The Benefits of Optimal Frustration

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The Benefits of Optimal Frustration

By MingXuan, Jin

Nowadays, a lot of shared articles have discussed the influence of parenting on children. Many of these focus on the negative influences parents may have on their children during childhood, which may imprison children’s personality until adulthood.

Many people so firmly believe this that they attribute their dissatisfaction with their current life to their family history. Therefore, we may hear someone say, “The reason I’m so irritable is that my mom is impatient and bossy, and my husband also says I’m not gentle enough and can’t control my emotions.”

No psychological theory will deny the importance of childhood on one’s personality and development, especially Freud’s exposition of the importance of our early experiences, which focused on the satisfaction and frustration of children’s biological needs. Classical psychoanalysis expects that the proper satisfaction of these needs will lead to the smooth development of one’s personality.

However, should parents unconditional satisfy all the requirements of children? How do we apply discipline and guidance? From the point of view of developmental psychology, an excessively laissez-faire attitude and too much childhood frustration will also hinder children’s development and damage their personality.

So, how should we balance discipline and indulgence, rejection and satisfaction?

Here, we’d like to introduce the concept of “optimal frustration,” put forward by Kohut. He proposes that mothers provide food and security for their babies’ needs, and babies consider their mothers to be omnipotent and unconditionally satisfied themselves, so, when babies’ needs are not satisfied, they burst out crying.

Does this sound like some adults? When others haven’t satisfied their needs, they express their negative emotions in a variety of ways, and may even punish you for your behavior.

Let’s continue our discussion about children. Mothers or other caregivers have their own independent needs, which may not always be in line with children’s needs. We should not be afraid of this reality, and should allow children to experience some instances of non-traumatic frustration, so that children can gradually tolerate acceptable disappointments. This becomes children’s future psychological foundation for self-restraint and self-care as they grow up.

What is optimal frustration? And what is non-traumatic? The core attitude is that it is neither hostile nor aggressive, that is, it is offered with emotional stability. The irrational needs of childhood are tempered by a calm attitude, with understanding and care, rather than through violence or control. Children will gradually learn to use this same method to deal with their various needs after they became an adult.

Undoubtedly, the most important source of a child’s well-functioning psychological structure is the parents’ attitudes toward their children, especially the parents’ ability to respond to the needs of children with non-hostile determination and detached but warmhearted feelings. Thank you for your time.

The Benefits of Montessori Education

The first time I encountered Montessori education was about ten years ago, when, during my maternity leave for my first child, I read several parenting books including The Secret of Childhood by Maria Montessori. I found that Montessori education is quite good.

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