7 Exercises for Children to Better Tolerate Frustration

Learning to tolerate better frustration is key for children to achieve the greatest possible well-being. We'll teach you some simple techniques to achieve it.
7 Exercises for Children to Better Tolerate Frustration

Last update: 22 April, 2022

In today’s article, we want to offer 7 exercises for children to better tolerate frustration, a challenge that every parent and educated faces.

Learning to walk, climb trees or pronounce the first words are achievements that accompany the development of children throughout their childhood. Not everything is “yes” or “now”, because there are individual conditions, such as the child’s stage of development, and external ones, such as the healthy limits that are established to preserve their well-being.

Frustration often appears as a result of these limitations. The dispute that arises between wanting and being able to do something is one of the foundations of life itself and a very necessary piece for the correct socio-psycho-emotional development of the individual.

So, what can you do to help children better tolerate frustration? Keep reading to find out.

Why is it important for children to better tolerate frustration?

The answer is very simple: Because it’s part of life. Neither children nor adults can always have what they want or achieve everything they set out to achieve, and their well-being depends on their ability to coexist with the emotions this arouses. For example, learning to express anger at not coming in first place in a race or not getting the grade they expected is a fundamental learning process for children.

At the same time, it’s necessary for adults to work on the frustrations that arise when children are frustrated. Perhaps that’s why we seek to gratify so immediately, even though we know it’s not the most appropriate thing to do.

A mother who's tired because her toddler daughter can't tolerate frustration.
Reviewing our own behavior (and the beliefs and thoughts associated with it) will allow us to understand what motivates our actions. And thus, improve the way we deal with our children’s frustration.

7 exercises for children to better tolerate frustration

Learning to tolerate frustration has to do with acquiring skills to accept that, in life, children will encounter problems and impediments. Therefore, they must find ways to solve them and deal with them without affecting their well-being.

Take note of the following strategies to help them achieve this!

1. Play a game in which they have to compete

With board games or outdoor group games, an inescapable reality becomes evident: Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

Therefore, with some moves, you can achieve your goal, and with others, the opposite is true. The best thing is for children to experience the situation in this controlled scenario and for you to guide them through the process. Ask them how they feel and express your feelings as well.

2. Use stories, movies, games, and other materials to express emotions

Look for resources in which children can explore their emotions (such as frustration), detect problems, and find solutions through the characters. According to their age, it will be more or less necessary to adapt these tools to work on emotional management.

3. Gradually assign tasks and responsibilities

It’s important to teach children how to do certain things and encourage their autonomy. Also, allow them to discover for themselves how they can organize themselves and the actions they must put into practice to accomplish their tasks.

Frustration is closely related to self-esteem and the fact of feeling capable of participating in activities and assuming certain responsibilities.
The key when giving them the task is to divide the task into subtasks, as in intermediate steps, and always appropriate to their level of development.

4. Give them time before intervening

When you notice that children have some difficulty, give them time to think, analyze, perceive the emotion that triggers that problem, and learn to use that setback as a challenge.

If you always assist them right away so they don’t get frustrated, you’ll give them little room to get to know themselves and to solve their issues with ingenuity.

5. Teach the value of effort

Does your child want a certain toy? Tell them they can have it, but offer to pay for half of it and suggest that they raise the other half of the money. This way, you’ll teach them that their savings can be a good way to satisfy their desires, but that gratifications aren’t always immediate and require effort.

For example, according to their age, you can suggest that they sell cakes or juices to the family, handicrafts, or illustrated cards with nice messages for their family. This way, you’ll not only entertain them, but you’ll also “make them part” of what they want to achieve.

6. Look for alternatives to problems

You can pose a problem or a task to be solved and invite your children to think of it as a “bouquet of 5 flowers”. Each flower is a solution to the problem and you should think together about how to address it. The idea is for them to look for alternative ways and show them that there are many ways to reach the same result.

It’s also an excellent resource to show that we all have different opinions and to promote tolerance.

Play progress and regression games with your children

For example, the game of shoots and ladders. In this game, there are spaces that allow you to advance quickly and others more slowly. This way, you can guide the dynamics and point out how, sometimes, moving forward and reaching the goal also implies going backwards.

Other recommendations on frustration in children

Some additional recommendations to help children to better tolerate frustration are the following:

  • Set healthy limits. This means being firm and calm about setting rules and being respectful of children’s emotions. You can’t always say yes to everything and you have to “know how to frustrate” without hurting. Help them learn that there’s a time and a place for certain things to happen.
  • Teach them to value the process and not just the result. Learning is a long road and it’s important to recognize each step the little ones take. So that, if at the end of the road, the result isn’t as expected, they’ll know that the effort and the learning are in themselves valuable and important.
  • Be a role model. Especially at an early age, parents are the main references for their children. Therefore, when faced with an undesirable situation, they should be the first to be expectant and confident that they can learn something from it and that it’s worth the effort to get what they want. It’s also a good resource to ask children for help, as this shows them that asking for support in the face of a difficulty is a valid and recommendable option.
A father teaching his son to ride a bike.

You may be interested in: Children with Low Frustration Tolerance: Tips to Help Them

The danger of hyper parenting

Parenting professionals warn about the current trend of overprotective parents, who seek to please and satisfy their children at all costs. This phenomenon is known as “hyper parenting” and goes hand in hand with the guilt of spending so much time away from home, usually for work reasons.

Hyper parenting is excessive attention, bordering on exaggeration, that seeks to solve the children’s lives.

The difficulty with overprotection is that it doesn’t prepare infants for the real world, where they’ll have to fend for themselves someday. By solving things that they themselves should learn to solve, they’re deprived of the opportunity to grow, develop, and consolidate their autonomy. Hyper parenting undermines frustration tolerance, one of the keys to people’s well-being and mental health.

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  • Mustaca, Alba Elisabeth. (2018). Frustración y conductas sociales. Avances en Psicología Latinoamericana36(1), 65-81. https://doi.org/10.12804/revistas.urosario.edu.co/apl/a.4643
  • Heras Sevilla, Davinia; Cepa Serrano, Amaya; Lara Ortega, Fernando Desarollo Emocional en la infancia. Un estudio sobre las competencias emocionales de niños y niñas. International Journal of Developmental and Educational Psychology, vol. 1, núm. 1, 2016, pp. 67-73 Asociación Nacional de Psicología Evolutiva y Educativa de la Infancia, Adolescencia y Mayores Badajoz, España