There’s Beauty in the Struggle:

Teaching Our Kids to Tolerate Frustration

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

We had a child therapist friend over for dinner the other night who shared an observation with us that really stuck with me.

She watched Emma, our 3 1/2-year-old daughter, as she circled her chair at the dining room table and tried a few times to climb up. She made it eventually and then struggled to get her feet out from under her so she could sit comfortably. Deb and I were distracted, talking to our friend. We didn’t even notice it.

So often, she said, when a parent sees their child struggling like that, they instinctively will just go and pick them up and plop them down on the chair without thinking. It wasn’t our intention at that moment to let her struggle and figure out how to get onto the chair herself, so no gold star for us. It was an accident, but it is such an important lesson.

Witnessing our kids struggling to do things can be so triggering for us as parents. It can trigger memories of similar struggles in our pasts. It can make us anxious, impatient, or angry. It can trigger the rescue instinct to just fix it for them to alleviate their pain (and ours too).

As parents, we have to try and distinguish, often in real time, between what our kids want and what they need, or what is best for them. That’s not easy, especially when whatever they are engaged in is triggering for us.

When our friend shared her observation, she described the beauty in her struggle, of mastering something on her own and how empowering it must feel for a child her age to gain more independence.

We tend to associate struggling with overcoming and not necessarily with the decision to engage in the struggle and the corresponding benefits, irrespective of whether or not we overcome the obstacle.

Next time you’re in a situation where you see your child struggling to achieve something, try to take a step back and pause before acting. Pay attention to what your triggers are and think about why that situation is triggering you. This process will benefit your children immensely without ever having to say a single word.

David B. Younger, Ph.D is the creator of Love After Kids, for couples that have grown apart since having children. He is a clinical psychologist and couples therapist with a web-based private practice, and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 12-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.

Originally published at

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


Tired of being called a bad parent because your kid is fat?

by N'Dèye Fana Gueye

What Happened When I Discovered That Giving Back is a Gift to Both the Giver and the Receiver

by Darrin Tulley
VMG Studios producer Cyndi Butz-Houghton with her daughter on a Zoom call while working remotely

How to Balance Being a Full-Time Employee and Part-Time Teacher During COVID-19

by Kelly Sparks

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.