Our beautiful children—we love them more than we ever thought it would be possible to love another human; they amaze us, they entertain us, and sometimes, they drive us mad. Am I right?
One key trait many parents wish they had more of is patience: patience to allow their kids to dilly dally, to ask a million questions, to read the same book over and over and over, to play with them without distraction for as long as they wish, to stay calm when trying to get out the door on time, to manage bedtime disruptions; patience for when they’ve made a huge mess, when they’re behavior is not what we wish, when we’re exhausted, when we are trying to get a million things done, when their needs brush up against our own…
This parenting gig is not for the weak hearted. Here are a few ways to foster more patience as we go about this very important work.
Parents often put their own needs on the back burner so that they can care for their children. While their intention is surely good, this strategy can quickly backfire when a lack of self-care leads to exhaustion and a feeling of being overwhelmed. An overtired mom or dad can easily snap at children or overreact in ways they regret later.
Be sure to eat nutritious meals, sleep enough, take time for yourself, and make caring for yourself a priority so that you’ll be fully available to take care of your children.
Dig for Meaning
When children are misbehaving, lashing out, not cooperating, and not meeting our expectations, our patience can run thin. In those moments, it can be helpful to ask ourselves what this is really about.
Children generally don’t aim to make us crazy. So what’s really going on? Is your child struggling with something? Do they have a need that is not being met at this moment? Perhaps they are tired or hungry or hot or anxious. Focus on the cause rather than the symptoms and you’ll feel more in control and better equipped to handle the situation.
Manage Your Expectations
We expect good moods, full energy, excellent manners, total cooperation, pristine listening to every word we say, and more. Sometimes parents can cling to unrealistic expectations of their children.
Motivational speaker and author Tony Robbins says you should “trade your expectations for appreciation.” Make this shift in your mind, and watch your patience meter climb.
Shift Your Perspective
As often as you can, reflect on the gratitude you have for all that is good. Is your family healthy? Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have food to eat? Are your children thriving? Did the sun shine today?
From big things to little things, there is always something to be grateful for. Focus on those, center your attention on what’s truly important, and then see if your child’s unwillingness to wear pants with pockets or the fact that your living room is covered in Legos bothers you as much.