How Do You Handle Frustration?

We’ve ALL been there.

Frustrated to our wit’s end, sometimes we marvel at how expertly our children push us to the breaking point, as though that is their only object in mind. Other times we remember: they are just kids. We would not expect the priorities and agendas of young (or not so young) children to always to match our own.

While being pulled and tugged in so many different directions, there are usually several moments in a day when we must choose to either let sanity snap, or to find some way to hold it all together.

Preferring the latter, I would love to have more ideas in my arsenal. So what works for you? Counting to ten? To twenty? To one hundred? Please share whatever effective strategies you have!

What are some positive ways you have found to manage frustration in the heat of the moment?


  1. Hilary says

    I really try to verbalize my feelings just like I want my kids to. I also set the timer for 10 minutes and remind them that I am in need of a “moment” and they need to NOT bother me, I’m in time out.

    They seem to get it, except the baby. I just pray she’s in a nap at that point.

  2. Allyson Reynolds says

    More often than not these moments happen because either I or my children are tired, hungry, or need a little TLC. Sometimes letting go of my agenda and stopping to indulge my child for a minute by reading a book together or focusing in on them in a nurturing way will make us BOTH calm down and act better. I know this sounds counterintuitive, and I have certainly had my own “time-outs” many times like the previous comment mentioned, but the opposite reaction has also worked for me.

  3. Shawna says

    I like your idea of verbalizing in the way you’d expect your kids to. Do you have any tips for keeping voice under control (i.e. not yelling, shouting as you verbalize) and/or what to do if your kids ignore you? My most exasperated self comes out when they ignore my patient voice (sometimes repeating the same thing 3+ times). Any ideas?

  4. Melanie Vilburn says

    Wow! I love the ideas moms are putting here. I’m for sure going to come back and check this article again for more ideas that follow!

    My arsenal…hmmm, surrender and pray. If it absolutely falls under the category of impossible for me, it’s very reassuring to know NOTHING is impossible to God. Prayer is such a wonderful insta-flare to send up. It shows one’s exact location and hopes for a win/win solution. Trusting that God’s got the master map, regardless if one feels worthy to even ask for His help or not, gives an incredible advantage in those perplexing situations that arise through out the day. It also gives our kids a super example of what to do when they face their impossible situations.

    I’ve learned that there is a reason God constantly lets us face those impossible situations. At least for me, without them, He might not ever win a relationship with me and vice versa. And, as far as I know, that’s the most important purpose for coming here: building that relationship with Him as strong as possible.

  5. Melanie Vilburn says

    If I can add just one other thought…

    A gentle perspective of this is that children, in their developing ways, are trying to help us reach the “connecting point” with God, not the “breaking point.”

    If we can model connecting, our kids will have a chance to learn the connecting steps too.

    I appreciate the apostle Paul for mentioning he counted his wins as losses for Christ and all his losses as wins for Christ, simply due to the relationship, knowing Christ, that is an option to win through those losses. (Phillipians 3:7-21)

    For many years I worshipped and served God and knew OF Him, but at the same time I was sadly aware I couldn’t say I knew Him personally. It was at these “rock and a hard place” times where expiramenting on meekness bridged the gap. Now it’s just a matter of REMEMBERING to be meek. Don’t get me wrong, that’s NOT easy, but it’s always an option, thank heavens.

  6. Shawna says

    I have to agree, Melanie. Praying is one of the most effective helps I’ve found. Countless times, even with just a silent prayer, I’ve had that instant spark of inspiration, “Say this…” or “Do this…”, that has worked surprisingly well. Sometimes I botch the process by losing my patience before I even think to pray. And sometimes I think we are expected to rely on our own experience and strength, but prayer is always worth a try!

  7. Bonnie says

    My mom was in a crazy situation last week. She was substituting for a class of 36 sixth graders in the last week of school. She has 20 years of experience as she is a retired teacher. Anyway, this class of 36 was loud and out of control. She said she was about to scream! Nothing she tried seemed to get their attention. But instead of screaming she decided to try singing! She heard a kid say where is that coming from and another replied the teacher! In less than 2 minutes the entire room was quiet! She was able to go on with the rest of the day. Once, she did threaten to sing again and some of the kids said go ahead it was nice! Luckily she didn’t have to. I told her I was going to try it at home!

