Childhood Frustration: How to Cope Better as Parents

If parents are often anxious or angry, then it's very hard for children's frustration to improve. Kids can cope better with frustration through positive reinforcement and reassurance. Keep reading to find out more.
Childhood Frustration: How to Cope Better as Parents
María José Roldán

Written and verified by the psychopedagogue María José Roldán.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Frustration affects children and adults and plays havoc with their feelings. It’s important to find a way to calm childhood frustration through calm parenting.

To do this, it’s a good idea to first ask yourself the following questions: How do you respond when your child is frustrated? Does your child’s frustration lead you to get frustrated too?

Think about the following situation. You’re in a hurry to get out the door to go somewhere and your child isn’t ready yet. How do you feel? Are your emotions getting stretched to their limits?

And, in a different type of situation, how might you react if your child says, “I don’t understand anything” after you’ve spent 20 minutes trying to help them with some math problems?

Your emotional state affects your child

When parents remain calm in the face of their child’s frustration, children are able to self-regulate. Emotional contagion occurs when children unconsciously perceive their parents’ emotions. We define this as attunement or co-regulation. The parent’s connection with the child helps the child to emotionally regulate or “calm down.”

Childhood Frustration: How to Cope Better as Parents

From day one, how you, as a parent, respond to your child when they’re upset will determine their ability to self-regulate. If a parent tells a crying child to stop crying, to get over it, or that it’s no big deal, then the child is likely to remain upset.

Yelling at a child or telling them to go to their room until they calm down doesn’t in any way help them to learn to self-regulate or control their emotions. In fact, it usually leads to the situation recurring or even getting worse in subsequent frustrating circumstances. If a baby cries, then they’re likely to stop crying as soon as their parents hold them in their arms.

Hugging and empathetic sharing to overcome childhood frustration

Hugging and showing empathy towards a frustrated toddler helps to calm them down, as does reassuring them when they’re upset. With older children, you can encourage them to use words to express their feelings.

When parents repeatedly ignore or respond negatively or punitively to their child when they’re emotionally upset, then, as the child develops, he or she is likely to overreact to frustrating situations with greater frequency and intensity.

When confronted with a crying baby or an upset child, the first thing to do is to remain calm. Deep breathing helps a lot. When you can respond calmly or neutrally, you’ll help your child because, unconsciously, they’re picking up on your calmness. This, in turn, will cause their nervous system to calm down, and they’ll feel safe.

If it’s an older child, then you can use this time to help them learn skills such as deep breathing, and reframing (seeing the situation in a more positive light). In addition to this, you can teach them to use words to convey their thoughts and feelings.

A parent may assume that their child is choosing to cry, yell, or hit instead of using words. However, the most likely thing here is that the child hasn’t developed an adequate emotional vocabulary when this occurs.

Childhood Frustration: How to Cope Better as Parents

Crises are learning opportunities

A crisis can be the perfect time to teach your child appropriate ways to express how they feel. Once a child can tell you how they feel and why they feel that way, then you can help them to try to find a solution to the problem. Sometimes, they’ll simply have to accept some situations, even though they may wish they were different.

The more time parents spend helping their children develop coping skills, the less time they’ll spend responding to emotional outbursts. This will allow them to help them express their needs to others.

This also opens up the opportunity to begin helping your child to become more attuned to the needs of others. Listening to your child doesn’t mean you’ll give in to them or grant their every wish. However, it does help them to feel accepted and more open to listening to you.

With this frame of mind, you’ll be able to teach them coping skills, including emotional regulation and problem solving, along with empathy and understanding for others.

It’s important to see childhood frustration and emotional crises as learning opportunities for your child and personal growth opportunities for you. Take a deep breath, think about what you’re going to say to your child and forget the old ways of dealing with these situations with anger. Your child will never learn that way – you need to teach them by using calm discipline.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.