Hang around teenagers long enough and you will hear the phrase “doing too much.”

The expression is often used when someone puts forth more effort than is required, like when someone calls you 20 times in one day, or when a partygoer breaks out in a choreographed dance routine when most attendees just sway to the music.

In short, it is what’s “annoying,” “bothersome,” or “way above average.” While the figure of speech is comical when applied to the above situations, it is also expressed by children in a way that is not so funny.

Some children use “doing too much” when hit with challenges, circumstances, or demands beyond their comfort level, no matter how low their comfort level is. For example, students may use the term when receiving difficult assignments or when challenged about their inappropriate behavior. Many parents are perceived as “doing too much” by children who feel frustrated when they are told to clean their room or complete their homework.

Labeling these sensible demands as “doing too much,” however, cannot be attributed to children’s sheer laziness. It seems to be imbedded in our youth’s culture.

We all start life with a low tolerance for frustration. Then our ability to handle frustration grows as we experience disappointments and work through them. Today’s children, however, are not in the habit of working through much. They quickly get their needs met through technology.

They have the ability to give and get things immediately via text, instant messaging, and Google. They also can spend extended periods of time alone, playing video games and watching television, without interacting with challenging personalities.

Such instant gratification and lack of face-to-face time may be the reason why our youth complain or push back when frustrated. But this push-back can lead to children pushing away their educational opportunities.

Schools with “21st Century classrooms” have moved away from rote memory and textbook knowledge.

Instead, they’ve gone toward higher-level thinking, where students must challenge themselves through inquiry-based (question-based) learning and finding creative solutions to difficult problems. These learning strategies encourage frustration and motivate students to seek knowledge on their own.

The ability to tolerate frustration is also needed for the workplace, where students must withstand rigorous application procedures, complex interviews, and demanding tasks.

School and work requires children to do “too much” in order to succeed.

So how do you get a population of students who are annoyed with doing more to do something?

Frustrate your child

One way to boost your child’s ability to handle frustration is by exposing him or her to frustrating situations. This does not mean that you intentionally cause your child mental or emotional harm. It means giving your children challenging tasks related to their life while also giving them the guidance to complete them. For example, teach your children a new skill or make them sign up for a higher-level class in their favorite subject area. Placing rigorous demands on your children allows them to experience frustration, and through experiencing it, they can learn to deal with it.

Model healthy coping skills

How do you handle frustration? Do you take deep breaths or does your voice get louder? Do you exercise, or do you tend to snap at everyone around you? Remember, your child will probably express their frustration in the same way they learned it at home. It is important to model healthy ways of dealing with frustration, and it is never too late to learn. For healthy ways to keep calm, search for “stress relief strategies” at About.com.

Help your child plan

Frustration often comes when children are overwhelmed, but this feeling can be eased when the task-at-hand is broken down into smaller chunks. If, for instance, your high school junior needs to retake the ACT because of the low score on his first try, help him determine a plan for studying a lot of material in a short amount of time. You may tell him to use his planner in order to create a study schedule. Then have him identify which days of the week he will use to study.

Providing your children with ways to handle overwhelming tasks now gives them the ability to handle more frustrating tasks in the future.

Remember, children learn to deal with frustration through their experience. So help your children make sense of their frustrating moments, so they can see them as encounters to overcome instead of trials to avoid.


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