Frustration and Children's Language Development

Children's language development is key to expressing themselves and avoiding frustration. Learn more in the following article.
Frustration and Children's Language Development

Last update: 08 August, 2022

Children’s language development goes through different stages: Babbling, guttural sounds, the first syllables that are repeated, etc. Gradually, it begins to take on new forms. But for this to happen, children must come into contact with speech at an early age and receive adequate stimulation to do so, even if they don’t fully understand what they’re being told.

Language is a key tool when expressing ourselves, and its management becomes a necessary resource for dealing with emotions, making decisions, and other important functions.

Let’s see how frustration and children’s language development are related.

Language development in children: what we should know

When we think about language development, we should know that we’re facing a complex and gradual process that involves much more than combining words or making sounds. Speech allows us to share and communicate with others and to express how we feel. Therefore, the development of language represents a great challenge, as it’s a vehicle that also helps us to organize our emotional universe.

On the one hand, it’s valuable to understand that when learning to communicate, there’s a whole biological basis that serves as support. Therefore, it’s key to determine that everything works correctly and that there’s no disorder that impedes the course of its development. And, if there is, the objective should be oriented in such a way as to provide the necessary tools to adapt communication correctly.

On the other hand, we must know that language is learned through practice, and therefore, maintaining an environment rich in words serves as a starting point for its proper development.

A young girl screaming at the grocery store.
Frustration at not being able to communicate something leads children to manifest their feelings through actions, such as throwing a tantrum, screaming, or crying.

When we’re frustrated, we’re faced with an imminent “emotional outburst”: The brain is “hacked” by our emotions, and this makes it difficult to give an acceptable response. As adults, it’s important to be able to identify such moments and help children understand what’s happening to them. The management of their emotions is key in order to be able to go through frustration and find the best means of expression.

For example, when faced with an uncomfortable situation, children find it a challenge to put into words what’s happening to them, and instead, they hit, scream, or cry. In other words, they replace words with actions. Until they calm down, when they try to say something, it may even be a phrase that further reinforces their problem: “I’m a loser for falling off my bike, I’m useless”.

As we can see, frustration can be an obstacle in the development of language and communication. That’s why it’s essential to help children calm down so that they can then give way to expression.

Some additional recommendations on frustration and children’s language development

Adults are the main reference points in children’s development. For this reason, everything that the little ones see, perceive, and hear from their elders remains “at hand” to repeat when they need it. In this regard, it’s crucial to be the regulators in moments of crisis and avoid using threatening or punishing expressions, as these tend to make them more nervous.

On the other hand, it’s also important to talk to them so that they become familiar with the language and its use. One of the measures is to gradually make communication more complex. For example, when they’re babies and point to something -such as a dog-, reinforce their communication with the word and tell them“that’s a dog, you like them, right?“. As they get older, you can expand and enrich that idea.

In addition, we need to give children time to express themselves, and there are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t complete their ideas.
  • Don’t answer for them.
  • Avoid acting until they’ve finished asking for what they need.
  • Respect their process.
  • Challenge them to be able to communicate something from beginning to end.

You can also read stories or sing to children. These are fun ways to help them get in touch with words and develop their imagination.

Finally, when correcting them, it’s best to point out the right way to express themselves, rather than pointing out the mistake. Let’s look at an example: John says to his father “Can I go outside”. In this case, it’s best for the parent to tell him “Yes, you may go outside.”

A mother reading to her child.
Reading to children is a good initiative to encourage the development of language and imagination.

Language development involves much more than what we say

Thinking about children’s language development in all its complexity allows us to adapt the necessary tools to facilitate learning. In the choice of words we use, in the tones or silences, there’s much more information than just what we say. Being aware of the versatility and richness of language will make it easier for us to communicate what we want.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bilbao, Alvaro (2015) El cerebro del niño explicado a los padres.Plataforma Actual.
  • Goleman, D. (1995). Inteligencia emocional. Barcelona: Kairós.
  • Gómez-Madrid, Marina; Aguirre Delgado, Triana; Borges del Rosal, María de África. Tolerancia a la frustración en niñez con altas capacidades. Diseño y evaluación de un programa de intervención. Revista Educación, vol. 46, núm. 1, 2022. Universidad de Costa Rica, Costa Rica

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