Tips to avoid being frustrated with the kids

I adore my kids, but sometimes they cause me great frustration. The have been know to leave their stuff all over the house, whine when asked to do something, fight with each other, complain and even speak rudely to their parents!

On the flip side I know I frustrate them too! I can talk too much, I can have a tendency to comment on the small things, I can have high expectations of myself and others and I like things to be in their place!

I have been working on not getting frustrated so easily this year which has meant making the above observations about them and about me. If all frustration was to be avoided the points I listed would need to be eliminated by all of us. Easy fix really to avoid being frustrated with the kids! In reality however it is not that easy, nor do I think it is possible to avoid all frustration.

I do know however through trying that it is possible to reduce and avoid frustration with the kids. Here are some things that are working for me at the moment:

Don’t talk about them to yourself in your head

It is so easy to fall into the trap of talking about the kids in your head. We see their mess or hear their whining and off goes the inner voice, listing the litany of things they do to frustrate us and dwell on the negative. With this going on in our head, it is super hard to address the situation in a calm and considered manner. I will give you some examples to illustrate.

The adults are no longer always the last to bed in our house. Sometimes there are midnight snacks to be had when we are in bed by others and in the morning the evidence of the snacking is easy to be found. The offender may not have to be up early so I vent at the mess left behind in my head and recall other messes and frustrations to add to the mix and create a little negative frustration bomb ready to explode. When the offender awakens if I have kept this negative talk going, my first contact with them is generally a disaster. I let go my frustrations and then they let go their frustrations at what they see as me making a big deal over small things. Not a great start to the day for anyone!

Since I have been focusing on my own behaviour to reduce frustration, I have been approaching this situation differently. I allow myself a short inner mind vent, then take some deep breaths, leave the mess the way it is and push it from my mind. The discussion I have with the offender is then much calmer. I use a lot of “I” statements, explaining how I feel about the mess and ask if they can work on tidying it up before they go to bed. Their response is also calmer and the instances of mess left behind is now the exception not the norm – small wins need to be celebrated!

I am reminding myself constantly to acknowledge what ever the frustration is, work out a course of action and then stop talking about the issue in my head. Reminding myself that my focus needs to be on a solution and to do that I need to focus on the behaviour not the child. It is not smooth sailing for me with this yet, I do slip up. But I am noticing quicker and quicker when I am slipping up and sometimes, I can even change course midway through the my interaction and prevent it from blowing out.

Adjust your expectations

Noted at the start I have high expectations of myself and sometimes of others too. When I ask for something to be done, I would really like it to be done within a reasonable time from me asking for it to be done.To avoid feeling frustrated I really need to adjust my expectations and make sure they are reasonable.

I have also talked to the kids about how they can help me not become frustrated when I am asking them to do things. If they don’t think my request is reasonable, instead of ignoring it or complaining about it, they need to let me know and let me know when they can do it. For example the 11 year old loves to read and if I ask him to do something, instead of just ignoring me and continue reading his book, he will look up and might say he has a couple of pages left in the chapter and can he do it then. I say yes and we are all happy.

Teenagers are slightly different though and I have two approaches with this:

  • I ask them what time they think they can have a task done by and agree to it if it is reasonable.
  • If I need something done sooner rather than later, I adjust my expectations that it will not necessarily be done first time I ask, stay calm and ask again at regular intervals until it is done. Not ideal at all, but it gets a better result. The task gets done and neither of us ends up frustrated by the whole thing!

Question yourself

Sometimes my frustration isn’t based on a fair assessment of the situation. I need to question what am I really frustrated about. Am I really frustrated about the mess the kids have left in the bathroom, or am I a little over tired and am running out of patience? Do I need to get frustrated with the child who is whining because they don’t like dinner? No, I can just ignore it instead of taking it as a personal attack on my culinary skills!

Let it go

Once an issue has occurred and been resolved, I need to let it go and not hold onto the frustration. Much like the first point, I need to stop talking about the issue in my head, so I can enter into new conversations with the kids without the baggage of old issues.

It is very rare for the kids to try and deliberately frustrate me and I need to remember not to take it personally. It is most often an issue of competing demands. My demand and their demand for what they want to be doing. As the adult I need to role model forgiveness and grace and let go of hostilities so future interactions can be a positive experience for all of us.

How do you avoid being frustrated with the kids?

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Over my 18 years as a parent I have learned a tremendous amount and tried many things. Some have worked, some haven’t, some needed tweaking before they were quite right but through failing, learning, persisting and developing, I have created many plans and processes that have made our family life so much easier. Lots of this I have shared on the blog, but I wanted a way where I could collate all the key ideas into one place, in a logical order that other parents could follow and benefit from my hindsight.

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Comments 1

  1. I love this post, and your posts always come at the best time for me, just when I feel like I am dealing with the same issue! One strategy I have found helpful lately is from the idealistmom blog by Kelly Holmes. It’s called the Hair Tie Hack and it’s so simple. I put 3 hair ties (she recommends 5) on my wrist and if I do raise my voice or get frustrated with them, I have to move a hair tie to the other wrist. Then I do 5 positive things (say I love you, give them a hug, spend a few minutes playing a game, write a little note etc) to move the the relationship back to a positive state, and I can move the hair tie back. The funny thing is, I have barely had to use the 5:! rule since I started this (a few days ago), as just the visual reminder of the hair ties on my wrist is enough! 🙂

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