getting easily frustrated or how either of you is responding in those moments, but I will offer some general tips for helping you coach your son on how to respond to and work through his frustrations in a healthy way.

1. Model, through your own behaviors, the proper ways that you respond to being frustrated. This will have the biggest impact on your child. Our kids pay attention to everything - including how we deal with being frustrated - so make sure you are modeling positive ways of channeling your own feelings and emotions.
2. Help your child to identify triggers or things that frustrate him the most or often.
3. Acknowledge when your child is frustrated with verbal cues but do not try to rescue him from the situation as a first response. Say something like “I can tell you are frustrated or working on something hard, but I am confident if you keep trying you can figure it out.” Then, give him a little more time and walk away. Don’t hover.
4. Encourage him to take a break and come back to it if the situation allows or ask for help if the situation is more time-sensitive.
5. Discuss and post a list of positive and negative responses to frustration. Kids with Aspergers or Autism Spectrum disorder thrive on having a clear distinction between what is and is not considered acceptable behavior and visual cues help reinforce this. I also suggest sitting down with your son and allowing him to help develop this list with your guidance. A few positive examples include pausing to take a break, taking deep breaths, counting to 10, and asking for help. Negative examples include throwing things, hitting oneself or others, and yelling/screaming.
6. Send your son to his room when he displays any of the negative behaviors associated with being frustrated until he can calm down. The point is to remove the audience. When he is calm he can come out and attempt whatever he was doing again or move on depending on what the situation was.

Having parented a child with Autism who also struggled with getting very easily frustrated, I know that this can seem like a skill they will never learn. I promise you that your child can learn this very important social skill. With proper modeling, patience, and your guidance he will get there. If you have more specific questions regarding specific situations that bring about his frustrations, please don’t hesitate to reach back out to us at Parent Guru or email me directly. You can ask as many questions as you like with your Parent Guru membership. We are here to help you through this.

Lisa Woodman
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach

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