Being More Patient
Most parents I’ve met would say that parenting has taught them to dig into reserves of patience they didn’t even know they had. But they’d also probably admit that they could use a bit more patience, too. We often feel as though we go from calm to banshee in no time flat. But in fact, we all pass through a number of different stages between those two states. It might happen lightening-quick, yes, but that doesn’t mean those stages aren’t there; our challenge is to learn how to recognize the stages between being patient and not, and use them to take action to help us increase our patience reserves. Give yourself a time out if you need it, use the classic “breathe deeply and count to ten”, ask yourself, “How important will this be in one day? In one month? In one year?”. Find what works for you to get grounded again in that moment.
One of the best tips for increasing our patience is knowing what our triggers are. If we can anticipate what might set us off, then it becomes easier to plan for it and make some different choices. So if we always end up getting frustrated at the grocery store, or at homework time, just saying to ourselves, “This time will be different” isn’t enough. Before the time even comes, think about what typically happens, how you respond, how the kids then respond, and how you might all take a new path. Ask your kids what they think might help to make the experience better for everyone – you might be surprised at the insight, or you might be surprised to hear what the real problem is, in their minds. Often, a simple fix makes all the difference.
I really believe that one of the biggest reasons we as parents lose our patience, is that we get overly attached to our expectations about how we think something should happen. We have a plan or a vision in our heads about how our day will unfold…but unfortunately, our kids don’t share that vision. And when we get too hung up on the plan or the expectation of how things should be going, we’re going to be a lot more vulnerable to losing our cool. As much as you can, slow down. Schedule less. Build in time to catch your breath. Your patience will thank you for it.
Remember to step back and think big picture. You’re not just raising children, you’re raising little people to be adults. Our goal is to teach them skills and habits that will serve them well as they become more and more responsible for themselves, not to make sure they learn how to conform to our schedules. Savour little moments with them, really remind yourself of the wonder and joy that kids approach each day with, and see if you can’t bring some of that back into your own life through them. Remember that good relationships are built one interaction at a time, so as trying as your kids may be right now, keep in mind that one day they’ll be older and you’ll want that great relationship with them more than ever. (You may also want that deep well of patience when they’re older, too!)
And let me also point out that these tips serve us well when thinking about our marriages as well, even though I’ve focused more on our children in this article. Not over-scheduling, planning for triggers, stepping back to see the big picture…these techniques work just as well with our partners as they do with our children. Not just for kids – it’s a little shot of couple relationship counselling right here!