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Little Kids, Big Questions
is a series of 12 podcasts that translates the research of early childhood development into parenting practices that mothers, fathers and other caregivers can tailor to the needs of their own child and family. Click here to listen to or download the podcasts. This podcast series is generously funded by MetLife Foundation.

Temperamen: Persistence, Patience, and Frustration

Persistence means not giving up when faced with a challenge. It is the ability to stick with a difficult task and cope with frustration.

Children who are easily frustrated tend to get very upset the minute something doesn’t go their way, have a hard time waiting for attention or help, and may give up quickly when faced with a challenge.

Parenting Strategies for a Child Who is Easily Frustrated

  • If your child has to wait for something (food, attention, etc.), talk to him about what you are doing. For example, you might say, “I’m heating up your bottle right now” or “Daddy is taking his coat off and coming to give you a big hug.”

  • When your child falls apart, let her know that you appreciate how hard it can be:  “Puzzles are hard! It makes you so mad when the bear won’t fit in the space.” Then become her coach—help your child think through solutions without doing the work for her.  Suggest or demonstrate strategies for solving whatever problem she is facing.

  • Teach your child to pace himself. Offer time away from the frustrating task for a hug or a cozy snuggle with a book. Then return to the challenge with new energy.

  • Break the challenge into manageable parts—“Why don’t you put your thumb in first?  Then we will work together to get each of your fingers in the glove.”

  • Use humor. Children will appreciate it if, for example, you yell at the block that has fallen: “You silly block! You just won’t stay up there! Well, we’re not giving up!”

  • Be a role model. When you’re struggling to assemble a toy, try to remain calm. Say, “Wow, this is really hard! I could use some help figuring this out. Would you like to help?”

  • Remember, although your child may never be the most patient and persistent person, you can do a lot to help your child learn to cope.

Children who are persistent usually keep trying when faced with a challenge, are slower to "lose it" when they don’t get their way, and can tolerate waiting for their needs to be met.

Parenting Strategies for a Persistent Child

  • Join your child in his play. It’s easy to let your child play alone for long periods because he is less demanding of your presence. But your child needs and benefits from your interaction together, and you can help him build new skills.

  • As your child grows, let her know that everyone needs help sometimes and that you are available. Sometimes, children get so much positive feedback for being independent that it’s hard for them to ask for help when they do need it.  Other times, children who tend not to seek help may go unnoticed when they are truly "stuck" figuring out a problem or task.

  • Check to see whether your child is “spinning his wheels” by trying the same strategy over and over. Sometimes, persistent kids can get stuck this way. If it happens, suggest new ways to approach the challenge.

  • Help your child to let go sometimes. A persistent child may have a hard time accepting no for an answer. For example, even though you’ve said no more TV, your child keeps asking and asking. Be firm in your response and redirect her to something that she is allowed to do.




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