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HomeHealth & BehaviorEmotional Well-Being

Ask the Experts

My Child Gets Frustrated and Won't Accept Help

By Dr. Michelle Alvarez, Consulting Educator

Question:

My daughter gets very frustrated if things do not come easily to her or if she makes a lot of mistakes while doing her homework. She pushes away help and wants to try to do it herself. But she ends up getting more and more frustrated. This is not only relevant to her homework but also extends to sports and piano.

How can I help her?

Answer:

Trying to do things perfectly could stem from anxiety or fear of failure. At a time when she is not frustrated, talk with your daughter in general terms about dealing with frustration. Tell her you noticed that she gets frustrated very easily and ask her how you might support her when she is frustrated. Ask her to describe times when she is not frustrated. From the examples she gives you see if you can identify anything that will assist her in times of frustration (e.g., it was a certain time of day, some homework is easier, she did homework with a friend). The dialogue could go something like this:

Mom:

"I have noticed lately that you seem to get frustrated easily when you are doing your homework, have you noticed that?"

Daughter:

"A little bit."

Mom:

"Can you tell me about times when you are doing your homework that you don't get frustrated?"

Then take what you have learned and see if you can jointly come up with strategies for decreasing her frustration level. You also might be interested in an online resource produced by the National Association of School Psychologists for parents that recommends breaking tasks down into smaller more manageable chunks and changing her thinking about mistakes.

If these strategies do not work I would suggest either having a student services professional (school counselor, school social worker, or school psychologist) or a therapist talk with you and your daughter about her frustration level. School-based personnel can address the issues at school, and a therapist (social worker or psychologist) can assist you addressing the issue as a family. Then the mental health professional will identify the root causes of feeling the need to be perfect and develop strategies with you for decreasing her level of frustration, with the goal of helping her to be more successful in completing her homework, playing sports and playing the piano.


Dr. Michelle Alvarez is an adjunct professor at the University of Southern Indiana and project director of Safe Schools/Healthy Students for the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation. A former school social worker in Pinellas County, Florida, she is co-editor of School Social Work: Theory to Practice and chair of the National Association of Social Workers, School Social Work Section. She is also the parent of a special needs child.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

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