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Helping Child Deal With Frustration

Question

I am writing because I do not know how to handle an issue with my 9 year old son. He is a very good student in school, has never been in trouble and all of his teachers sing his praises. He is relatively smart and picks up concepts pretty easily, especially in math. He has always been the type of child to melt down at home when learning a concept that he cannot do on the first or second try (riding a bike with no training wheels is an example). This summer I am instituting a short (maximum 1 hour) "learning time." This consists of a workbook I purchased and each day is 1 page front and back. As a side note, his younger sister is asked to do learning time as well, but she is younger and has some special needs and therefore requires more of my attention during this time. My son will often lose it and cry from the beginning. He says he doesn't like learning time, or he makes a mistake on something or has trouble with something and absolutely melts down. I hold my ground, I put him in his room to calm down, etc. I insist it get done before he can play. However today the tears started right when I mentioned learning time and he was making statements like "I wish I wasn't such a baby," "I wish I wasn't so sensitive," and "I wish I was never born." I kept calm and told him to calm down in his room, but this behavior is alarming to me. I know he can do good work in a calm manner because he does it every day at school. But home is a nightmare even when it's a tiny bit of work. Help!

Answer

Thanks so much for reaching out to Parent Guru. You are definitely on the right track by not losing your cool and letting him sort this out in his room. I want to encourage you because you are preparing your son well for life. As we both know- life is filled with frustrations.
There will always be something challenging in his life i.e. a task at work, a mother in law, a noisy neighbor, taxes. Helping him deal with frustration will lead to perseverance, so you do not need to be alarmed by his attempts at alleviating his frustration. His melt downs are an attempt to get out of a situation that makes him uncomfortable and you want to teach him how to deal with uncomfortable, not run from it. So, again you are headed in the right direction.

To help exterminate the frustration melt downs you might want to call in the "doctor". John Rosemond has prescribed this technique with much success in children under 10 yrs old.

Here's how it works: when he has a melt down over learning time, you sit him down and say, "son, I was worried about how easily upset you get over certain things, so I called the doctor and the doctor told me that it was because you were not getting enough sleep. Tired children get very easily frustrated. So every day that you have an "episode" I will have to send you to bed right after dinner. So sorry, but hopefully you will grow out of these soon." And then you continue acting calmly and stand your ground by putting him to bed right after dinner on the days he has meltdowns. You can take comfort in knowing that he is capable of reacting properly because he can do it at school. So, just give him the expectation of dealing with frustration properly at home as well. This will be a lifelong lesson that will serve him well because frustration is a part of life and there are people who cope well with it and those who can't handle it and you surely want him to be a strong and successful adult. This begins now in the little things in life. Learning how to deal with frustration during his "learning time" will be the best lesson you can teach him. Perseverance is the key for you and for him.

Hopefully this helps you.

Sincerely,
Alyson Hudson
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach
alysonshudson@gmail.com

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