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Frustration vs. Defiant: How to spot the difference


Defiant child

As a parent, it can be difficult to know the difference between frustration and defiance in your child. Both behaviors can be challenging to deal with, but they require different approaches. I see a lot of parents respond to their child’s behavior as a reflex, rather than thinking about the cause or origin.


It is important to take in consideration your child’s age in this situation. A 5 year old vs a 10 year old will usually require different approaches.


Frustration is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences. It occurs when we are unable to achieve a goal or when something does not go our way. Frustration can manifest in a variety of ways, such as whining, crying, or lashing out.


Defiance, on the other hand, is a willful act of disobedience. It is often motivated by anger, resentment, or a desire to control the situation. Defiance can look like refusing to follow instructions, arguing, or sulking.


Here are some tips on how to spot the difference between frustration and defiance in your child:

  • Pay attention to your child's body language. When a child is frustrated, they may show signs of physical tension, such as clenched fists, furrowed eyebrows, or a tight jaw. They may also speak in a high-pitched voice or cry. When a child is defiant, they may make eye contact, cross their arms, or scowl. They may also speak in a sarcastic or challenging tone.

  • Consider the situation. Is your child frustrated because they are struggling with a task or because they are unable to do something they want to do? Or are they being defiant because they want to get their own way or because they are angry or upset?

  • Think about your child's developmental stage. Younger children are more likely to experience frustration because they have less control over their emotions and their environment. As children get older, they develop better coping skills and become more able to regulate their emotions.

How to deal with frustration


When your child is frustrated, it is important to help them calm down and develop coping skills. Here are some tips:

  • Validate your child's feelings. Let them know that it is okay to feel frustrated and that everyone experiences this emotion from time to time.

  • Help your child identify the source of their frustration. Once they know what is making them feel frustrated, they can start to develop coping strategies.

  • Offer your child support and guidance. Help them break down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Or, suggest alternative activities that they can do.

  • Take a break. If your child is becoming too overwhelmed, suggest taking a break from the task or situation. This will give them time to calm down and come back to the situation with a fresh perspective.

How to deal with defiance


When your child is defiant, it is important to remain calm and assertive. Here are some tips:

  • Give clear and concise instructions. State your expectations clearly and be consistent in enforcing them.

  • Offer choices. This will give your child a sense of control and make it more likely that they will cooperate.

  • Use positive reinforcement. When your child behaves as expected, be sure to praise them. This will help them learn that good behavior leads to positive consequences.

  • Set consequences. If your child is defiant, be prepared to follow through with consequences. This may mean taking away privileges or giving them a time out.


Just remember, this is a process and takes repetition. Consistency is key.


At Red Tiger Martial Arts in Sarasota we are dedicated to help support parents through taekwondo

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