Thursday, January 5, 2012

Coping Skills for Frustrated Preschoolers

A mom wrote "What can I do to help my 3 1/2 year old daughter deal better with her frustration? She often releases her frustration by hitting, stomping her feet and screaming. We use time out as consequences to this behavior, but I'd like to be able to teach her how to deal with it herself rather than punish her. We've tried telling her to take deep breathes and count to 10, but so far that hasn't worked. She gets frustrated very quickly when she struggles to do something like getting dressed or getting a toy to work."

I responded:

Your daughter is exhibiting typical 3-year-old behavior. Both my kids had plenty of frustration fits when they were that age. One skill all kids need to learn is how to get a grip when things don't go their way. What worked best for my son was giving him some time and space to recover. He figured out how to calm himself down and when I tried to help it only made matters worse.

It can also help if you show empathy by guessing at what she’s feeling and why (“You seem really frustrated. Is it because trying to put your doll's clothes on is so difficult?) If you guess right, she might initially express even more of that emotion but then she will likely calm down after she feels heard and understood.

Children develop enough emotional regulation to not have tantrums somewhere between 3 and 5 years old. I definitely found the preschool years to be the most challenging parenting years … but all your hard work will pay off!

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