How To Deal With Childhood Frustration At Not Being Able To Do Adult Things
Kids will often complain about and even rebel against not being able to do adult things. To them, being an adult means wearing what you want, going where you please, eating what you like, and sleeping without a bedtime. Of course, adults know that the situation is far more complex, and often full of difficulties. However, to a child’s eyes, being an adult comes with a lot of perks that aren’t available to kids.
Ultimately, when children are frustrated about not being able to do things like adults, it reflects their feelings about being young and not having much control over their environment and/or choices.
Here are some ideas to ease this frustration:
Take a Look Back
If your child expresses frustration about how long it’s taking them to “grow up,” you can help them gain perspective by looking back at photos or footage of when they were even younger. This can help remind your child of everything they have learned to do and how much they’ve grown.
Adult for a Day
It may be fun to allow your child to role play as an “adult” for a day. This can be achieved in many ways:
- You, as the parent, can pretend to be the child and let your child pretend to be the adult. They can choose your clothes for a day, tell you when to eat, “read” to you, and even tell you to clean up!
- If your child has a favorite doll or stuffed animal, you can encourage them to be the “adult” in charge of their toy’s well-being for a day. Kids enjoy using their imagination to pretend to go to work or work around the house in addition to “caring” for a toy.
- Sometimes a dressed-up look can make kids feel more grown up. Perhaps you have some grown-up looking clothes or hats that your child can wear for a day. Accessories are fun as well to complete the look, such as a purse to hold a few coins, costume jewelry or old watches, an “adult” lunchbox or water bottle, cooking apron, or empty briefcase.
Keep in mind that this should never be a punitive lesson to prove how hard or challenging it is to be an adult. Also, your child should never be made to feel powerless or abandoned by you as a caregiver. In other words, they need the security of knowing that they are simply playing the role of an adult, and that you are still in charge.
Grown-Up Wish Book
Another fun way to daydream about being an adult is to create a grown-up “wish” book. Your child can draw pictures of what their “adult” life might look like. This may include their future house, career, family, car, pets, clothes, and more. You can label each grown-up “wish” with a short explanation of their ideas and the current date. When your kids get older, they might be surprised by what they wished for in adulthood.
“Adult” Errands and Daily Tasks
Your child may feel less frustrated and more included if they have more decision-making power, especially when running errands. For example, if you go to the library, allow your child to choose their own books and then check them out at the desk on their own (with your supervision). If you are grocery shopping (and not pressed for time), let your child walk and help “push” the cart for a while rather than placing them in the seat. They can also help you “reach” items on the lower shelves to put in the cart.
When it comes to daily tasks, you can let your child help you do “grown-up” things such as fold socks from the laundry, dry plastic dishes, dust furniture, put unbreakable things away, etc. What may seem like a chore to you may feel like an empowering task to your child.
Expand Choices at Home
If your child is complaining about not being able to do things that adults get to do, this may be a sign that they are ready to expand their decisions and assertiveness at home. Parents can acknowledge that their child is growing up and therefore give them more choices in their environment. This is a great way to encourage responsibility as well. You can begin with small decisions, such as letting your child choose one or more articles of clothing each day or what fruit they would like for a snack. These expanded choices not only affirm their growth and maturity, but also recognize that they have preferences and independent minds.
Don’t Disparage Adulting
It can be tempting for parents or other adults to tell children that “adulting” is hard. Or they may inadvertently give the impression that being an adult is scary, especially if topics such as money, marriage, and even parenting hardships are brought up. Children are not prepared to understand such concepts, and therefore may develop serious fears and concerns regarding growing up. Therefore, it’s much better to reassure your children that they will have plenty of time to learn how to effectively do adult things and enjoy life as a grown-up. In the meantime, you can validate how they feel and express your pride in their growing maturity and responsibility.
Overall, when your child becomes frustrated about not being able to do things like adults, a healthy approach would be to allow them more agency over their choices and environment. Of course, any new responsibilities should be age and personality appropriate. However, they will soon understand that you are willing to listen to their concerns as well as respect their desire to grow. This sets a foundation of trust and confidence the closer your kids get to becoming actual adults.
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