The title of this blog is from a quote by Veruca Salt, the spoiled child in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Whenever Veruca saw something she wanted (which was quite often), she simply told her daddy about her desire, and her father did whatever it took to get that item for his covetous daughter. I suggest that the Verucas of the world, regardless of their gender or age, might get easily frustrated when things do not instantly go their way.
I am not sure, but there may be a connection between a child whose parent(s) gave them whatever s/he wanted, and that child getting frustrated when things don’t go smoothly. Nevertheless, I am not going to examine the parent’s role in his or her child’s inability to control their temper, but I am going to discuss some tactics that might help the easily frustrated to think differently, or rationally about his or her frustration. I think that parents who use such tactics model strategies their children can use to control their upset.
I am one who sometimes has low frustration tolerance (Ellis & Harper, 1977)—I tolerate little frustration. For example, if I expect that I should have a relaxing Saturday morning but find that there is no milk for my breakfast cereal (because on Friday, I forgot to stop for milk on my way home from work), I might get extremely frustrated. I tell myself, “I am so stupid for not stopping at the store” or “I can’t stand going to the store on Saturday morning.” Ellis and Harper would insist that saying I am stupid or that I can’t stand a trip to the store is irrational. Though I did forgot to shop for milk, I am not stupid. And, while I may not like going to the store on Saturday morning, I am not likely to shrivel-up and die from such a trip. My wailing and ranting will neither help me to feel better, nor miraculously cause milk to appear in my refrigerator. People who tell themselves irrational statements about a situation are likely to lock themselves from finding a solution to that situation.
Thankfully, there is another way to respond to my frustration with the absence of milk in the fridge: I can maturely accept the situation as it is–I forgot to stop at the store, and there is no milk in my refrigerator. Those are rational statements, which can be proven. I could even tell myself that I am disappointed with my forgetfulness, or that I hate an unplanned trip to the store. People who make rational statements about a situation are free to look for ways to improve that situation. For example, by telling myself that there is no milk in my fridge, I might decide to mix up some powdered milk (a staple in my house), fry an egg, or go to the store for milk.
Thankfully, Ellis acknowledges that it is not easy for humans to change their thinking—I have to overcome 58 years of irrational thinking! Nevertheless, Ellis makes clear that with work and practice, people can get better at replacing irrational statements with rational ones . By using this tactic, I am more likely to “feel and behave more maturely and fulfillingly” (p. 138). I am also more likely to help my children learn to develop higher frustration tolerance.
If you want additional information for guiding your child’s behavior, here is a link to the Making Caring Common site at Harvard Graduate School of Education: https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/parenting-resources-raising-caring-ethical-children