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Frustrated with your child’s behavior? Here’s what to do.

Your child’s room looks like a pigsty, you have to nag your daughter to do her homework and you’ve had to remind your son yet again to take the garbage out. And those are the small things. Then you get another call from the school because your son got in trouble, and you find an empty beer can in your daughter’s room. What’s a parent to do?

This is when we want to scream with frustration — we’ve all been there. As seasoned or even novice parents (think of the baby that won’t stop crying or the toddler’s tantrum at the restaurant), it doesn’t take long to realize that frustration is a very real and very difficult part of parenting.

If only our children would learn to do everything we want them to do. “It is amazing how quickly the kids learn to drive a car, yet are unable to understand the lawnmower, snow blower, or vacuum cleaner.” (Ed Bergor). Some of the things our children do will be annoyances, but some will become chronic or worrisome enough that we’ll do anything to make them stop.

The bad news is that it’s not possible to eliminate parental frustration from our lives — just as it’s not possible to turn our children into mini replicas of our own perfect selves (note sarcasm here) or save them from every negative consequence in their lives. In fact we shouldn’t — but that’s for another article down the road.

The good news is that we can learn to deal with our frustration in a way that is healthy for both ourselves and our children. It’s our response to them when we feel that frustration that’s most important. So, here are a few useful tips to consider:

  • Take a breath. As soon as you feel that anger or frustration rearing its ugly head — pause, take a mental time out, and think before saying or doing anything. It may even be best to walk away.
  • Evaluate. Now that you’ve taken a breath, think about this situation. Ask yourself if something else is bothering you? Are your expectations clear and realistic? How important is it to win this battle, as opposed to the war? How can I calmly handle this?
  • Act. Now’s the time to address what’s frustrating you. If it’s something you still feel needs addressed, try to do so calmly and matter-of-factly — setting the expectation and what the consequence will be if he/she doesn’t comply. That consequence could be a time out, or the loss of a privilege such as staying up late or going out, restricted cell phone or electronic use for a period of time, etc. It should never be violence! That’s why the first step — Take a breath — is so important, because it’s easy to let frustration and anger turn physical. The key is that breath!

Being a parent is a great joy, but it also comes with a good dose of frustration. Knowing how to deal with that frustration is the key to a healthier and happier life for you and your children.