Are you ever scrolling Instagram and come across a parenting reel that pertains to exactly what you’re currently going through? That was me recently. I’ve had some challenges with my preschool-aged daughter getting extremely frustrated when she’s unable to do something on the first try. Tantrums ensue followed by a sense of defeat. As a result, her first reaction is to refuse to do something on her own or ask for help before even trying. I want her to be independent, but I just haven’t found the right tools to empower her to keep trying. Then I saw this reel from Big Little Feelings.

I read the reel’s title text—“Game-changing tip for toddlers who get frustrated easily”—and already felt so seen. Next, I read the caption: “Kid melting down over the tiniest setback?” YEP. “Screams when they can’t open something or the tower of blocks falls down?” UH-HUH! “Watch this reel to get all the info on our incredibly easy, but effective hack: Spotlight the Right.” Reader, I was riveted. “Narrating what they’re doing *RIGHT* is a SUPER powerful tool we can use to shift the story in our toddler’s minds to build their frustration tolerance + help them feel empowered to keep trying next time a setback comes their way.” SOLD!

In the video, Big Little Feelings’ Deena Margolin demonstrates how to put “Spotlight the Right” into practice when your child is attempting a challenging task. “If you catch them in situations where they’ve had to try something two, three, four, five times to achieve their goal, I want you to spotlight that—to shout it out with them and celebrate!” the family therapist explains. “Say, ‘Hey, you had to try that four different times before you got it, and you did not give up. Way to go!’”

We all love acknowledgement and affirmation when we achieve something difficult, but its impact is even more profound on little brains that are still developing. “What we’re doing is building this strong inner narrative that can stick with them about how sometimes you’re going to have to try multiple times before you get it, and you didn’t give up,” Margolin notes, “which not only makes them feel proud but becomes the key strategy that’s then top-of-mind for next time they’re in a tough or tricky situation.” It may also help reframe the story in your mind to help focus on what your child is already doing right. 

As if that wasn’t eye-opening enough for me, someone in the comments asked a question that was also way too relatable. “What about toddlers who immediately say ‘I can’t!’ about things they’ve already mastered, and can do on the first try once you plead with them for 5 minutes? It’s been a struggle with our 3.5yo for months now,” one mom wrote.

“That can happen, and you’re not alone here!” Big Little Feelings responded. “It can be super helpful to model this yourself and show them what it looks like to feel frustrated, keep trying, and handle this feeling in a healthy way. You can also incorporate this during play and role play with dolls/toys.”

Am I going to add all this to my toolbox? Absolutely. Will my daughter magically stop feeling frustrated overnight? Definitely not! But knowing that I’m instilling a sense of independence and empowerment in her is well worth the wait.