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When my baby gets frustrated with a task should I help her out?
Sara NY
I don’t think you’re wrong. I think you put your finger on the main reason for your daughter’s outbursts, so the challenge is to think of a way to help her through her “crises” without squelching that wonderful tendency she has to try new things or solve problems. A first recommendation is that you evaluate the toys she has and make certain they are appropriate for her level. Many parents, in love with their children and convinced of their brilliance, “buy up” on toys. That is, they pass up toys geared for their child’s age, saying to themselves, “Oh, this is too easy for my baby.” Instead they choose one for an older child and say, “This is just right.” So, as a first step, put away for a later time those toys that cause her to become frustrated.

Now, as to what you might do when she gets upset, nothing works better than distraction. If, when one of these episodes occurs, you can quickly get a less complicated toy, do something with it yourself, and then hand it to her, saying something like, “Look at this. Look what you can make it do.” Chances are she’ll drop the toy that’s frustrating her, and you can pick it up inconspicuously and put it away for another day. If she still cries and points to the removed toy, don’t be afraid to help her a little. In your example, don’t put the top on the box completely by yourself. Instead, take her hand and place it around the box top and then gently guide her in putting the top in place. Then, since it caused her to get upset, put it out of reach without any fanfare.

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education