Coaching children to manage frustration

Emotional coaching in general is the acknowledgement from us that we need to coach and support children to learn how to recognise and regulate their emotions.

Coaching means you describe your child's emotions. Focus mostly on the positive emotions and try to use different words for emotions. This helps them to develop an emotional vocabulary.

When they show negative emotions [restricted] and you name the emotions it will validate the feeling and give them a name for what they are feeling. Over time they will learn what the feeling is called and they will be able to talk about it instead of reacting to it. Once you are able to recognise the feeling you can learn how to manage the feeling.

Often as parents we are uncomfortable with negative emotions. Parents do not cope well in general with an angry frustrated child. Especially when the anger is towards the parent. We often learn to suppress these emotions and not show it freely. Socially this is usually acceptable but if we never learn to communicate these negative emotions is a socially acceptable way relationships become very difficult. All emotions are valid, it’s how we act on them that we need to learn.

Distracting a frustrated child is in general not a bad idea but sometimes you do need to learn how to persist and work through the frustration.

Coaching the child through frustration is called persistence coaching (Caroline Stratton- Webster) thus helping the child recognise when they are starting to feel frustrated while doing something or they are struggling a little bit and naming that.

Part of the success when doing this is to predict that it might be a little tricky. Then commenting early on, on the fact that they are trying despite the fact that it is tricky. When they do get frustrated you can make suggestions through descriptive commenting (describing in detail what you notice they are doing) on what they can try to do differently. But with the understanding that it is only a suggestion and they can decide not to follow it. ‘Maybe if you try and turn it the other way around.’

Usually when you do descriptive commenting, persistence coaching is a natural step when you comment on the trickiness of the situation. This can help the child to stay focus and stay relatively calm while they are trying to figure it out. Your subtle suggestions help them to try other ways of solving the problem and thus they learn problem solving.

It is VERY important that you do not take over. SIT ON YOUR HANDS. This process is like a butterfly breaking out of the cocoon. The struggle is necessary to learn new skills. You can do it better than they can and they know that…you don’t have to prove it.

Based on Incredible Years parenting program.

Coaching can take many forms:
Naming emotions –theirs and your own
Validating emotions when they are expressed
Talking about emotions through stories, role-plays or puppets, about possible emotions in different scenarios.
Check out all the posts dealing with emotional coaching and emotional regulation.

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