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Bag of frustration

I noticed it a touch too late when Z, who is 7, had already started throwing things outside.

I noticed it a bit too late to save her magic wand.

I saw the magic wand broken into pieces and Z upset about it, and also still filled with frustration.

"I'm sad that I broke my wand!" she screamed "Where are my sunglasses?! I still need to destroy something!!! I'm so frustrated!!!!"

It had been a long week with lots of events and fun things to do. But too much of a good thing is still too much. Her system was full to the brim and she needed to let everything out. I had no idea what frustrated her right then and there, but it didn't really matter - her frustration tolerance was probably really low from the whole week of "doing" and "fun", and not enough down time and space.

It was not the time for breathing, or meditating, or trying any other way of calming down.

It was not the time for a logical conversation about how destroying her favourite sunglasses was probably not such a good idea in the long run.

It was not the time to ask what happened, it didn't matter.

She knew exactly what her body needed, and we only needed to make sure it is safe for her (in the short and long term) and for her belongings.

We quickly threw a bunch of old papers on the floor and I started ripping one into pieces. Z saw me, turned around a joined me without a moment of hesitation.

She ripped.

She ripped.

She ripped...

She ripped until there was no more ripping energy left in her - we noticed that she slowed down, smiled to herself and started picking up ripped pieces and colouring them, cutting bits of and creating art. It was done. The floor was covered in ripped bits of paper...

Z's dad knelt down and opened his arms, and they cuddled for a while until she was ready to go. Without unnecessary words they put all the pieces of ripped paper into a big bag. "This is my bag of frustration" Z announced. "Now, where are my sunglasses, I want to go out." Phew...

Frustration - like any other emotion - needs an outlet. According to Gordon Neufeld there are three ways of letting it come out: activities that are destructive, activities that are constructive and activities that make us sad.

Destructive activities are Z's instinctual way of dealing with frustration. They can be:

  • hitting, throwing or punching (bean bags on cardboard are very satisfying, they also make a great sound)

  • kicking,

  • screaming,

  • ripping paper

Constructive activities can be:

  • baking, cooking

  • building things out of clay, play dough, mud

Moving from mad to sad: if we're frustrated about things that are not going the way we want, and there is no way to change them, one of the best things to do is have a cry about it. To help we might:

  • listen to sad music

  • watch a sad movie

  • tell a sad story

To support our children in their daily frustrations (and it does surface daily, the world provides ample opportunities to practice) we need to get comfortable with our own frustration, and learn about it. Children seem to know what they need - if we provide a safe environment (physically and emotionally) and safe company, we can quickly notice what their body needs to do to let it come out. With us it might be more tricky - after all, a lot of us (me included) have learn to not feel the uncomfortable, not to let our frustrations come out.

How do you deal with your own frustration?

What is your favourite way to let it out of your body?

I have a tennis racket. I do not play tennis ;)

As always, we start with ourselves.

With care,


If you want to befriend your own frustration hop on my online course "Parenting through Anger".

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