ASK THE EXPERTS

How Can I Help My Impatient Child?

By Dr. Joseph Gianesin, Behavioral Consultant

Question:

My daughter, who is a second-grader, is dealing with some difficulties in her studies. She wants to get things fast like some of her classmates, but doesn't move at the same pace, which is understandable. But she doesn't understand that it's OK, and gets very frustrated and angry when she doesn't get something right on the first try.

Answer:

Each child has her own pace in which she can complete things. In fact, educators now realize that many children learn differently and at different rates.

One initial strategy is to find out what your child's learning strength is. It can be visual, auditory, kinesthetic or experiential. This is useful knowledge so your child can maximize her ability to learn which one works best for her. It also will help the teacher and you present material to her strength.

The issue of her getting frustrated and angry over not getting something right on the first try shows a lack of self-confidence. For many children, modeling is an important method to demonstrate how you handle frustration and tolerance. Playing games like "Connect Four" or "Sorry" and putting puzzles together gives you the opportunity to model how you handle frustration.

For example, I like to "think out loud" in front of the child, letting her hear how an adult might handle disappointment or frustration. "Sorry" is a great game to do this, as no matter how much skill one has, you often have to go back and start over. I might say something like, "I'm really upset, but I think I can handle it. I'm going to keep trying." I know this sounds a bit dramatic, but children listen carefully to those words and soon she will be saying the same message.

Modeling perseverance and tenacity about completing the task without crying or emotional upset will come in time and as she becomes more confident in her ability to handle disappointment.

Dr. Joseph Gianesin is a professor at Springfield College School of Social Work. He has more than 25 years of experience as a child and family therapist, a school social worker and a school administrator. Along with his academic appointment, Dr. Gianesin is a program and behavioral consultant for public schools in Massachusetts, helping them develop and manage programs for children with significant mental health problems.

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.