After reading the health blog “Living a healthy lifestyle’ a friend, who did not want to ask it in public, emailed, to inquire more about the mention of the phrase ‘frustration tolerance’. She mentioned of her son’s tendency to get frustrated very easily, then starts to get aggressive and blames others for everything.
This reminded me of a time, a week ago, when I was sitting with my son in the Hospital waiting hall, waiting for his turn to get the blood tests.
Apart from many who waited, there were two set of patient families there who merit a mention.
First one was a couple with a newborn baby, barely a month old and another a boy about 4 years of age The elder one was perhaps going through difficult days that kids usually experience on the arrival of a new baby. He was constantly tearful, and literally searching for reasons to throw tantrums.
Visibly very annoyed by his behaviour they forced him to sit on the stroller with the belt tied up.
Instead of helping, this made him worse and he struggled with all his might to undo the strap. He threw away all his toys and a juice bottle on the floor with a hard bang, one by one.
But parents, though visibly perturbed chose not to look at him.
I could not resist, and asked the mother, if I could talk to the baby.
The mother tearfully expressed her exhaustion and lack of sleep since the new baby’s arrival and that his tantrums have added more to her stress.
“He doesn’t seem to be accepting the baby.” She complained.
“But do you give him the much needed attention?” I asked.
She said she does, but not as much, as the new baby is too small to take care and that he is pretty big to warrant full attention.
“I cant carry him all the time. Whenever I feed the little one, he wants to climb up on me. Earlier he never wanted to be held at all.”
The second was an elderly couple, with the husband on a wheel chair, while the wife almost as frail, and old but pretty smart and active. She was walking along his automobile wheelchair almost like shadow, carrying his overcoat and muffler along with another bag hung on her wrinkled arms.
She chose a corner of the waiting hall, parked his wheel chair and she sat on a chair next to him.
In barely a couple of minutes, the husband muttered something, and she was up on her feet and hunted out a watter bottle from the bag hung over the wheelchair. She held his chin with one hand and the bottle with the other, as he drank. Her attention was elsewhere when the husband asked her to stop, but it took her a second more to stop.
The husband gave her a look with a visible frown on his forehead, but she returned a wide graceful smile while wiping the dripped water from his chin and shirt.
A few minutes later, and she needed to get up again, to pat him on the back, while he coughed. A few more minutes, it was for a napkin which was right in the bag hung next to his armrest, but he wanted her to get it for him.
It was at least a dozen times in half an hour, that I saw her stand up and help him out. Out of those dozen times, at least half the time, the husband was annoyed for one reason of the other.
No doubt old age and ill health makes one irritable, but the wife was no less old.
All through the waiting time and even later on the way, I wondered at the two families, and their behaviours.
Perhaps both of them were at extreme ends of how we tend to extend helping hands to our loved ones.
If in order for them to learn, we take off all support and leave to learn all by themselves, they tend to feel defeated and angry like the child in the first case.
Or out of our limitless love and sympathy, we tend to pitch in our helping hand a bit too soon, so that they don’t get hurt. And as a result, expectations rise as the mind gets accustomed to getting help too soon, and any small amount of struggle generates frustration. This was the case in the second couple, in which the dedication and love of the wife had spoilt her ailing husband so much that any amount of her support was not enough, if she did not give an undivided attention to him.
How I wish someone could tell her that this spoon feeding to her ailing husband would make him feel less well than when she left some small actions (that were within his capability) for him to do himself.
The point is- it is very essential to strike a delicate balance and know the thin line between stepping in too soon, and standing afar watching a loved one collapse into a frustrated heap.
It is common sense that too much of frustration is harmful for one’s self esteem. But too little of frustration creates a learned helplessness, and the individual is left incapable to face any struggle with strength.
Hence, some amount of frustration is important, and becomes a learning experience that benefits a lifetime.
If we really care for our loved ones, be our children or spouses or others, we need to give them enough space to struggle, and then pitch in help only at the point where their self esteem is not hurt and the struggle has been enough make them resilient.