We tend to shy away from frustration. Anything that bothers us, we avoid. I think that, to a certain extent, that’s OK—I mean, why would I purposefully choose to get into the longest line at the grocery store? But there are situations in which frustration is just a part of life and should be something that spurs us on. I’m referring, of course, to the whole process of learning, which can get quite frustrating at times.
When it comes to parenting, I often hear about philosophies that prone a parent hiding their frustration from their children, and/or not allowing children to become frustrated. In such situations, you may find a mother who is pretending to be calm while trying to deal with something, a father who pretends that nothing is wrong even as he struggles to deal with something, or a child that is helped with anything and everything he attempts that makes him even slightly frustrated.
I can understand the desire to not expose one’s child to the harder sides of life, but it feels like, although we are protecting baby from short-term pain, we are setting him up for a lot more long-term pain he will not have the capacity to address.
Showing Anger Before One’s Children
A fellow mother recently told me that she doesn’t hide her emotions from her children. She does express them in a careful way—when she is angry, she will tell them that she is angry but, say, she will neither curse nor strike. She even tells her kids when she is too angry to talk to them! And recently, she noticed her oldest—who is seven years-old—do the same to a younger sibling. “I am so angry at you!” the older sibling said, voice quivering but still relatively calm. “Please leave my room right now, because I need alone-time.”
Allowing Frustrating Moments To Unfold Naturally
Another fellow mother told me how her parents would never allow either of her two kids to become frustrated. “Anytime they are struggling with anything—a game, a food, a situation—my parents just remove said frustration immediately,” she said, adding that was not the case when she and her three siblings were younger. She then explained how her children were incredibly passive as well as demanding at their grandparents’ place, because “they know everything is going to be either taken care of or given to them.” Whereas at home, where the kids are giving the time and space to figure things out on their own, even sometimes to the point of getting very frustrated at a toy, a meal, or a situation with someone, the two—who are both elementary-school aged—show incredible resilience, patience, fortitude, and creativity.
Just like with anything, there is no black-and-white. But one thing seems certain to me: life is hard, and if we do not equip our children to deal with hardship from the get-go, they will have a much harder time navigating life. Hardship is relative; at 8 months, it’s getting frustrated because baby threw his toy out of his own reach and has to figure out how in the world these limbs of his will get him to his toy. When you are older, well, hardship is… I’m sure you can come up with something here! Our children need to learn how to strive, need to learn perseverance—and I think it’s important that they become as much our partners-in-learning as we are theirs.