Addressing Key Frustrations With Your Child

  • Written by Maren Stark Schmidt

"If life is a bowl of cherries, why am I in the pits?" The late Erma Bombeck knew how to see the humor in day-to-day reality.

Maintaining a positive and forward moving life is a challenge to say the least.  Life has a way of helping us misplace our sense of humor in a hurry. Some days the sailing is smooth with fluffy breezes, while on others we might have to restrain ourselves from self-inflicted baldness.

In our efforts to fix problems, we might be best served by stepping back and examining our frustrations. Instead of trying to affix blame by saying "that’s your fault’ or "that’s my fault," we need to understand why the problem occurred.  Let’s ask instead,  "What is causing this frustration?"

Consider what is going on at the moment you feel frustrated and jot it in a notebook. I used to keep a slip of paper in my pocket to capture those instances then transfer my annoyances to a notebook. These incidents included people being late for appointments, telephone interruptions, spilled foods, children squabbling, stopping an activity to prepare snacks, etc.  I’d record the day, time and event in my notebook and any other issues that I thought might be of value.  

Noting these rough spots helped me ascertain the true causes and effects later, as a pattern began to emerge.

After noting problems for a couple of weeks I was able to determine the design of most of my frustrations.  Looking at my notes I asked, "Are certain events more common at a certain time of day, on specific days or with predictable people or activities?"

When I am able to pick out common elements and themes, it becomes clear what needs to change. 

When my daughters were about three and four, one of my major frustrations was bedtime. Most nights the girls would go to bed without too many delays. 

Except for the nights that my children seemed to have had a cup of espresso for dinner. There were tears about the lights being turned off.  They needed a glass of water.  Or to go to the bathroom.  They were hungry. They wanted another story, another song, another prayer. They were too hot.  Too cold.  They couldn’t find their teddybear.  They heard a strange noise.  The neighbor’s light bothered them. One of them hit the other one.

On those nights I didn’t know what to do. Whatever I did, bedtime was anything but restful, and it felt like it was my fault. Surely, I was doing something wrong.

When I looked over my frustration notebook, I discerned a design. The nights that the girls were reluctant sleepers were the nights that their dad was out of town, back from a trip, had called to tell them goodnight, or arrived home for the evening 30 minutes before bedtime. Ah! Hah! My daughters’ nocturnal activities were directed toward trying to secure "daddy time." 

Once I saw the pattern, I was able to anticipate my daughters’ need for "daddy time" and work with my husband to coordinate phone calls and arrival times. On the nights my husband was out of town, the girls and I spent a few minutes drawing a picture for him, or I’d tell a special "daddy" story.

Looking in my notebook I found that my daughters’ disruptions weren’t their fault or my fault, or even my husband’s fault. I saw that if we couldn’t have a bowl of cherries, we could have at least have a "chair of bowlies."  We didn’t have to settle for the pits.

Next week: Leave It Ready For The Next Person

Kids Talk TM is a column dealing with childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt.  Ms. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland. She has over twenty-five years experience working with children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale.  Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Visit  Copyright 2013.

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