Dear Caring Parent,
Parenting requires so much patience, doesn’t it! I have heard countless pregnant moms say their biggest worry about parenting is that they have no patience in general. And yet a year later when I ask them what they’ve learned about themselves that surprises them, they say “I had no idea I had so much patience!”.
So how do we grow our patience? In the beginning, it just seems to sprout. But as our kids hit toddler years and beyond, there can be a drought at times! We all arrive at that time in parenting when we have to be
intentional about patience. I like to think of it as nurturing patience because patience is about getting to the heart of the matter; the core of parenting!
Here are some things that I use to nurture my patience. I hope they help you because parenting is so much easier when feeling patient, not to mention better for our children.
Have you noticed how you feel when someone is getting impatient with you? I don’t know about you, but I get defensive, think negative things about them and even myself depending on if the impatience is about something for which I’m sensitive. I get flustered. My actions don’t come from the best part of me. Sometimes I understand the impatience coming at me. Our children can understand that too. But many times our impatience towards them is having negative effects on them, and on the very results for which we are looking.
Here is what I do to nurture parenting patience:
1. Notice Impatience! My call towards patience, to this day, is that I notice that I’m getting impatient. I find myself saying things like ‘just do it!’. Or even rolling my eyes (figuratively at least). I might just want to be done with the homework, or geez, just be done with the dishes already!, or I just don’t want to take on a particular challenge right now. Noticing my trend into impatience is my first step to patience.
2. Take a deep breath! Or two. Once I’ve noticed my impatience the deep breaths come pretty naturally. Deep breaths are great. They slow me down. They release some energy. They give me pause.
3. Wonder a bit! Once I’m in that pause place, I start to wonder what is going on from my child’s perspective; I walk a mile in her shoes. This prompts some questions about what’s in her way, what’s distracting her, what it’s like for her, what’s going on that’s making ‘this something’ so difficult? It’s amazing what I will hear about the day; ‘the teacher was impatient, I just need someone to slow down with it’, or, ‘all the other girls are meeting at a coffee shop to do this and here I am at home’, or, ‘I have so many things on my mind, I forgot about the dishes’. One wondering leads to another.
It’s also important for me to wonder about why/what’s so important to me? Am I exhausted, do I just hate math, am I responding out of a feeling of being under-appreciated? If I don’t know the answer to this, I ultimately can’t authentically nurture my patience.
4. Listen! This can be the hardest part for me when I’m moving out of impatience. I might even need to go back to deep breaths several times. But picking up on the real meaning of the mood requires the use of all of my senses sometimes. Is my child just whining? Is she really down about something? Is she confused? Is she manipulating? Is she overwhelmed? Listening with all my senses gives me the answer to that better than her words. Listening to myself is equally important. This is related to wondering a bit. But sometimes questions don’t get at what is going on within. By listening with all my senses I can determine the bigger frustration, or hurt, or need. Then and only then does problem-solving yield something authentic, something that will ‘stick’.
5. Practice Flexibility! We all know that sometimes things just have to get done. And as parents, there seems a long list of ‘get-done’. We also learn that it’s not going to be exactly on our time frame! So we get to negotiate. Our needs and their needs are involved now. If more homework time is needed, or a break from it is needed, we get to say our needs (when we’re available to provide help, downtime, a chore that needs our attention…) and work with their needs. An hour break can be very beneficial mentally! Or, instead of putting the dishes away right now, we can agree that they have to be done before bedtime.
6 High Five! When you succeed without a big argument, whoo-hoo, you both deserve a high-five. I thank my daughter. And pat myself on the back. I’ve been pretty impressed because a lot of times she thanks me too.
Sometimes we need to nurture our patience over more significant things. It could be when our child isn’t meeting some developmental milestones; walking, a certain number of words, or fast-forwarding to later, not finding their confidence in responding to a bully. The same process applies. It’s also true that same process is harder to apply! When the issues are bigger, our emotions are bigger. As are theirs. But still, the same process applies. Instead of it all coming together in one evening, the whole process will likely be extended over a longer period. And we may cycle through it repeatedly over that longer period. Maybe even years.
I have learned, though, that it is absolutely worth it to nurture my patience. Worth it for my mental health, my ability to sleep, and my ability to let myself have a good day even when I’m challenged about something going on with my daughter. If this is something that really challenges you, patience keeps alluding you, this book The Cow in the Parking Lot: A Zen Approach to Overcoming Anger is a friendly, helpful read into more patience.
AND, it is so absolutely worth it if you’re interested in building self-esteem and resilience in your child. My daughter never ceases to amaze me how incredibly well she resolves big and little things in life when I am patient. This started at an amazingly young age. That growing ability is a big part of what builds self-esteem and resilience.
I doubt anyone is patient all the time. The good news is, you can go back to a situation and set it right. When I’m not patient, then we have to undo all the negative effects of impatience first, so it takes longer but still, we get to a good resolution. And I get to move into nurturing my patience, yet again!
Let us know what helps you parent with patience!
Take care now, Natasha
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