Children and Teens' Meltdowns and Frustration Tolerance Teaching

Feb 14, 2023
What to do when your child or teen's internal needs are not met and what happens when those needs are denied...Yes "meltdowns" and "gimmes" and how to deal with them.

How many times have parents heard the "4 W's" coming from their children? The 4 "W's" are the "WAIL", the "WALL, the "WHINE" and the "WANNA" - all hallmarks of a child's internal needs ad reactions when those needs are denied.

The expression FRUSTRATION TOLERANCE, a desired attainment for people of all ages is the ability to wait, to think through, to set aside anxieties, desires, or needs, and to COPE with not having immediate gratification.


Without parents' consistent modeling and shaping of behavioral reactions from the gate, frustration tolerance is more difficult for a child to learn: putting this simply, the inability to tolerate frustration and to learn alternative, socially acceptable self-soothing methods is one reason adults need anger management classes, fall prey to addictions (self-medicating behaviors with addictive substances or processes (like overworking), demonstrate the need for inappropriate "soothers" and why our nerves get the best of us.

Some simple parenting lessons to titrate in small doses of frustration help your child to begin the process of learning to self-soothe. Putting realistic doses of frustration into our children's lives is modeling the way the world works but on a very small scale. When teaching children how to wait, parents are demonstrating the power of self-control education.

Meltdowns, temper tantrums, and "pitching fits" are always what parents describe to me when their children are out of control and are blocked by parental limit setting. Yes, many times the limit is "no dessert before dinner, errand runs with your child do not include buying more toys, clothes or treats, etc. Sometimes it is to have your child as a helping companion in the car when marketing with your pre-arranged market list.(ask your child if there is one item they would add to your list).

Here is a shopping tip to help your child learn about delaying gratification and learning to decrease demands: before entering the market or mall, inside your car when you park, have a small envelope ready. Keep envelopes or post-its or index cards in your glove compartment (and nearby at home) -you can draw the trip's expectations pictorially or with words -- a simple round face with the word "NO" on the mouth area, or a STOP SIGN drawn for No Buying and to stop asking or even write the number 1 on your index card or post-it if you permit your child to buy one item and limit the price of that item by placing exact money in the chid's envelope - (ranging from 25 cents -$2,.00 is adequate). In the parked car before entering the market or mall, the child opens the envelope and you discuss the excursion's purpose and limits. The child must agree depending on age with the written word YES or an X or Circle for a young child which means "I agree"!

The blog to come will explain more about this teaching process with your children. Dr. Judy Bin-Nun