For children in early elementary school, says pediatrician and author Dr. Harry Karp, the style of an adult’s communication is key. Children of six and seven years old are well into developing their receptive language skills, but they’re still relative beginners, and frustration and anger may make them even less skilled at understanding what they’re hearing. Adults should accommodate by using short phrases and repetition. Calmly acknowledge the child’s feelings and show empathy without laying it on too thick. Say, “You’re frustrated, Sarah. I can see you’re frustrated. It’s hard at first. But I know you’ll get it.”
One of the most helpful things adults can do is to offer lessons on perseverance rather than tips for succeeding at a specific task. No kid of any age likes to be preached at, but children are interested in, and will be comforted by, stories of their parents’ own struggles. Share an anecdote about a time you failed at something you can now do with ease. Or reassure kids that no one is born an expert. For real-life examples of people who overcame difficulties to achieve great things, visit the blog Opening Lines.