How to Toddlers Show Frustration Preschooler: 5 Steps
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A frustrated toddler will give you clues about how she's feeling.

Toddlers spend a significant amount of time exploring and learning new skills. As toddlers stay busy examining and questioning, it’s common for them to experience frustration from a variety of sources. As a parent to young children, you need to learn how toddlers show frustration so you can help them deal with annoyances, anger and vexation.


  1. 1
    When a toddler tries to manipulate a toy to make it work or concentrates intently on achieving something with objects, it’s common for the toddler to become frustrated if she doesn’t have success fairly quickly. Because toddlers don’t have long attention spans or the ability to stick with a difficult task, frustration often occurs when something doesn’t work as they want it to work. If the objects are small enough to throw, the toddler might just loft them across the room at the point of giving up and becoming too frustrated to continue trying.
  2. 2
    Crying is an excellent clue that your child is frustrated. Without extensive oral skills, crying is the toddler’s go-to communication method to show distress and frustration. Whether the situation involves a toy that won’t work, a sibling that won’t cooperate or an adult thwarting the child’s ability to explore the kitchen countertop, a frustrated toddler often cries when frustrated and presented with obstacles he can’t resolve.
  3. 3
    When a frustrated toddler doesn’t receive parental assistance and intervention at the crying stage, frustration can escalate to a temper tantrum. Again, the toddler’s limited verbal skills make it difficult for her to express her frustration with words, so screaming and yelling often result. A variety of situations can cause a toddler’s frustration level to rise. If a toddler is tired or hungry, it could even be something as simple as hearing the word “no” when the toddler wants to go outside to play or when it’s time to get ready for bed.
  4. 4
    A frustrated toddler can become an aggressive toddler in some situations. According to Dr. William Sears, a toddler might use aggressive behavior such as hitting, pulling hair, head butting and biting as communication methods. Aggressive behaviors in toddlers often occur when the child cannot express frustration and anger and feels overwhelmed by the emotions. The aggressive action releases the anger and may also be an attempt to exert control over a situation. For example, if a toddler wants a toy that another child is using, the toddler could become overwhelmed with frustration and anger at not receiving the toy when he wants it. Because he can’t ask for the toy and might not understand the concept of waiting for a turn, he might reach out and pull the other child’s hair or hit the child.
  5. 5
    Some degree of frustration can be positive for toddlers because it helps them learn and advance their skills. Parents can help toddlers avoid negative behavior by avoiding and preventing some difficult situations. For example, when a toddler is tired or hungry, the child might experience frustration more easily. To avoid escalating frustration turning into negative behavior such as screaming or hitting, avoid frustrating situations and also set clear limits about what is acceptable behavior. If the child lashes out with aggression, correct the child with words. A short time-out and redirection to another activity should also help interrupt the negative behavior.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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