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Child Behavior: Tame the Beast in 4 Steps!

March 15, 2017

Frustration tolerance refers to the ability to withstand distressing events. Resilience refers to the ability to not only withstand distressing events, but to also overcome those distressing events.

In the absence of an ability to withstand frustration though, there is no opportunity to learn to overcome.

In today’s society, parents are so paving the way for their children that they are removing all obstacles of frustration. Hence so many of today’s kids haven’t yet developed the capacity to simply withstand frustration.

  • Child whines – gets the toy;
  • Child whines – doesn’t have to eat what is prepared;
  • Child whines – avoids the consequence.

This has gotten so out of hand that even when expecting the most simple of tasks, a whiney child can undermine parental authority. Now I am not talking about an authoritarian parent expecting undue hardship and challenges from the child, but more the reasonable expectations such as brush your teeth, get ready for bed, hang up your coat.

This is not to lay blame upon the parent either though. Parents today are stressed themselves.

To maintain the family economy many two-parent families have both parents employed, sometimes at more than two jobs between them. Then there are single-parent led families as well as many blended families. Time and resources for parents are spread thin. This creates the conditions for many parents to take the path of least resistance when faced with an onery child.

Problem is, the path of least resistance is a slippery slope. Giving in as a means for the tired or stressed out parent to cope only creates spoiled kids who when finally held accountable, fall to pieces. These kids cannot handle frustration and in the face of frustration, act out in anger rather than realizing one doesn’t always get one’s way, that there are expectations and that at times, we may have to put up with things we would much rather not tolerate.

What’s the answer?

Well, if you don’t want to create a monster or if you are looking to tame a monster, then you too will have to tolerate frustration. You will have to put up with some whining and pushback as the child then learns they cannot always have their way.

To do this well it is important for the parent to demonstrate frustration tolerance themself – to stay calm in the midst of a tantrum or meltdown – to appreciate that their child is only now beginning to experience what and how managing frustration is all about. If you lose it, then what would you expect of your child? Manage self before managing child!

We actually want the parent to empathize with the child and not scold for the tantrum observed. This is not the time to punish but to show some degree of understanding. If anything, the parent in this situation can be apologetic, apologizing for not having created the conditions to learn frustration tolerance early. This is not to be facetious, but sincere. It is difficult for a child to hold or harbor anger when a parent genuinely and caringly demonstrates support in the midst of frustration. So punishment is out, empathy is in.

As you hold your ground managing your own frustration and support your child in managing theirs, then they can come to learn that frustration is not necessarily a bad thing, but only a signal to perhaps be more creative or collaborative in problem solving.

Once the child realizes you will not simply remove the obstacle on their behalf, then you create space for problem solving and collaboration – the hallmark of resilience. By the way, collaboration is not about doing for, but doing with on mutually acceptable solutions.


  1. Resist the path of least resistance;
  2. Allow for frustration;
  3. Demonstrate calm and empathy;
  4. Once the child is calm, facilitate collaborative problem solving.

Lessons learned.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

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