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Dealing with frustration is a life skill that will be tested time and time again. How can we help our children learn to defuse frustration? Frustration arises when actions produce fewer results than one thinks (or wishes) they should. It also occurs when things happen over which we may have no control, for example: conflicts with friends, a need to do homework or to eat that despised dinner entrée on the table. The most effective way, perhaps the only way a parent can help defuse frustration isn’t easy. The method involves deep listening, responding in a way that encourages the child to explore his/her feelings, not giving advice or quick retorts, or asking questions. These things all shut down conversation. Allow the child to determine the conversation’s path. Phew! That’s a tall order when we have our own agendas.
First Aid: For a person in distress. Goal: Provide comfort enabling that person to have the freedom to deal with and solve a problem:
- Listen fully: This means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words, to listen to the emotions, not just the verbal words.
- Make sure you are not just showing interest but are really taking an interest.
- Acknowledge the feelings with short words, which might be as simple as an “uh-huh.” Less verbiage on your part is preferred and needed. Don’t bandage a cut with a plaster cast!
- Give a name to the feelings. “It is discouraging, isn’t it?” “You are very angry.”
- Granting a wish in a fantasy world. “I wish I had a magic wand to make this spot easy right now!” “I’ll make a list of the things that you want a fairy godmother for.”
- Accept the feelings at face value. You can’t change feelings with commands, arguments, explanations, reassurance or your hurt feelings and frustrations. The goal: enable the person to process his/her own feelings thus reaching a conclusion.
- Let the children express themselves in non-hurtful ways: draw their feelings, crumple paper, stomp their foot, throw something soft.
Parents are the managers of a young child’s musical study (and in fact for much of their daily activities.) Parents set the practice time and agenda and control the environment. Parents provide any needed supplies and take care of transportation. The advice of Nicholas Iuppa, an international business guru on managers applies to Suzuki parents: “Just being available and attentive is a great way to use listening as a management tool. Some employees will come in, talk for twenty minutes, and leave having solved their problems entirely by themselves.” Isn’t this what we want for our kids: the ability and self-confidence that is developed by solving their own problems?
© 2011 Susan A. Sommerville
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