TIPS FOR HELPING KIDS HANDLE FRUSTRATION AND DISAPPOINTMENT
- Change your mindset from “I need to end their frustration / disappointment” to “I want them to learn they can handle frustration and disappointment by supporting them through it.”
- Don’t get sucked into their Yuck, even when their behavior is not as mature as you’d like to be.
- In the moment, model what it looks like to stay in control when things aren’t going your way. Express one time that you respect their perspective, and then let them travel the curve.
Here’s what this looks like:
Sheldon and his mom are working on a project. Sheldon’s mom asks him to work on a part of the project. When he realizes he can’t do it, Sheldon starts melting down.
Sheldon (yelling): I can’t do this! I hate this!
Mom starts to move toward Sheldon.
Sheldon: Get away! I told you we shouldn’t do this project! It’s dumb!
Mom wants to remind him that he was the one who wanted to work on the project, but she knows he can’t hear that when he’s in Yuck.
Mom: Do you want to stop?
Mom is frustrated that Sheldon is being so immature. She also knows she needs to model what it looks like to stay calm when she’s frustrated. So instead of focusing on Sheldon’s behavior, she focuses on staying calm herself by counting backwards from 100 by 2s.
Sheldon (starts to turn back to the project and says rudely): Mom! Help me!
Mom: Shel, I don’t like how you’re speaking to me. I’ll help you when you’re ready to ask me more respectfully. I know right now you’re frustrated, and that’s OK.
Sheldon: I’m NOT frustrated!
Mom doesn’t say anything. She continues to focus on staying calm herself and stops engaging with Sheldon.
After a few moments with Mom being present but not saying anything, Sheldon starts to calm down.
Mom: Is it OK if I show you how to do this part?
Sheldon: Yes. Please.
Mom reminds herself to more proactively work with Sheldon on solving problems without melting down.
DEALING WITH RESISTANCE
They are mean to you when you’re not responding when they’re in Yuck
What it may mean: This is their Yuck turned out. When a human is in Yuck (and doesn’t have healthy ways to cope), they will turn those big emotions out onto other people.
What you can say to yourself:
“If I get angry with my child right now, I’m doing the same thing that I don’t want them to do — I’m turning my Yuck out on them! Instead, I need to show them what it looks like to act mature.”
What you can say to them:
“That part of the project was harder than you expected.”
Important note: This will NOT “work” to get them to act more mature. They won’t stop the Yuck behavior until they travel the Yuck curve. You’re only showing them (through your energy) that you are on their side so they can travel the Yuck curve more quickly.
They call you mean names when they’re upset.
What it may mean: This is a sign of Yuck turned out. When kids are suffering, they don’t know how to handle that huge amount of discomfort all at once and turn it out on other people.
What to say to yourself:
“This behavior is not OK… But I can’t effectively address it now. For now I have to model what it looks like to handle situations maturely. Talking to them about it later is not the same thing as letting them get away with it.”
What to say to them:
“I don’t like how you’re talking to me. I’m getting frustrated and going to calm myself down now.”
Important note: This will NOT “work” to get them to act more mature. They won’t stop the Yuck behavior until they travel the Yuck curve. You’re only showing them (through your energy) that they are safe so that they can travel the curve more quickly.