Frustration tolerance vs validating emotions

I feel I’m struggling getting the balance right between listening to my son and validating how he feels and encouraging him to work through things that are hard. My 8 year old has been struggling at football training. He initially loved it, but as the novelty wore off (and I think as his friends got better at it), he became less enthusiastic. He just stands in the middle of the pitch looking upset/annoyed, or sometimes flops down on the ground repeatedly. I think football (and maybe sport in general) does not come easily to him, and he feels frustrated/embarrassed by this - he doesn’t know how to handle it.

I think he struggles with frustration in general, and am trying to work on that with him. We’ve had some conversations about it, and he says he doesn’t like football and wants to give up. I’ve told him that’s fine, he doesn’t have to go if he doesn’t like it. So I really try and validate his emotions and know how important it is but then I worry that this might give the message that we give up on things we find hard…how do I get this balance right??

Thank you everyone.

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Just stopping by to send you a hug @Mumof1. I don’t have the answer to this and it’s something I would love to hear the experts’ advice on.


Hello Mumof1 thank you for sharing. I remember this experience with my own children. This can be a huge struggle especially because we (parents) often can see our children’s inner talents and potential, plus how beneficial participating in extra-curricular activities can be.

You are doing all the right things here, listening to him, taking onboard his feelings, and validating them, and praising all the things he does well and perseveres at. I think at 8-years, it’s good for our children to be able to try different activities to see what they are good at and what they like.

Perhaps continue talking with him and finding out what actual aspects of football he doesn’t like, then perhaps speaking with the coach to see if there is any additional support that can be given or, the coach may have some tips to help keep him motivated. It would be also useful to find out what he likes about football, and for him to recognise what the benefits are – you could do a pro and cons list together.

I think if he is increasingly becoming too distressed or starts to become anxious even before you even get to football practice then it is probably time to give it up. You could possibly put a time-limit on it, get him to continue for a few more weeks to see if things improve. If he still would like to leave then, if possible, I would try to encourage him to do something else in its place.

My son was a little older when he fell out of love with football due to his confidence being knocked, but he did take it up himself in his late teens. I am sure your son too will eventually find something that he really loves and is interested in.


Thanks @Parent_Coach_Mel, you’ve made me feel better. Sometimes I just stress that I validate the feelings too much and at this age perhaps I need to focus more on building frustration tolerance. Reflecting on your advice, we’ve agreed that he will try for 4 more weeks and if he really still doesn’t want to participate it then he can stop going. He seems ok with that solution. Am also going to talk to the coach later this week like you suggest. Thanks again :blush:


Hiya, just wanted to send you a message to let you know you’re not alone in this. I really struggle with knowing how much to push when this kind of thing crops up. It’s happened with one of my twins lately (they’re 5) and I let him skip sessions in the winter on the condition that he go back when the weather improved but he’s now saying he doesn’t want to go. I have been validating his feelings etc and may try what @Parent_Coach_Mel says and just ask that he try 2 or 3 weeks then we can discuss again. It’s so hard to know what’s best!!