Q: My 9-year-old son struggles with frustration and has for years. He’ll break objects, yell or become disrespectful when he reaches his breaking point. He is otherwise a typical loving boy. What can you recommend my husband and I can do to tackle this issue?
A: All kids deal with some level of frustration—as do all adults. But the biggest difference between adults and kids is that we grownups have learned how to control our frustrations (for the most part), while kids generally have not.
The key is to helping him is to avoid his getting to a breaking point. Some things that work—and are easy for kids to do—include breathing exercises, counting to 10, putting his head down on his desk at school, going to a “take a break” corner at home or school, etc. These are ways a child can learn to calm himself down. One of my daughters struggles with frustration–she would often erupt like a volcano and spew lava over all who got in her path. Very messy and not pretty to watch.
So we started talking about her frustration when she wasn’t frustrated. We practiced together some of the calming methods mentioned above. I encouraged her to walk away from situations when she felt herself becoming more frustrated. We talked to her teachers about allowing her to put her head down at her desk for a few minutes to regain composure or go to the take a break corner each of the classrooms have for just that purpose. Those things did help, but it took some time for her to remember to use the calming methods. She still erupts but it’s much less now and she’s much happier and not as down on herself as she was before when frustration got the better of her.
When you see your son start to get frustrated, tell him to take deep breaths. Count to ten. Run a lap around the outside of the house or jump on a mini-trampoline. He’ll need your help in redirection for a bit as he learns when he should “take a break” to avoid the blow ups.
Remember, he’s probably as frustrated with himself for blowing up as you are from seeing his struggles. These tips can help him see that there is a way to break the cycle.