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February 13, 1999

The Active, Easily Frustrated Child

by Shari Steelsmith

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Tip--A child with an active, easily-frustrated temperament needs to learn positive ways to handle and cope with frustration.

This temperament type is common in children. The child shows: high activity, high frustration (or is easily discouraged). Parent educators Helen Neville and Diane Clark Johnson, authors of Temperament Tools: Working with Your Child’s Inborn Traits (Rev. Ed.), characterize this child as having ". . . energy that pushes him up and out. Then frustration pulls him down and back. Independence, then dependence: a continual dance of two steps forward, one step back." The children with these temperament traits really need their parents to patiently and consistently teach them problem solving--the very skills that will help them cope with frustration.

Tools--The following are a few keys to living with the active, easily-frustrated child, drawn from Temperament Tools.

Break tasks into small, easy parts. Talk out loud about how to do this. For example, say, "Let's see. Cleaning this room is a big job. How can we break it down into small parts? First, you pick up all the stuffed animals. Then I'll put away the books. You make the bed. Then I'll put the clothes away."

Plan ways to work around frustration. As a parent, plan your day so you can avoid or limit the amount of frustration your child has to experience. If he's wild after a short trip in the car, plan to do your errands after your spouse is home, or use a sitter. If you can't avoid a potential frustration situation, plan to do it early in the day when your child is fresh and rested.

Offer frequent encouragement. Praise his efforts, not just results. Say, "I see you're really working hard on that," or "Good! You're going back to try again." You can also praise partial success, "I'm glad you got most of those videos picked up."

Teach him how to ask for specific help. Say, "Hitting hurts people and things. When you're frustrated, use your words to say so and ask me for help." Encourage him to tell you what he can do and then ask for help with what he can't do. For example, "I can put this circle in the puzzle, but not this square."

You’ll find more practical tips you can use right now in Temperament Tools: Working with Your Child’s Inborn Traits (Rev. Ed.) by Helen F. Neville, B.S., R.N. with Diane Clark Johnson, CFLE.

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