4 Year Old Gets Frustrated

Updated on November 10, 2009
C.G. asks from Fort Collins, CO
6 answers


I have a 4 year old boy who gets frustrated easily. If he is trying to do something and it's not going his way he will start whining and fussing until it gets resolved. Sometimes he will resolve what's frustating him while whining and sometimes not. Our appproach is to ignore the whining/crying over the frustation but it still happens more than I would like. My question is this a development stage that he will outgrow, something unique to my child's personality, or a combination of both? If it's developmental at what age does this tend to pass?

Also if anyone has a book they would recommend for developmental stages for this age I would appreciate it.


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answers from Denver on

Can he recognize his own feelings? Is he telling you he is frustrated? Does he recognize that he has options on how to deal with his frustration? Maybe he is that kind of kid, more sensitive to frustration, & is having a hard time knowing how to deal with it. Maybe, although I know how exhausting it can be to hear the whining as our daughter get frustrated easily too, it might help to help him try & work it through so that he learns how to mange these feelings & so that he learns what his options are when he is frustrated. Eg. he can express his frustration by saying "I'm frustrated." He can stop what he is doing & come back to it in a minute. He can maybe do a grunt & then approach it with new insight. Or maybe he can do a belly breath. These are all the techniques we are using for our daughter when she get frustrated. The hope for me is that with these techniques she will learn how to identify & manage her feelings herself rather than just whining. I hope this helps.
p.s. If you like what I am saying, I highly recommend checking out "Raising an emotionally intelligent Child." by Gottman. It is one of my top three parenting books. All gold.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

It's a bit of both. It actually sounds like a mild reaction to frustration - some kids even at 4 get so frustrated that they melt down into tantrums (mine did ... still do sometimes and they're 6 and 8).

I would ignore the whining itself. But help him resolve the issue. First, he needs to be able to put a name on what he is feeling. Say "I can see you are feeling frustrated. What is the problem?" Then help him think of ways to solve it "So what can we do to fix it?" Suggest a few ways if he is stuck, say "Maybe we can ___. Do you want to try that?" and if he gives any suggestions, you can also say "Shall we try that?"

If he is whiny when he's talking to you or asking you for something, you can simply say "I'm sorry, I can't understand you. I need you to use your big boy voice." And then make sure you comment when he does use a big boy voice, so he knows that is what you mean when you ask for a big boy voice "Thank you for using your big boy voice" is enough recognition most of the time. (Note - you don't have to give him what he asks for just because he doesn't whine. Recognize that he did ask the right way, but you can't give it to him because __)

It can take kids some time to grow out of whining. And dealing with frustration appropriately is an ongoing process, even for adults. Help him to stay calm and brainstorm solutions. As he gets older, he will encounter frustrations that are larger than what he deals with now (it's part of life!) but what you're teaching him now can transfer directly to dealing with whatever comes his way later on. It's worth it!



answers from Boise on

My oldest would get really frustrated, and sometimes he still gets frustrated, but what we would do is to tell him to not get frustrated, but to try it a different way. If it isn't working that way try another way. It makes them more creative if you help them know that there is more than one way to figure something out. We never told him how to do it, just said quit whining and try a different way. The whining and crying stopped almost instantly because if it wasn't working the first way, he would stop and try it another way.



answers from Provo on

I don't have any experience with this, but I am reading "How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen and Listen so They Will Talk," and I think you might find it helpful. It talks about acknowledging kids' feelings rather than ignoring or denying them. One idea was to give the child a pencil and paper, and ask him to draw what he was feeling. This might be a good way for your son to express his frustration so that he can move on from it.



answers from Colorado Springs on

Yes. My boys both went through the frustration stage, my kids each had different versions of it & my ADHD baby is still dealing with it. My neighbor's favorite saying to her nearly-4 is "adapt & overcome". Of course she's explained to him that it means that if it's not working this way, he needs to try another way (adapt) & either keep trying til he gets it or move on to something else (overcome)
I don't have any books for development, sorry.



answers from Salt Lake City on

My youngest is this way. Didn't really have this problem with my oldest, so I too am wondering if it's 'just a stage' or if it will continue for some time. We have tried most of the things others have suggested from time to time (some not but I may give them a try), and I think there's some good advice. I try to get DS to tell me what is frustrating him, and also try to get him to not worry about it so much. He doesn't like to fail, which I think is part of the problem.

Next question: OMG, Stop the WHINING!!!! WOW!!!