Ma On Shan Montessori playgroup: 8 Helpful Phrases To Use With a Frustrated Toddler

Ma On Shan Montessori playgroup: 8 Helpful Phrases

Frustrated Toddler? Ma On Shan Montessori Playgroup has Some Tips on How to Effectively Deal with Them

Frustration is something that people of all ages experience. It is particularly common in toddlers. Why? Toddlers are at a developmental stage where they are starting to enjoy doing things for themselves and being more independent, but do not yet have the motor skills and experience to be fully proficient in the new tasks they are taking on.

As a result, there may be several things throughout their day that they want to do but are not yet able to do. The skills will come eventually, of course, but between now and then, a toddler may experience significant frustration. Fortunately, parents and caregivers can help diffuse that frustration by using some time-tested phrases to talk to a frustrated toddler.

Words to Calm an Exasperated Child

A toddler in your care is struggling to get their shoes on, solve a puzzle or complete a fun kitchen task that you have assigned them, and their frustration level is rising rapidly. The eight phrases below work well to diffuse the situation and prevent a minor difficulty from producing a major meltdown.

  1. “I see/hear you.” In many cases, a toddler simply wants to know that they are not alone when faced with a challenge. They may not even want any help or advice on how to address the challenge—just reassurance that support is available.
  2. “You are working very hard on that!” Letting a toddler know that you are aware of the effort they are putting into a task can help them stay focused on it longer, if that is their goal (and yours).
  3. “That’s a tough challenge.” They may not express it verbally, but a frustrated toddler is probably thinking, “This is really difficult!” Just knowing that you agree with their assessment of the task or challenge can be reassuring to them.
  4. “Some things are hard for me to do, too.” It is good for a toddler to hear that adults also face difficult challenges. That knowledge can help them see their struggles with the current activity not as a failure but just as part of being human.
  5. “I’m here if you need help with that.” This is a great way to give a toddler the “space” they need to keep working on a task while at the same time letting them know that assistance is available.
  6. “What part of that can I help with?” Children are good at finding “wins” where they can. If they can complete the first part of a task and then you help with the second part, that enables them to maintain a sense of accomplishment and independence. It also helps them understand that asking for help does not mean a task will be “taken away from them” entirely.
  7. “Would you like to take a break and try again later?” Toddlers see examples all around them of adults taking a break as needed. Not only does encouraging them to do so give them time to regroup physically and mentally, it helps them see similarities between themselves and their parents or caregivers.
  8. “How are you feeling right now?” It can be helpful to draw a child’s attention to an emotional state like frustration, particularly if you then encourage a strategy that helps them complete a task. Over time, they start to develop a positive association with feeling frustrated, changing tactics on a task (resting, getting help on part of it, etc.) and feeling better about the challenge. This helps them develop a “bend but don’t break” attitude about the many types of challenges life throws at us.


Turning Obstacles Into Opportunities

The benefits of being patient and using the phrases above go far beyond simply helping a toddler handle a particular task more effectively. Over time, they start to see challenges not as things that make them frustrated, sad or angry, but instead as opportunities for ultimately experiencing a happy outcome.

In fact, when adults help children address frustrating circumstances in a positive way, it can lead to them becoming a teen and adult who is actually eager to help resolve problems—their own and the problems of others!