When Children Have to Pay for Their Parents' Frustrations

In life we don't always get what we want, but we can't blame anyone for that, least of all our children. In this article, we'll see how children sometimes end up suffering the consequences of their parents' frustrations and disappointments.
When Children Have to Pay for Their Parents' Frustrations
María Matilde

Written and verified by the pedagogue and trainer María Matilde.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Becoming a parent is a radical change in a person’s life, and there’s no secret recipe for being a good parent. Bringing children up is a very complex process in which we’ll often be right, but we’ll also make mistakes. And one of those mistakes is when children pay for their parents’ frustrations.

Sometimes parents feel that they haven’t been able to achieve many of the things they dreamed of when they were young. This may have to do with financial, personal or family circumstances, or a combination of these. This often causes parents to feel sad, disappointed or disillusioned and, unintentionally, they take it out on their children.

What is frustration, and why do we feel this way?

Frustration is a feeling that comes when we can’t satisfy a certain desire or need. It’s a feeling of anger or disappointment that comes from seeing that it’s been impossible to achieve a certain goal or objective.

As we’ve already said, due to different circumstances, there are times in our lives when we can’t always fulfill our wishes or objectives. When we see that it’s going to be seemingly impossible to fulfill our projects, dreams and longings – whether they be personal, family, work or professional – frustration wells up inside us. Our minds start to fill with all sorts of negative feelings.

When Children Have to Pay for Their Parents' Frustrations

So, it’s clear that no one in this world is going to achieve everything they set out to do. We all suffer in some way because of the frustration that this can cause. Moreover, many adults carry with them the frustrations of things that they weren’t able to do in their childhood.

However, the problem comes when we’re not able to manage all these negative feelings in a positive way.

Children aren’t to blame for their parents’ frustrations

There can be many frustrating situations in an adult’s life. These can bring feelings of sadness, grief, disappointment, or even anger, and could be due to the following situations:

  • Not having time to do what we like (sport, DIY, being with friends or traveling)
  • Living in a city, town or place that we don’t really like
  • Working in something we don’t enjoy
  • Having studied a professional career or having a very different job from the one we would have liked
  • Feeling that you don’t have enough money or too many expenses
  • Marriage or relationship problems

However, under no circumstances should children have to carry the can for the frustrations caused by all these situations. They’re not to blame for anything, neither for being there, nor for demanding time and attention, and certainly not for needing love and affection.

“Never burden your children with the weight of your frustrated dreams.”

– Rafael Vidac –

You’ll be everything I could never be…

Many parents often believe that trying to make sure that their children can be what they were never able to be is a great show of love. However, trying to get your child to become a doctor or a professional athlete, or to devote themselves to painting or acting, without really knowing what they want, is simply trying to project on them your unfulfilled desires, and, therefore, your frustration.

What this means is that your show of what you consider to be dedication and love can actually become a source of pressure for your children. Our children should be free to choose what they want to be or do in their future life.

How to ensure that children don’t pay for their parents’ frustrations

Parents must learn to deal with and overcome their frustrations. This means that, first of all, they have to be aware of them and accept them. One way to do this is to talk about it, either with their family, with their partner or with a professional.

In addition to this, it’s important to understand that each person is unique and that we don’t all have the same tastes. Therefore, we don’t have the right to make our children unhappy and force them to achieve what we as adults have never been able to achieve.

On the other hand, it’s unquestionable that children demand our time, and it’s often difficult for a parent to find time to spend doing what they want – sports, studying, or hobbies, etc. But we need to realize that our children aren’t to blame for that! It’s just a matter of learning to organize and get a balance in our family lives.

Good family dialogue

The same is true for money and expenses, which are always a cause for concern. As is the decision of where to live, taking into account the children’s school or your place of work. Good family dialogue is essential in order to know how each person feels, and what they need. This is the way to find agreements and solutions.

There are many situations and circumstances that we must live through as adults, and not all of them will make us fully happy.

Even so, this is never the child’s fault and, as parents, we have the obligation to learn to manage our frustrations, and under no circumstance should our children have to suffer because of it.


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