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How Can I Help Build My Child’s “Frustration Tolerance?”

We all have a “frustration tolerance,” which refers to our ability to handle setbacks and manage our emotions when we have to remain patient. Some people have a high tolerance for frustration, meaning that they are not upset easily and can remain relatively calm when facing challenges. Other people have a low tolerance for frustration. They can get upset easily when the slightest thing goes wrong. We may describe these people as “hot-headed” or “ill-tempered.” People with low frustration tolerance can make us feel as though we are walking on eggshells around them. We might have fears about “setting them off” and may lower our expectations of them. Frustration tolerance, fortunately, is a skill that we can build for ourselves and others.

Skills can be built and improved upon. We may have to start off slowly to help others or ourselves. Our kids may need our help to build their frustration tolerance. When our kids are troubled, we may have difficulty seeing them get frustrated with any activity. We want to see our kids happy and do not want to introduce them to any stressors in life. When we shelter kids from experiencing any type of daily stress, though, we may be unintentionally lowering their tolerance for frustration. People with a low tolerance for frustration may show some of these characteristics:

  1. Quickly giving up on a new activity or challenge 

  2. Procrastinating when asked to perform mundane or “boring” tasks

  3. Reacting quickly with anger to daily stress

  4. Only interested in activities that provide instant gratification

We may even recognize some of these characteristics in ourselves! When we are in a stressful situation–and having a troubled child or teen is stressful–we may also exhibit a low tolerance of frustration due to the distress we feel within our household. Remember that feelings of stress and frustration are normal when you have a family member dealing with significant issues. You love your child and want to see them succeed. You may feel upset when you see them struggle. You might need to remember to work on yourself to be at your best for your child. If you struggle with frustration, try some of these activities for yourself or work on them together with your child.

Introducing Distress to Build Tolerance

One of the best ways that we can build frustration tolerance is by introducing low levels of distress in our child’s life. We can use simple, fun activities that help to build our tolerance. Playful activities and games can help us learn to cope with the world in safe ways. We can build our skills without any consequences or impact on our lives. You can try some of the following activities to introduce distress:

  1. Playing board games

  2. You can have a family board game night

  3. Board games require participants to wait and take turns

  4. Include your child in the process as much as possible by allowing them to pick games with you and choose what they would like to play

  5. Puzzles, model cars, legos, etc.

  6. Puzzles and other building activities can be incredibly frustrating, yet fun!

  7. Like board games, try to get your kid’s “buy-in” by including them in the activity as much as possible

  8. Learning a musical instrument

  9. If your child is interested in music, then they may want to try playing an instrument

  10. Learning a new skill can help to build frustration tolerance. Your child will not be good right away, however, they can see the cause and effect of their own progress as they get better with practice

  11. Limiting time on cell phones and other devices

  12. If your child is only interested in activities that provide instant gratification, you might want to try using these as “rewards” for doing other activities, like board games, puzzles, or practicing an instrument

  13. You may need to start small, like “Let’s work on our puzzle for ten minutes, then you can have your phone for the rest of the night”

  14. Gradually increase the time on the frustration tolerance activity

Other Tips to Keep in Mind

You cannot always control everything in life as you work toward building your child’s frustration tolerance. You may end up stuck in traffic or in a long line at the grocery store. Help your child learn to self-regulate by participating in calming activities, like deep breathing or counting to ten when they feel upset or impatient. Remember that building your child’s frustration tolerance is a gradual process. You may have to lower some of your expectations, especially if you are also prone to low levels of frustration during this process. Be consistent and remember to celebrate the daily wins. With time and practice, you can help your child learn to deal with distress by introducing small amounts of frustration into their lives.

Your child may be struggling with emotional regulation due to a low tolerance for frustration. If your child is quick to anger or gives up easily, they may have a lower tolerance for frustration. You can help your child develop their frustration tolerance by introducing low levels of distress in their lives. You can do this in fun ways by playing games, encouraging them to start new hobbies, and limiting time on phones or other devices. Many kids may be struggling with lower levels of frustration when they are seeking activities that provide “instant gratification.” Remember to engage your child in the process of building frustration tolerance to get their “buy-in” and empower them to make choices. If your child is struggling with severe emotional or behavioral issues, you may need to take the next step to residential treatment. We are here for you to repair and heal your family. Call Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center today for more information at (303) 443-3343.

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