Frustration Tolerance

Frustration happens when we want something and feel thwarted. It could happen when we’re working on learning something and don’t get it yet, when we’re trying to accomplish something and it’s not working, when we want something and someone doesn’t let us have it, or when something is taking too long and we’re not able to speed it up. Kids feel frustrated a lot. They’re in the process of learning lots of things that they don’t know how to do yet, they’re constantly being told no, and they have to do a lot of waiting. This feeling can easily turn into shouting, smashing, stomping, or giving up. These books help a child develop frustration tolerance by teaching skills to manage the feeling of frustration through emotion regulation tools (e.g., taking deep breaths), creative problem solving, and practice trying again after an initial mistake or failure.
Age range: 1st grade through 4th grade.
Recommended for: This is a good introduction to the feeling of frustration and how to manage it. It is applicable to children who blow up when they’re frustrated (e.g. kids who will smash apart a Lego creation if they’re struggling to get something right), as well as kids who are more inclined to quickly give up and avoid a frustrating situation.
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This book teaches the “Name It, Tame It, Reframe It” strategy of emotion regulation (i.e., name the feeling, use a relaxation skill like deep breathing, and then shift one’s thinking to be more helpful), which is useful for a child who has explosive reactions when something goes wrong or doesn’t go their way. It’s an effective trifecta of strategies, and it’s a moderately fun way to introduce this concept.
Age range: 1st grade through 5th grade.
Recommended for: This excellent interactive workbook empowers children to learn strategies to calm their temper. It reviews cognitive strategies (e.g., “cool thoughts”) and behavioral strategies (e.g., deep breaths, squeezing a pillow), and it touches on problem solving, compromise, flexible thinking, and avoiding “payback” escalation. It’s best for a child who is able to articulate their thoughts to some extent, but if a child isn’t yet able to do this, many of the other chapters on “anger-dousing” strategies will still be applicable and helpful. This workbook is great for a child who is ready to learn some strategies as well as a kid who is ambivalent about managing their anger or who doesn’t yet feel that it’s possible.
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This beautiful book teaches about the power of “yet” when a child is feeling frustrated and discouraged (e.g., when learning a new instrument, soccer skill, math lesson, etc.). With a magical fairy-like Yet, this story teaches a child that “if you keep leaping, dreaming, wishing–waiting, learning, trying, missing/ With the Yet as your guide, along the way/ You’ll do all of the things you can’t do today.”

Izzy Gizmo

Written by Pip Jones
Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This is a sweet story about a super creative girl whose inventions don’t always work as well as she had hoped. With encouragement from Grandpa, she perseveres instead of quitting, and she is ultimately successful. This book is a great read for kids who are inclined to give up when they aren’t initially successful and who could benefit from viewing failure as a stepping stone to success. This book is available in many languages, including English, Spanish, and Chinese.

The Most Magnificent Thing

Written and illustrated by Ashley Spires
Age range: Preschoolers might enjoy and relate to parts of this story, but Kindergarten through 2nd grade is probably best.
Recommended for: This book is a great read for a child who is quick to get angry and/or to give up when something doesn’t turn out how they wanted. It’s especially relevant to kids who are makers/ crafters/ builders! The overall message of the story is that something doesn’t have to be perfect in order for a child to be happy with their work.

Jabari Tries

Written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall
Age range: Preschool through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This is a fun, heart-warming book about a boy and his baby sister engineering a model plane and overcoming the frustration of crashes to find success. It’s a lovely book to read with a child who has a hard time managing frustration and/or who is disinclined to try again after an initial failure.
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This book is a really great introduction to anger management and would probably be best received by a child who has expressed some interest in getting a better handle on their anger (maybe they want to get in trouble less, or they’ve expressed sadness about hurting someone’s feelings while they were angry). Importantly, it teaches children to listen to their anger (e.g., maybe a child needs a rest or someone needs to stop being unfair) as well as to calm down using a handful of impactful coping strategies (e.g., taking a break, deep breaths, exercise, talking with a trusted person).