  8. April says

    I’ve been contemplating my answer to this question all week. Whenever I’ve found myself in a frustrating situation, I’d think, “How AM I handling this?” Here’s what I decided:

    (1) I write it out. I have a little page in my planner where I record the details of my life’s craziness. It’ll look something like this, “Pancake batter splattered everywhere, Spencer is screaming like crazy, I’m exhausted, the house is a wreck, I’m trying to fill out book order forms, I haven’t exercised all week, and I am still in my pajamas at 10 a.m.” My hope is that someday I’ll look back at that little paragraph and think, “Oh yeah, that WAS a hard time!” I have lots of little paragraphs like that, and they do seem funnier as time passes. Who could predict half the things mothers find themselves doing/feeling?

    (2) I pretend like I’m a doctor. I diagnose and prescribe. Whenever I’m frustrated, I ask, “What’s the reason for this?” Usually I’m tired or hungry (like Allyson said), but sometimes I’ve overscheduled, I’m worried about an obligation I haven’t yet gotten to, or I’m feeling upset with myself for some reason or another. That’s when I prescribe a nap, or some serious “family clean-up time,” or a long shower, or something else that will help the situation.

    (3) I cry. I know that’s not the best option, but sometimes I need a good cry (preferably when the children aren’t watching). Usually I cry to my husband (he’s gotten really good at not trying to solve anything, but just let me get it all out). Once I cry and then sleep, things usually seem much better.

    (4) I do try to verbalize things as much as possible to my children: “Mommy has been trying really hard to help you this morning, but when you fight with each other, I feel sad. I’m really tired right now, and I am paying close attention to how you’re acting because your behavior determines your bedtime.” When I have logical consequences for them, and when I can keep my voice calm, everything else seems to go more smoothly.

    (5) Yelling isn’t an option. This one is really hard, but I discovered that yelling just gets me more upset, so my goal is to keep my voice even. I have to breathe deeply and summon all my strength to do this sometimes, but I can honestly say that it works. A friend once taught me, “If your children don’t listen to you, it’s because you’re speaking too much or too loudly.” When I can speak with my children respectfully, they are much more obedient and respectful, as well. I know it’s hard not to yell, but it is possible.

    Okay, that was a long answer!

  9. Melanie Vilburn says

    Something my spouse and I are practicing is to whisper gently to our kids when chaos is present or when conflict arises. We watch to see which of our kids listen and respond to our gentle, calm, quiet voice. We track to see who’s in good listening shape and then work out and keep training those that aren’t. This may seem silly. What purpose do we feel this fulfills?

    Well, we know we’re not always going to be around here. Life is transient. People can pass away at any time. We trust that we’ll mostly likely become guardian angels to our kids if we ever do unexpectedly pass on. We want them to be able to hear us to help them through their upcoming life trials.

    We want that asset intact because we invested the time and cultivated and nurtured their ability to listen, respond, and do their best to understand.

  10. Lindsay says

    Said this on 6-16-2010 At 01:45 pm
    These are some GREAT ideas, ladies! To be honest, I’m not that good at handling frustration. I would say it’s one of my greatest weaknesses as a mother, but this question has made me reflect on the times when I have weathered through the crisis o.k.

    Prayer is definitely one way to do it. I think that’s one of the main reasons we become mothers. To come closer to God and to look heavenward. Aren’t we all trying to become more like him? Who better to seek out, to get answers and to find comfort in those most trying times. I usually catch myself glancing heavenward and proclaiming, “Please help me get through this. I don’t have the answer or know how to deal with this.” It usually helps me take a minute and reflect, as well as simmer down.

    I also agree with Allyson. I usually get most frustrated and snap when I’m trying to work on a project or am in the middle of something and my children insist on having my attention. I can usually avoid a meltdown (myself included) if I just stop for a minute, give them the attention that they need, and fill up their “love tanks.” Then we can both part our ways feeling better.

  11. Amy K says

    You have all given such good ideas. This is work in progress to me. I would have to agree with Allyson and April, if I try to see the reason behind why my patience is dwindling and why my temperature is rising, I realize it’s usually always ME. When I change, my kids seem to change as well. When I yell or get mad, all that happens is I get more mad, and my kids ears close up and it goes right through them. When I speak kindly and patiently and even pleadingly, they seem to get it.

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